LURLINE R. JOHNSON (R), ABR, CRB, CRS, GRI, RMP
Property Profiles, Inc.
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers
Q. My tenant signed a lease renewal for one year last week. Now she is informing me that her circumstance has changed and she wants to change to a six month contract and go to month-to-month after that. She said that since it doesn’t take effect until February 1, she should be able to make the change. Can she do that?
A. The short answer is that if she signed a valid lease renewal that was made in good faith and acknowledged and accepted by you the owner, then you have a valid, enforceable contract. You have the right to hold her to that contract.
Let’s look at this situation a bit closer.
If the lease is for one year then the renewal term would again terminate at the end of January the following year. If you made the decision to allow her to amend the contract to end after six months then she would be with you through the end of July. My experience has been that it is much easier to get a unit rented during the summer rather than during the holidays (or soon after). You could amend the contract to automatically revert to a month-to-month contract or not. If not, then you will be reassessing their situation before the end of July to determine whether you will offer a month-to-month contract or insist on another fixed lease term. Remember that unless it is stated on your contract, no advance notice is necessary to end a fixed term lease. A month-to-month contract would require a 28 day notice to terminate.
Contracts are negotiable between the landlord and the tenant and it should be something that is thought through and agreeable to both parties. Again, you could hold the tenant to the one-year lease but you may end up with a disgruntled tenant who is unpleasant to deal with. Keeping good relations with tenants has several distinct advantages to you the owner. Lines of communication remain open, tenants may feel a stronger sense of commitment to the care and upkeep of the property and they will see themselves as an integral part of this landlord-tenant dynamic.