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Holdover Tenant Laws

If a tenant stays past the end date on their lease, they become what’s known as a “holdover tenant.” Generally, landlords can either let them stay on as a month-to-month tenant or evict them.

A holdover tenant is any tenant who stays in their rental unit past the end date of their lease. Most states give landlords the option to either let them stay on as month-to-month tenants or evict them. But the specifics of this process vary by state (and even by city). Read on for an overview of holdover tenant laws across the U.S.—or select your state from the dropdown menu at the top of the page.

Landlords can evict holdover tenants

In almost all cases, landlords aren’t required to let tenants stay past the end date of their lease. Holdover tenants can be evicted for violating the terms of their lease. In most states, the process for evicting a holdover tenant is the same as any other eviction. However, New York actually has a specific process for removing holdover tenants that’s more complicated than a regular eviction. New York tenants can even evict a holdover roommate who isn’t named on the lease.

Landlords can establish a new month-to-month agreement with holdover tenants

In most states, a landlord accepting rent from a holdover tenant results in a new month-to-month tenancy. In Illinois, however, a landlord accepting rent doesn’t necessarily establish a holdover tenancy. A court would also consider the intent of the people involved. If the landlord tried to get the property back, for example, the holdover tenancy may not be valid—even if the landlord cashes the tenant's rent check.

Landlords who want to end a holdover tenancy must give proper notice to tenants, as they would with any month-to-month rental agreement. In states like California and Illinois, notice is 30 days. In Washington, it’s 20. Depending on the state, notice can either be written or oral.

Some big cities require just cause to terminate a month-to-month holdover tenancy

States are generally consistent on landlords being able to end a month-to-month lease agreement for any reason. But certain major cities—including San Francisco, New York City, and Seattle—require “just cause” to terminate month-to-month agreements. Depending on the city, just cause may include things like:

  • Not paying rent or regularly paying rent late
  • Breaking the terms of the lease
  • The landlord wanting to move into the unit

Original lease terms apply to holdover tenants

It’s common for the original lease terms to carry over to a holdover tenancy. That means both the landlord and tenant must follow the terms of the original lease unless they agree to change them. Some states, like California, only carry over the essential terms of the lease, such as the amount of rent and when it’s due.

There may be penalties for staying past the lease end date

Holdover tenants in some states may be penalized financially for staying past the end date of their lease. In Illinois, a holdover tenant may be charged double rent for willfully staying despite the landlord’s written request for them to leave. In New York, a holdover tenant may be charged double rent if they tell the landlord they’ll leave by a certain date and don’t.

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