What Kind of Lease Do I Have? - Tenant Resource Center



What Kind of Lease Do I Have?

Tenants have different rights and responsibilities, depending on what kind of lease they have. And yet, it can be darn difficult to figure out what kind of lease you have. So today, I'm making pretty charts so you can know the official name of your type of lease, and understand some of the ways that it impacts your rights.

To start the day of quizzing, here's a quick round of true or false.

Statement: It's legal for leases to be agreed upon verbally, without anything in writing.
Response: TRUE. Under Wisconsin law, it's perfectly legal to agree upon things verbally, and to have a lease without a single thing put down in writing. However, verbal agreements make it quite difficult to prove what, exactly, both parties agreed upon, so it's not something we recommend, even though it is legal.

Statement: Because I pay rent monthly, I am a month-to-month tenant.
Response: FALSE. Even if you pay monthly, if you have a lease with an end date, then you do not have a month-to-month lease.

What_kind_of_lease_do_i_have-1_1_.png

Now that you know what kind of lease you have, what does that mean for you?

  Term Lease Term lease that's for more than 1 year Month-to-Month Lease Periodic Tenancy Tenant-at-Will

If I get an eviction notice for not paying my rent, it would have to be... 

A 5-day notice with a right to cure, for the 1st failure to pay rent violation within a calendar year.

or

A 14-day notice with NO right to cure for the 2nd (and after) failure to pay rent violations within a calendar year.

A 30-day notice with a right to cure Either:
 - a 5-day notice with a right to cure or 
 - a 14-day notice with NO right to cure
Either:
 - a 5-day notice with a right to cure or 
 - a 14-day notice with NO right to cure
Either:
 - a 5-day notice with a right to cure or 
 - a 14-day notice with NO right to cure
If I get an eviction notice for a violation of the terms of my lease, it would have to be... 

A 5-day notice with a right to cure, for the 1st violation of the terms of the lease within a calendar year.

or

A 14-day notice with NO right to cure for the 2nd (and after) violation of the terms of the lease within a calendar year.

A 30-day notice with a right to cure A 14-day notice with NO right to cure must be received before a landlord can evict a tenant. However, a landlord may opt to give a 5-day notice with a right to cure first. Either:
 - a 5-day notice with a right to cure or 
 - a 14-day notice with NO right to cure
Either:
 - a 5-day notice with a right to cure or 
 - a 14-day notice with NO right to cure
If the landlord wants to end the lease when the lease is over (instead of renewing it)... The landlord doesn't have to give any notice, unless they are ending a lease with an automatic renewal clause. The landlord doesn't have to give any notice, unless the landlord is ending a lease with an automatic renewal clause.

The landlord has to give at least 28 days' written notice, and the tenancy can only be ended on the last day of a rental period. 

Landlords can be required to give more notice than 28 days, if that requirement is written into a lease. No matter how long the number of days, the notice must still be written, and the lease must end on the last day of a rental period.

If your rent is paid more frequently than monthly, then the landlord has to give you written notice equal to the length of your rental period, and your lease must end on the last day of a rental period.

If your rent is paid less often than monthly (like a year-to-year lease), then the landlord has to give at least 28 days' written notice, and the tenancy can only be ended on the last day of a rental period. 

Landlords can be required to give more notice than the law demands, if that requirement is written into a lease.

The landlord has to give at least 28 days' written notice.

Landlords can be required to give more notice than 28 days, if that requirement is written into a lease. No matter how long the number of days, the notice must still be written.

If the tenant wants to end the lease when the lease is over (instead of renewing it), I'd have to give ...

No notice. 

The tenant doesn't have to give any notice, unless you are ending a lease with an automatic renewal clause.

No notice. 

The tenant doesn't have to give any notice, unless you are ending a lease with an automatic renewal clause.

28 days' written notice.

The tenant has to give at least 28 days' written notice, and the tenancy can only be ended on the last day of a rental period. 

Landlords can be required to give more notice than 28 days, if that requirement is written into a lease. No matter how long the number of days, the notice must still be written, and the lease must end on the last day of a rental period.

If you pay your rent more often than monthly, then the tenant has to give the landlord written notice equal to the length of your rental period, and your lease must end on the last day of a rental period.

If your rent is paid less often than monthly (like a year-to-year lease), then the tenant has to give the landlord at least 28 days' written notice, and the tenancy can only be ended on the last day of a rental period. 

Tenants can be required to give more notice than the law demands, if that requirement is written into a lease.

According to the law, to end the tenancy, the tenant needs to give at least 28 days' written notice.

(In practice, we rarely see this enforced - tenants-at-will are often given housing as a favor, and can leave when they want without worry of legal recourse that they left without giving appropriate notice.)

If the landlord wants to change the terms of the lease, or raise the rent, I'd have to receive ...

If it's during the lease term, then all of the people on the lease (all tenants, landlords, cosigners) have to agree to the changes, in writing (in something like a mutual agreement form).

If it's for a time after your lease term is over, the landlord only needs to send a letter/give a new lease with the new terms, and the tenant can choose whether to follow the new terms/sign the lease, or move out.

If it's during the lease term, then all of the people on the lease (all tenants, landlords, cosigners) have to agree to the changes, in writing (in something like a mutual agreement form).

If it's for a time after your lease term is over, the landlord only needs to send a letter/give a new lease with the new terms, and the tenant can choose whether to follow the new terms/sign the lease, or move out.

28 days' written notice of the changes, with the new terms effective at the beginning of a rental period . If you do not wish to live under the new terms, you can, in return, send notice that you are ending your lease.

Landlords can be required to give more notice than 28 days, if that requirement is written into a lease. No matter how long the number of days, the notice must still be written, and the lease must end on the last day of a rental period.

Written notice of the changes, with notice at least as long as the rental period, if the rental period is less than 1 month (if you're a week-to-week tenant, you need a week's notice). If you do not wish to live under the new terms, you can, in return, send notice that you are ending your lease.

Landlords can be required to give more notice than 1 rental period, if that requirement is written into a lease. No matter how long the number of days, the notice must still be written, and the lease must end on the last day of a rental period.

28 days' written notice of the changes. If you do not wish to live under the new terms, you can, in return, send notice that you are ending your lease.

(There's more about all the eviction notices on our eviction page!) 

Questions you might have after looking through that chart:

  • Question: What happens if I got an eviction or non-renewal notice because of retaliation or discrimination?
    Answer:
     If a landlord gives an eviction or non-renewal notice for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory, then that's not legal, even if the notice is technically correct in how it's been dated/delivered. 

  • Question: How do I count all the days in these notices?
    Answer:
     It's actually pretty complicated! A whole post on that is here.

  • Question: But I got a 5-day notice with NO right to cure?
    Answer:
    Uh oh, that notice is serious business, and can be valid for any kind of lease. Once received, the tenants named on the notice must move out or else the landlord is required to evict them. Tenants can only get a 5-day notice with no right to cure in 2 ways:
    - 1: Because they've been the perpetrator of violence in a domestic abuse/ sexual assault/stalking and the landlord has been ordered to remove them.
    - 2: Because law enforcement has asked the landlord to remove the tenants because of a "drug or gang house nuisance," usually because law enforcement has found that the tenants are distributing illegal drugs out of their home.

  • Question: Can a term lease turn into a month-to-month lease?
    Answer: Yes! All the rules that were a part of the term lease are still true, and the lease is simply a month-to-month lease with those rules. Sometimes, term leases have rules written into them that are true if that lease becomes a month-to-month lease, and that's perfectly legal, and those month-to-month-only rules become true, so it's a good idea to read your lease. More here.
  • Question: What does an automatic renewal have to do with anything?
    Answer
    A lot! If you have a term lease (most often a year long lease) with an automatic renewal clause, both the landlord and tenant have hoops they have to jump through in order to end the lease with a non-renewal. More here - look at item #5.

  • Question: I just want to get out of this lease. Can I do that?
    AnswerYes! You can always break a lease - tenants always have that right. For more information, check out this page.

 

Definitions (from our Eviction page):

  • 5-day Pay or Quit Notice with Right to Cure is a warning to pay late rent. The landlord can only give this notice at a point when the rent is late. You do not need to leave within 5 days, and this notice can be cured (fixed)! The tenant has the opportunity to resolve the problem and stay in the apartment. By law, the landlord has to allow tenants at least 5 days to pay overdue rent (not counting the day it is served, Saturday, or Sunday, according to Wis. Stats. 704.17(1)(a) &(2)(a)801.15(1)(b) & 990.001(4). Your county, community action agency, or local religious groups might assist in paying the rent if you cannot pay it. (Dane County Eviction Prevention Programs)

    To avoid going to court, the tenant has to pay past due rent in full or work out a payment plan with the landlord. Make sure to put everything in writing and keep copies! Get the landlord to confirm in writing whenever possible, either with a receipt, or a full agreement that you've cured (fixed) the problem. If a landlord refuses to take your money, make sure to document that as well, with witnesses if possible. If you disagree with the amount, you can try to contest the notice in a letter to the landlord, but you may end up fighting it in court. You should still pay (or offer a payment plan) for any portion you agree that you owe.

    If you make a payment plan, it's especially important to get a written promise that you won't be evicted.

  • 14-day Notice with No Right to Cure orders you to move even if you fix the problem and must give you at least 14 days. This does not include the day it was served (Wis. Stat. 990.001(4)(a)), but it does include Saturday and Sunday unless the last day is a Sunday. Wis. Stat. 990.001(4)(b) The only way to avoid court is to move out before it expires, or work out another agreement (in writing) with the landlord. Tenants with rental agreements for a set term of one year or less can only be given this notice if they already received a curable 5-day notice for the same violation type (rent or non-rent) within the previous 12 months. Landlords can give a 14 day notice to week-to-week and month-to-month tenants at any time they are behind in rent, without getting a 5-day notice first. Wis. Stats. 704.17(1)(a) & (b) & (2)(b)

  • 30-day Pay or Quit Notice with Right to Cure is only for tenants with a lease for more than a year, and is the only notice they can be served (other than a 5-day with no right to cure under the Safe Housing Act or for a drug nuisance). It gives you at least 30 days to pay late rent or take "reasonable steps" to stop violating the lease. Wis. Stat. 704.17(3)(a)

  • The last day of a rental period is the day before rent is due. Many of the leases that we see make rent due once per month, most often on the 1st of the month. In this situation, the rental period is 1 month, and the last day of the rental period is the last day of each month (the day before rent is due). Rental periods can be almost any recurring length of time, but the last day of the last day of the rental period is still the day before rent is due. More on how to count those days here.

----

* Hi! Did you know that we are not attorneys here at the TRC?. And this isn't legal advice, either.  If what we've written here doesn't sound right to you, talk about it with someone you trust. For help finding an attorney, check out our attorney referral list

Do you like this post?