When you reach the end of your lease, a landlord can terminate the lease without reason and has no obligation to renew your release. While your landlord will usually give you a 30-day notice before the end of the lease, it’s up to the tenant to vacate the property or make a lease extension agreement.

Rental and lease agreements are governed by state and local laws, but generally a landlord should not accept rent or agree to extend the lease if they want to negotiate a new lease or find a new renter.

What happens if you stay?

If your lease ends but you fail to vacate the property, your landlord has cause to evict you.

If you stay past the end of your lease and continue to pay rent which your landlord accepts, some courts consider this an extension of the lease on the same terms as the previous lease. At the very least, it is considered a default extension of the lease on a month-to-month basis. When this occurs, the landlord can only alter the terms of the lease with a 30-day notice to the renter.

If you have an extension option in your lease, you have to exercise it in a timely manner so your landlord can prepare the property for a new tenant if you choose not to exercise the option.

Leaving a lease before expiration

Some states allow you to break a lease early if you are entering the military or an elderly-care facility. Other than these exceptions, it is your responsibility to pay for the property through the lease.

If you leave a lease before the lease expires, the landlord will work to re-rent the property for two reasons:

Many states require landlords to mitigate the damages by making a concerted effort to re-rent the property.

If the landlord wants to sue you for missing rent, the landlord needs to re-rent the property to establish assess the loss your early vacating of the lease caused. The landlord can sue for the amount of rent lost, the cost of re-renting the property, the difference between the new rental amount and your rental amount, and attorney’s fees.

Your security deposit can be used to reimburse the landlord for unpaid rent as well as for repairs and cleaning the property after you leave.