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What Should I Do If My Lease Expires During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

You should ask for month-to-month lease—or, if your landlord won't negotiate, stay in your rental as a holdover tenant—until it's safer to move.

With many states experiencing continued growth in coronavirus cases, it's far from the ideal time to move. Switching rentals means navigating apartment hunting while social distancing, strangers viewing your soon-to-be vacant rental unit, and movers coming in and out of the building. But if your lease is up soon, you'll have to make a call. If you don't want to leave in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—but you also don't want to commit to another year in your current rental—you have two options.

Ask for a month-to-month or short-term lease

If your landlord is the understanding type, you can ask them for a shorter, fixed-term lease (three months, for instance, instead of a year) or a month-to-month lease. Considering the uncertainty of the current economic situation, there's a good chance they're not thrilled about the prospect of finding new renters right now, either. This kind of arrangement could be a win-win.

Just stay, and keep paying rent

If your landlord refuses to agree to anything shorter than a year-long lease, you may be able to just keep living in your rental even after your current lease expires. You'll become a holdover tenant. Laws about holdover tenants vary a bit between states, but in general if you keep paying rent—and your landlord accepts the payments—then you've established a new month-to-month lease agreement.

Even if your landlord won't accept your payment, they'll have to evict you—and evictions have been paused in many states due to the effects of COVID-19. And in some states (including New York), evicting a holdover tenant is actually more complicated than a regular eviction for nonpayment of rent, for instance.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.