Month-to-Month Leases

Most of my leases are month-to-month written agreements and I love doing business this way.  Why?  Many reasons:

  • People are transient.  They lose jobs, get transferred, etc.  A monthly lease makes it easier on them and the landlord, should their situation change.
  • Generally speaking, you can charge a little more in rent for the privilege of using a monthly agreement.
  • And my favorite … in a monthly lease, I can terminate the lease, with 30 days’ notice, at any time, for almost any reason, assuming discrimination is not involved.  For example, if my tenant has a bad attitude, is surly and difficult, argumentative, bothers the other tenants, has bad personal hygiene and the apartment smells funky, or whatever else irritates me.  Now, it’s a bit tricky to say these things to a tenant, but you can always say you’re going to do some renovation to the place and need to have them vacate within 30 days.
  • If you do give a 30-day notice, the tenant is obligated to continue paying rent for that period.
  • Several of my homes are multi-family, and one bad apple can change the whole complexion of the house.  I love for my tenants to get along with each other;  I make them share the grass-cutting chores, etc.  If I had year-long leases, it would be tough getting that bad apple out.
  • Month-to-month leases aren’t any more difficult to execute than yearly leases.  They stand up just as well in court if you need to evict someone.

In the high-end rentals I manage, the tenants are all on yearly leases.  It’s more common to see monthly leases in low- and middle-income rentals.  But they work well across the board, so don’t be afraid to use them.

I AM the Grinch . . .

Yes, I am the grinch.  Case in point . . .

I rented one of my places to a very nice single mom, Magda, and her 11-year-old son a couple of months ago.  Magda’s husband was deceased, had died an early death due to diabetes.  As a result, she received government monies and had a part-time job to supplement that income.

Things went well for two months.  She paid on time and kept her apartment in good order.  Then she missed a rent payment.  She was on a bi-weekly payment plan.  She neither called nor wrote me a note about this, so I had to go to her house (my voicemail went unanswered) in hopes of finding her there or leaving her a note.

Fortunately, she was there.  She said her money order had been stolen.  I said, “Well, do you have the money order receipt?  If so, that’s your proof of payment.”  She couldn’t produce the receipt.  When I meet tenants to sign my lease, I urge them to save their money order receipts for this express purpose, just in case the rent doesn’t reach me for one reason or another.  It’s even written in the lease.

Fortunately, Magda had the cash to replace the missing payment.  However, another rent payment was going to be due in a couple of days.  I asked her if she had that money and she said no.  She’d lost her job and hadn’t found another one.  The writing was on the wall . . . I suggested she borrow money from friends or family to get her by, and told her it was important she keep in touch with me about what was going on.

Sure enough, the rent due date came and went and I heard nothing from Magda.  I hoped to get the rent in the mail, but when five days passed and I didn’t receive it, I went to her house again.  There was no one home so I left a very pointed note, stating she needed to call immediately to avoid the eviction process.  (I made a copy for myself as well.)  I also left a message on her phone.

No response.  So, three days before Christmas, I filed eviction.  Her court date isn’t until Jan. 7, because the court shows some leniency over the holidays. 

The bottom line?  Years ago, I would’ve let this scenario play out over a period of months, hoping and trusting that Magda would get her act together.  I have empathy for single moms, as I am one myself.  But I learned (thankfully!) that I can’t run this business with my heart alone; I have bills to pay, too.  So yes, I am the grinch, but it’s for my own sanity and preservation.

 I haven’t been back down to Magda’s place since I filed on her, but she may have abandoned the apartment by now.  Many tenants do, when they know they’re being evicted.  I’ll check it out and keep you posted . . .

Onward and upward!