LEASE TERMINATION AND RENEWAL

 

Is there a seventy-two (72) hour period after signing my lease during which I can change my mind and get out of the lease?

No, there is not a "cooling off" period allowed in Georgia landlord tenant law which would enable you to change your mind after signing a lease. If you decide not to move into the unit after signing the lease the landlord may impose early termination penalties against you. You should read your lease carefully and thoroughly inspect the unit before signing the lease.

 

My lease is not up for another six months. I am being transferred by my company. What can I do to terminate the lease? What penalties are involved?

The answer to this question will be found in your lease. First, read the lease carefully. Your ability to get out of the lease depends on the language of your lease and the willingness of the landlord to allow you to terminate the lease early. There may be a provision which allows for termination prior to the lease term's expiration. If so, you will need to follow the terms of that lease provision. For example, you may be required to give thirty (30) days notice and to forfeit your security deposit. Some leases impose additional penalties for early termination and require longer notice periods. You are responsible for paying rent during the notice period. Your lease is not terminated until the notice period expires.

If there is not an early termination provision in your lease, a tenant can be held responsible for all the rent remaining under the lease. The landlord is required to mitigate any damages by re-renting the premises. If the landlord does re-rent the property, any rent collected must be deducted from the original tenant's liability. For example, if a tenant terminates a twelve month lease after six months, the tenant can be held responsible for the six months rent remaining under the lease. If the landlord rents the unit to someone else after four months, the tenant is only responsible for the four months rent while the unit was vacant. However, if your lease had an early termination penalty provision, you would have to pay the designated penalty even if the unit was immediately re-rented or if it was vacant for six months.

Some landlords may release you from the lease if you find an acceptable person to assume the lease. Some landlords will allow you to rent to another, called subletting. The landlord may refuse to allow you to do this. If your landlord agrees to allow you to terminate early, be sure to get in writing any agreement as to penalties or future rent owed.

 

I am a tenant who is in active military service and live in off-base rental housing. My lease is for one year and is renewable. I have received permanent change of station orders. How much notice must I give the landlord before moving?

If a tenant is on active military duty and receives either permanent change of station orders or temporary duty orders in excess of three months, the tenant is liable for no more than thirty (30) days rent after the date he provides written notice and proof of assignment to the landlord. The tenant will still be liable for any damages above ordinary wear and tear. The landlord must still abide by the laws related to security deposits and move out inspections.

 

When the lease has "expired" but the landlord has continued to take rental payments, what rights does a tenant have?

The tenant needs to read the "expired" lease carefully, especially the language on renewal or extension. The language of the lease will control. Generally, where the lease requires a renewal (a new contract) at end of the term, and the term ends without such a renewal, the tenancy has terminated. However, if the landlord has accepted rental and permitted the tenant to remain, a tenancy-at-will has been created. The terms of the original lease would still apply except as to notice to vacate or change the lease terms which would remain 60 days for the landlord and 30 days for the tenant.

If the language of the lease says that after expiration of the original term the parties have the right to extend under the same terms, acceptance of rent by the landlord extends the lease and all its terms including length of tenancy. In such a case no tenancy-at-will is created.

 

I notified my landlord that I would be terminating the lease early. According to the lease, I must pay the equivalent of one month's rent in order to terminate the lease early. Am I required to pay the early termination fee even if the landlord did not lose a month's rent?

Where the lease identifies an amount that must be paid if the lease is terminated before it expires, a tenant can be charged that amount. If the parties to a contract, such as a lease, agree what the damages for early termination shall be, the damages are said to be liquidated. Both parties are bound by the liquidated damage provision in the lease. Thus, the tenant would probably be required to pay the early termination fee. If the early termination penalty is unreasonable, the tenant should consider contacting an attorney.

 

I have received notice that my landlord is not going to renew my lease. According to the terms of the lease, the landlord must provide a thirty (30) day notice that the lease will not be renewed. The notice from the landlord is dated the first of the month, but I did not receive the notice from the landlord until the 10th of the month. Does the required thirty day notice provision start from the first of the month or the 10th of the month? Does the landlord have to give me a reason for not renewing my lease?

When a lease requires the giving of a written notice, the notice is effective upon its receipt. Thus, in this case, the thirty day notice starts to run from the 10th of the month. A private landlord is not required to give a reason for refusing to renew a lease unless the lease so requires. A private landlord merely has to give the tenant notice of non-renewal as required under the lease. If there is no written lease, the landlord has to give the tenant sixty (60) days notice to terminate the tenancy.

 

My apartment owner failed to make mortgage payments and the property has been foreclosed, what will happen?

A tenant who remains on rental property after the owner, who is his landlord, has been foreclosed upon becomes a tenant at sufferance. The lease between the tenant and the original owner/landlord is terminable by the purchaser. If the purchaser wants the tenants to vacate, he must first demand possession of the property and, if refused, file a dispossessory warrant. The purchaser can choose to become a landlord, either by offering a new lease or accepting payment under the prior agreement. A purchaser at foreclosure who accepts rent from existing tenants has entered into a tenancy-at-will which can be terminated with sixty (60) days notice and which the tenant can terminate with thirty (30) days notice.

A tenant residing in a foreclosed upon property should attempt to contact the new owner or the attorney handling the foreclosure to ascertain if their tenancy will continue. If a tenant does not receive assurances of continued tenancy from the foreclosure attorney or the purchaser, the tenant may argue that the lease was terminated by the foreclosure.

 

The apartment complex where I live changed owners last month. The new owners have notified all tenants that the old leases are cancelled and have given us new leases to sign within thirty (30) days or we must vacate the units. The new leases have higher rents and different rules. I had five more months on my old lease. Can the new owners do this?

A person who buys rental property does so subject to any existing leases with current tenants. This means that the new owner has purchased your lease and must abide by your lease's terms. Any change or modification to the existing leases, which the new owner wishes to make, must be done in accordance with the terms of the existing leases. Unless the existing leases contain provisions allowing the owner to terminate or modify, they may not be changed prior to their expiration. If you want to remain a tenant under your lease, you should notify the new owner in writing that you expect him to honor your current lease.

The new owner's cancellation may constitute a breach of the lease. The tenants can challenge this cancellation in court. On the other hand, the tenant can consider the new leases an offer of new tenancy and agree to the terms and conditions of the new lease by signing it. If signed, the new lease will control the terms of the new landlord tenant relationship.

 

My lease expired two months ago, the landlord allowed me to continue at the same rent without signing a new lease. Now, the landlord has decided that I must sign a new lease with a higher rent or move out. The landlord gave me only two weeks notice to decide. What does the law say about this situation?

Since the landlord accepted rent after the original lease expired, a tenancy-at-will was created. The tenant continues to occupy the unit under the same terms and conditions as in the expired lease. However, with a tenant-at-will, the landlord must give a sixty (60) day notice prior to any change in the tenancy, including increasing rent, an offer of a new lease, or termination of the rental arrangement. The landlord is not required to give this notice in writing unless the lease so provides. It is better practice however to provide written notice since the document offers some tangible evidence that notice was given. Likewise, the tenant must provide a thirty (30) day notice to the landlord if the tenant wants to terminate the tenancy. In this case, the landlord should have given the tenant sixty days to sign the new lease.

 

Is my landlord allowed to enter the apartment without notifying me first? Can my apartment be shown to prospective tenants during the last month of my occupancy without my permission?

 

A lease gives the tenant a right to the exclusive use of the lease premises. Unless the lease otherwise allows, the landlord can only enter the property, if such entry is necessary to cure a dangerous condition, prevent destruction or respond to a bona fide emergency on the premises. There is no legal requirement that a landlord notify a tenant prior to making entry under the above circumstances.

You should check your lease to see if there are any provisions related to the landlord's right to show the apartment. If the lease does not state that the landlord can enter the apartment, a tenant could legally refuse the landlord access. However, it is best for the landlord and tenant to discuss the matter and reach a mutually acceptable accommodation. Notification requirements and entry provisions should be included in each lease. A reasonable accommodation might be for the landlord to provide advance notice, such as twenty-four (24) hours before entering the apartment.

 

My roommate and I both signed a lease but she has moved out. Can I get out of the lease?

Generally, if you signed a lease with your roommate, the apartment complex can hold each of you liable for the rent. The apartment complex will expect to receive the full monthly rent and, since you are living in the unit, will hold you responsible for payment.

If both you and your roommate signed the lease, the apartment complex can seek full payment from either of you. However, the apartment complex can only collect the full amount from one of you. You may wish to contact the apartment manager and agree to pay a portion of the charges to be released from liability for the entire amount.

 

I have decided to remodel my apartments and rent the units to a higher income market. How much notice to vacate must I give the tenants so that I can remodel the units as quickly as possible?

The length of the termination notice depends on whether or not you have a lease with the tenants. If you do have a lease, its provisions for termination would apply. For example, a thirty (30) day notice to vacate would be appropriate only if the lease specifically provided for a thirty (30) day termination notice. If there is not a termination provision in the lease you must wait until the lease expires. If there is no lease, the landlord must give the tenant-at-will a sixty (60) day termination notice.

 

My lease will expire in two months. I want to stay in the same apartment. What should I do?

First, you need to read your lease paying special attention to paragraphs which discuss renewal, extension or expiration of the tenancy. If your lease does not answer your question, contact your landlord and discuss the matter with him or her. If you and the landlord cannot reach an agreement on a new lease, you should plan on moving when your lease ends. At the end of a lease term a landlord can choose not to renew the existing lease or can offer the tenant a new lease with different terms, including an increase in rent. Georgia law does not limit the amount of rent a landlord can charge or the amount by which rent can be increased.

If you remain in your unit after your lease expires, the landlord can require that you immediately sign a new lease with new terms or vacate. It is best to negotiate your new lease before your old lease expires.

 

I have a one year lease which prohibits pets. I am six months into my lease. For the past three months, I have kept a dog in my apartment. The landlord was aware that I brought a dog into the apartment and, initially, told me it was all right. Last week I received a letter from my landlord giving me thirty days to get rid of my dog and reminding me that the lease prohibits pets. Do I have to get rid of my dog?

Yes, the fact that your landlord chose to allow you to have a dog and not enforce the lease term prohibiting pets does not mean that the landlord can never enforce the lease term. To enforce the suspended lease term the landlord needs to give notice that he wants you to comply with the lease term. If you do not comply, your landlord can terminate your lease and file a dispossessory affidavit.