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How to Find a Month-to-Month Lease Apartment

January 9, 2020

Moving on short notice, and not sure if you want to commit to an apartment for a traditional 12-month lease? Or, maybe, you have to move to a new city ASAP, and you’re not entirely sure which neighborhood to live in. You might be needing the flexibility of a month-to-month lease. 

If you are considering a month-to-month lease, we’ve put together the perfect guide on month-to-month rentals and how to find them. We cover:

What is a Month-to-Month Lease

A month-to-month lease is a rental agreement to lease an apartment or home for one month at a time that is renewed automatically each month for the following month until terminated properly by either the renter or the landlord.

How Does a Month-to-Month Lease Work?

A month-to-month lease agreement only covers 30 days. It's automatically renewed at the end of the period unless the tenant or landlord terminates it through a written notice.

If you sign a month-to-month lease you have the flexibility of canceling your lease with one month’s notice. However, your landlord also has more flexibility as to when they can raise your rent or terminate your lease. Check out our article on the difference between a short-term and a long-term lease for more information.

Pros and Cons of a Month-to-Month Lease

Is it a good idea to rent month-to-month? If you are considering a month-to-month lease over a long term lease, make sure you weigh the pros and cons appropriately. Many of the details that impact these pros and cons will be outlined in the lease agreement, so make sure to read that carefully.

Pros of Month-to-Month Leases

Below are some pros of these short-term leases.

1. Added Flexibility

The major draw of a month-to-month lease is the flexibility it offers. You can move out at any time without breaking your lease as long as you give the required notice. For most month-to-month leases, landlords require 30-days notice. 

2. No Penalty for Leaving Early

Because a month-to-month lease is renewed on a monthly basis, you will not be penalized for moving out before you’ve lived somewhere for 12 months. Just make sure you give appropriate notice as laid out in your lease agreement.

3. Easy to Convert to a Full-Time Lease

If you decide you want to stay longer, most month-to-month leases are easy to convert to a long-term lease. This may result in a rent decrease, or at least stabilized rent prices for the next year.

Cons of Month-to-Month Leases

The pros might sound great, but get familiar with the cons as well.

1. More Expensive Rates

Rent for month-to-month leases is almost always higher than a long term lease. It can be expensive for a landlord to replace a tenant, and so to make up for the uncertainty of a short-term renter, landlords often charge more. You pay for the flexibility of a month-to-month lease

2. Risk of Termination

While a month-to-month lease offers flexibility, it also comes with the risk of termination. Just as a renter can give 30-days notice to a landlord to end the lease, a landlord can do the same to the renter. In some states, a landlord only has to give 1-2 weeks. Other states require 30, 60, or 90 days. Make sure you know what the termination clause in your lease says, and understand that if you have a month-to-month lease, it can end at any time. 

3. Rent Instability

Most month-to-month leases also allow a landlord to adjust the rent to the market rate. This means your rent could go up.

How to Find a Month-to-Month Lease

Start your Search Early

Not all apartment buildings offer month-to-month leases, so finding one can be challenging. Make sure to start your search as early as possible so that you find a place that works for you. By starting early, you have plenty of time to speak with landlords and property managers, discuss your situation, and determine if you can make a month-to-month lease work.

Know What You Want

Take the time to outline what it is you are looking for. Make sure you answer the following questions before launching your search:

  • What are you willing to pay in rent?
  • What neighborhood do you want to be in?
  • Are you willing to live with roommates?
  • Do you need a furnished apartment?
  • What transportation options do you need nearby?

Browse Apartment Lease Options

Most apartments will share their lease options on their websites, so this should be the first place to check. Note that most large multifamily properties don’t allow month-to-month leases, but may offer shorter-term leases like 3 or 6 months.

Landlords place a much higher priority on long-term leases, which make life easier for them. However, you should check the website ahead of time and see what they offer.

To get tons of options at a glance, just start the quiz at the top of this page.

Call the Leasing Office

Don’t be afraid to call the leasing office to see if they offer month-to-month or any other shorter-term leases. It’ll be a quick conversation, and the worst that can happen is they say no, so why not give a call? They may be able to point you in the direction of apartments that offer the lease type you’re looking for.

Look for Sublets

Some tenants will sublet, or sublease, their apartment. This means that the tenant on the lease is bringing in another tenant to pay the monthly rent. Oftentimes, renters will look to sublet their apartments short-term if they have to leave the city for work for a few months, or have other circumstances that won’t allow them to live in the apartment. Since they are probably doing this for a short amount of time, they will likely be open to month-to-month leases.

Reach out to Friends

Have friends living in the area where you’re looking to move to? Ask them if they could benefit from an extra roommate. You could help cut down their rent and lend them an extra set of hands for chores. Reach out to friends, reach out to friends of friends, and see if they’d be open to taking you in for a short time.

Explain Your Situation to the Landlord

If you find a place you love but need a month-to-month lease, make sure you explain why to your landlord. Explaining your situation can create trust between you and your landlord, and give you a chance to prove you are a good tenant. You may be able to negotiate a month-to-month lease if you are honest.

If you find a great place but don’t have time to see it prior to signing a lease, open communication with your landlord will also help! You can request pictures and a virtual tour to ensure you will feel comfortable in your new home.

Month-to-month leases aren’t as common as longer-term leases, so you’re going to have to be diligent when searching for them. For the added flexibility that you need, it’ll be highly worth it to put some effort into a thorough search.

Reasons to Sign a Month-to-Month Lease

There are a few instances when it makes sense to sign a month-to-month lease.  Below are common reasons to consider a month-to-month lease.

  • You are a student and will only live in the area for 9 months (Use our College Apartment Checklist when moving)
  • You expect a big life change, like a career move, a child, or marriage, in the next 12 months
  • You are new to a city and do not know where you want to live yet so desire flexibility in your living situation at the start
  • You plan to buy a home soon
  • You travel frequently for work and often move cities
  • You have a roommate that can’t commit to a 12-month lease

Frequently Asked Questions About Month-to-Month Leases

1. Can landlords raise the rent on month-to-month leases?

Typically a landlord can raise your rent to market rate with a 30-day notice if you are on a month-to-month lease. Some cities have rent control, and if you live in a rent-controlled building your landlord cannot increase your rent more than a certain percentage annually. 

2. Does a month-to-month lease need to be signed every month?

No, month-to-month leases automatically renew every month until one party legally terminates the lease.

3. Are month-to-month leases more expensive?

Normally month-to-month leases are more expensive than a long-term lease. This is because a landlord takes on the uncertainty of when a renter will leave. In exchange for flexibility, the landlord will charge more.

4. How much notice do I need to give to end my month-to-month lease?

Most month-to-month leases require a 30-day notice for termination. However, keep in mind, if you give a 30-day notice in the middle of the month, you may be required to pay for the entire next month of rent. Make sure to read your lease agreement to best understand how to end your month-to-month lease.

5. How much notice does my landlord need to give me to end my month-to-month lease?

The amount of time a landlord is legally required to give a tenant to end a month-to-month lease varies by state. Some states only require 1 to 2 weeks, others require 30, 60 or 90 days. Make sure to read your lease agreement carefully and discuss it upfront with your landlord.

Summary

A month-to-month lease is a contract that only covers 30 days and is automatically renewed at the end of the period.

It can be a good idea to sign a month-to-month rental agreement if you are new to a city or if you often relocate for work. A month-to-month contract gives you the flexibility of canceling your lease with one month’s notice. However, it's likely to cost you more.

Additional Resources

  1. Long-term vs. Short-term Leases: What are the Differences?
  2. When Can a Landlord Increase Your Rent?
  3. How to Find a Summer Sublet?
  4. How to Write a Notice to Vacate Letter to Your Landlord
By: Justin Chaplin
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