So You Want to be a Landlord? Part 8 — “Month-to-Month” Tenancies.

In an ideal world, the landlord/tenant relationship is governed by the express terms of a written lease agreement. Sometimes, however, lease agreements expire, and a tenant continues the tenancy by “holding over.” In other cases, landlords and tenants enter into oral agreements (“I, Tenant will pay you, Landlord, the sum of “X dollars” each month to rent this apartment.”) to rent a particular property. Note: In Maryland, a lease agreement for more than a period of one (1) year must be in writing to be enforceable.

A month-to-month tenancy is a periodic tenancy whereby both the landlord and tenant operate under a “rental agreement” for a one-month period that is renewed automatically each month for another month until properly terminated by either party. In a month-to-month tenancy, a renter can live in a dwelling as long as he or she wishes provided the rent is paid on time and the landlord does not give prior notice of vacancy. Of course, the renter can also cancel the lease at any time with notice. Basically, the renter can stay until either the renter or the landlord decides differently. The benefit to these types of month-to-month tenancies is flexibility. A short term lease is much more flexible for renters, especially if they have no idea how long they will stay in one particular place.

Month-to-month tenancies are also known as “at will” tenancies. That is, a tenant who occupies rental property with the landlord’s consent and makes rent payments without a written lease is called a tenant “at will.” Additionally, a tenant at will is a tenant who has the landlord’s permision to stay on the property past the expiration of the rental agreement. A tenant “holding over” generally differs from a tenant at will in that the latter has permission of the landlord to stay beyond the expiration date of the agreement, while the holdover tenant does not. A tenant at will is typically required to continue rent payments as long as the tenant is permitted to remain in the leased premises.

In Maryland, a Landlord’s remedies involving “holdover tenants” are prescribed by
Section 8-402 of the Real Property Article of the Maryland Annotated Code. Additionally, Section 8-402 sets forth the Notice requirements imposed upon a landlord in terminating “month to month” or “at will” tenancies.

Generally speaking, where there is no written lease and no state or local code requirement relating to notice from tenant to landlord, the common law requirement is that the length of notice must be equal to the base period of the tenancy, such as one week or one month. Thus, if the tenancy is a month-to-month tenancy, a landlord and/or tenant must typically provide thirty (30) days or one month’s written notice to terminate the tenancy. In Baltimore City, however, a landlord must provide a tenant with sixty (60) days written notice to terminate the tenancy. See Baltimore City’s Code of Local Laws.

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