Breaking a fixed lease in California can be difficult. However, ending a periodic tenancy is usually free of complications, if both the landlord and the tenant follow the proper legal procedures. For termination of a month-to-month lease, California law requires adequate written notice from the party severing the relationship to the other party.
What Is a Month-to Month-Tenancy?
Before a tenant moves into a residence, he and the landlord will enter into one of two types of rental agreements: a fixed lease or a periodic rental agreement. A fixed lease states the total number of months, usually six or 12, that a tenant has agreed to pay rent while living in the unit. It can be an oral or written contract between the landlord and tenant, but if its terms are for more than a year, it must be in writing.
A periodic rental agreement can be from month-to-month or week-to-week. It determines how often the tenant pays rent to live in the unit; how much notice the tenant and landlord must give each other if either decides to end the relationship; and how much notice the landlord must give the tenant if she changes the terms of their agreement. It expires at the end of each period and renews only with the next rent payment, which ensures that the tenant can stay for that duration.
Oral and Written Tenancy Agreements
As with fixed leases, verbal contracts between a tenant and landlord are legal in California. The parties agree on what a tenant will pay to live in the unit for a certain amount of time. Nevertheless, the landlord must give the tenant certain information in writing after reaching the agreement:
- Landlord or agent contact information for the receipt of legal notices.
- Contact information of the person who receives the tenant’s rent.
- Information on how to make rent payments during the tenancy.
Written periodic rental agreements specify how much rent the tenant will pay, the length of time between payments and the responsibilities each party has toward the other during their relationship. The agreement will also include stipulations for late fees, pets, parking and the amount of notice to be given at the end of the tenancy.
Giving Notice for Tenants
When a tenant with a periodic rental agreement decides to vacate her unit, she must provide the landlord with written notice of her intentions in advance with the same amount of time as there are days between rent payments. So, if the tenant is on a 30-day, month-to-month lease, she would give the landlord written notice 30 days in advance of moving out. She can give notice at any point during the rental period, but must pay full rent during that time. The tenant should address the notice to the party or entity to whom she makes rent payments, sign and date it, give the move-out date and make a copy for her records.
Giving Notice by Landlords
Likewise, a landlord or property manager must provide the renter advance written notice if he chooses to end the tenancy. Month-to-month agreements require that he give 60 days' notice to a renter who has occupied the unit for over a year. Thirty days' written notice will apply if the tenant has lived at the residence for less than a year or if the landlord has a contract to sell it, and the new owner intends to live in it for a year or more after the current tenant moves out. Additionally, when giving the tenant 30 days' notice, the landlord who sells the property:
- Must have given the tenant notice within 120 days of opening escrow.
- Must not have given the tenant notice before.
- Must sell the rental property separately from other units, such as a house or a condominium.
The landlord does not have to state his reason for ending a renter's tenancy, and the tenant must vacate the unit by the end of the last day on the 30th or 60th day after the date the landlord served the notice. If the tenant does not leave at the end of that period, the landlord can file an unlawful detainer action to evict her. If the tenant wishes to leave sooner, she can give notice, as long as it equals the amount of days between rent payments and the date to vacate comes before the date on the notice. If, after receiving notice, she wishes to stay, the tenant can try to convince the landlord to rescind the notice to vacate, but she must move out by that date if he doesn’t.
Some California cities with rent control have regulations stating that periodic rental agreements cannot end without the landlord stating his reasons for ending the tenancy. If there is a disagreement between the two parties, a local housing authority may review the terms of the landlord’s notice to the tenant.
- NOLO: California Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy
- California Department of Housing and Community Development: California Tenants A Guide to Residential Tenants' and Landlords' Rights and Responsibilities
- Legal Beagle: Termination of Tenancy in California: Types of Eviction Notices
- Legal Beagle: California Tenant Rights: Overview of Laws & Protections
- Legal Beagle: Rental Agreements in California: Key Terms to Look For
- Legal Beagle: Late Fees for Rent in California: How Much Can Landlords Charge?
- Legal Beagle: California Rental Housing Pet Laws
- Legal Beagle: Tenant Responsibilities in California: Things to Know
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.