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Greetings to all who are far more in tune with Law-speak than myself! I appreciate your taking the time to look at this important issue I am trying to find a solution to.

In summary, I signed a 1 year lease almost a year ago for the residence I just left. The lease indicated that if I intend to end the lease early I must give a 60 day notice to the Landlord, in writing, before I can leave and that I would be responsible for any/all rent not collected by a potential new tenant should they be unable to find one.

I had received a letter indicating that my lease was about to expire, some time before the 60 day cut-off point (but not by much) that indicated I had three options:

1) Renew the lease and pay another $10/month for the new lease. 2) Go onto month-to-month for an extra $35/month. 3) Move out before the lease expires.

Number 2 was the option I was going to take since I was in the middle of looking for a new job out of town, and thus, planning to find a new place to live when that happened, but I never actually chose that option because the letter indicated that would be what automatically happened if I didn't return the letter.

As luck would have it, I accepted a job 3 weeks before my lease expires, found an apartment and moved to that apartment at great cost in money and time. My landlord got wind of this, called me, and told me I never gave a 60 day notice, so I politely indicated to them that according to my research, Wisconsin law indicates I only need to give a 28 day notice if I am on month to month, so I told them they would be getting a written notice at the beginning of next month to coincide with that 28 day notice, versus their ridiculous 60 day notice requirement for being on the lease. The reason I did this is because I didn't want to be on the hook for potentially 2 more months of rent, since I do not trust my landlord to fill the vacancy quickly when I am gone. My landlord told me that I "have it all wrong" that despite being on month-to-month I am still on lease and that I am to be held to the 60 day notice regardless.

For your reference, what I am referring to as my "research" is the following information:

Notice Requirements for Wisconsin Tenants

It is equally easy for tenants in Wisconsin to get out of a month-to-month rental agreement. You must provide the same amount of notice (28 days) as the landlord (unless your rental agreement provides for a shorter amount of notice). Be sure to check your rental agreement which may require that your notice to end the tenancy be given on the first of the month or on another specific date.

In some situations, you may be able to move out with less (or no) notice—for example, if your landlord seriously violates the rental agreement or fails to fulfill legal responsibilities affecting your health or safety.

That information can be found here, and on a few different websites: Wisconsin Notice Requirements to Terminate Month to Month Tenancy

So my question is, am I allowed to give my 28 day notice at the end of this month/beginning of this month and not be held accountable for the month after? I do know I will have to pay this coming month's rent (+$35 for the month-to-month agreement) and that I am still responsible for utilities during that time as well, but I do not believe according to the information I provided here that I will be held responsible for the month after next (October) and that my landlord is basically trying to con me out of another month of rent.

Please advise; I am certainly thankful for anyone taking the time to research this for me. I've tried calling a non-profit center that helps with this sort of thing in my state, but they've yet to call me back and the end of the month is approaching.

  • (I'm in New Zealand, hence hesitant to write an answer on Wisconsin law) - Unless there is an not an actionable clause in your lease about it auto renewing for another year My reading of the statutes says you are correct - you go onto a monthly lease and give 28 days notice. – davidgo Aug 21 '16 at 5:21
  • Thanks for the response Davidgo. Even if it is not applicable due to the difference in geography I appreciate your input all the same :) – Varwulf Aug 21 '16 at 18:24
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I am a landlord and not an attorney. I have been at this one way or another for 30 years. I will answer based upon my experience and the perspective of the law(s) where I have operated.

As I read your question, it appears that you vacated before the termination of your 1 year lease agreement. Assuming I read things correctly, the original lease is still in effect and that the lease has not converted to a month to month lease as this requires the original lease to expire. If this is the case, then you must give a 60 day notice as required within the lease.

If your 1 year lease has actually expired, then you are on a month by month lease which requires notice according to the terms of the lease. If no specific terms of a month to month lease do not exist, then state law applies.

Please be careful about how you read your lease. I am taking your description of your lease as being gospel, whereas, your reflection of the lease may not be accurate. For example, it may be presumed that even as your lease converts to a month to month lease, a 60 day notice still applies. Without reading your lease, one cannot be sure and we must take your word for it.

Note that any lease generally ends at midnight on any given date.

Tenant / Landlord law allows for modification by agreement of some terms of the law such as notice. While I am not in Wisconsin, I assume this is true in all states. This means that if an agreement is in place regarding notice, then state law does not apply in this area. It is not uncommon that landlords modify the terms of the law by simply placing them within the lease. This can also include the removal of some rights granted by the law where the law allows for it. So be careful to read the entire law and not cherry pick what seems apply immediately.

Having said that, any landlord is required to make reasonable efforts to mitigate all loses. This generally means advertising, showing, interviewing, and accepting and processing applications. If the landlord is unaware of your intentions, he is not able to do this effectively. Why? Because by law you have rights to the property and the landlord is not able to preempt an action he may perceive to be the case. In otherwords, I suspect you are moving, however, I am still not able to show the property, take applications on the property, or enter into an agreement with another for the property.

In your case, you vacated the property. Even with that, some landlords are restricted by law for a term to regain rights to any property that has been vacated or even abandoned. Some states require a period of time and a process by which portions of the eviction process must be sought in order to regain access to the property. This can be significant both in terms of time and financial cost for which you are fully liable.

By not giving notice, and that includes notification of your vacating the property, the landlord may have no legal choice but to follow the law and let the property remain empty for a period as the process proceeds. In some states, this can be months.

Most landlords are very reasonable and will wave the 60 day requirement if you have been a good tenant and you are working to help the landlord rent the property. This can include allowing the landlord to show the property and giving reasonable and realistic expectations of your departure. Since you have not done this, it is very reasonable and highly likely that the landlord will consider your violation of the lease as a breaking of a contract and seek all damages allowed under the law.

The long and the short of it all is that a landlord wants his rent and likely does not care if there is minimal or little downtime in this effort. However, by making a break in the landlords ability to earn money on his property will make him/her mad. Why? Because landlords, even for one property have significant financial liabilities for which they must recover damages. Landlords take on HUGE responsibilities for which there seems to be little respect for. Given that so many tenants treat rentals more like hotels and place the full responsibility and liabilities on the landlord their action, breaking leases without notice is one sure fire way to make sure that the lease is fully enforced.

So while you may not trust your landlord, your only recourse is when the process has fully played out, and you feel that the landlord has not mitigated damages as prescribed by law including the laws by which he must adhere to, then you can file a civil suit. Until then, you no longer have a recourse except to defend any action the landlord brings before the court. In otherowrds, the person you hurt is/was yourself. In most states, the landlord always wins short of a violation of the law you can point to that the landlord has committed. Even then, the landlord still often wins something for which you are liable.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Dale M Sep 30 at 0:29
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It seems that as you have not exercised the choice offered by the landlord, it is still on the table. Write to him and say you will take option 3 thanks.

  • Unfortunately there was a time limit on giving a response to the letter, and if I didn't respond in time (which I didn't) option #2 automatically went into affect, which is the month-to-month arrangement. This goes into affect at the end of this month which as far as I know, means I am no longer subject to the terms of the lease (60 day notice) and can go by the law shared in my original post (28 day notice). – Varwulf Aug 20 '16 at 23:45
  • OK, but this was a unilateral offer (you haven't accepted option 2 even if they say you have) - what does the lease actually say happens at the end? The point is, right now, the lease is still in force. – Dale M Aug 21 '16 at 0:45
  • Yes, right now the lease is still in force but as of 8/31/16, the lease "expires" and rolls into a month-to-month agreement, which is when I plan to give my notice, so I am only on the hook for 28 days instead of 60 days. Hopefully that makes sense. I am aware I am still on the lease and responsible for the terms of the lease until the 31st, but according to the paper I received and the lease, the lease expires on the 31st when it rolls over to month-to-month. Thank you. – Varwulf Aug 21 '16 at 18:19
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Looking just at the lease, then there are two possible conditions. One is that the the lease contains no automatic renewal clause. If that is the case, you have no obligation beyond the end of the lease, which would presumably be up soon. You do owe rent until the end of the lease. The letter does not bind you to anything, though it is an offer on the part of the landlord which you can accept or not. In general, one party cannot bind another to an extension of a contract, unless doing so is in accord with the terms of the contract.

It there is an automatical renewal clause in the lease then under Wisconsin law, such a clause

is not enforceable against the tenant unless the lessor, at least 15 days but not more than 30 days prior to the time specified for the giving of such notice to the lessor, gives to the tenant written notice in the same manner as specified in s. 704.21 calling the attention of the tenant to the existence of the provision in the lease for automatic renewal or extension.

Nothing in your description suggests that this has been done, so unless you left out something important, either there is no auto-renew clause, or it is unenforceable given the lapse in notification.

A lease cannot require you to physically remain with your possessions in the residence, it simply states how long you have a duty to pay rent and have the right to occupy the premise. So it is immaterial if you move out before the end of the lease, as long as you pay rent due. A 60 day notice clause for termination refers to terminating a lease before the date specified in the lease -- there is no requirement to notify a landlord that you are not renewing a lease. Assuming you pay rent in advance and your last month was paid (and you did not agree to any extension of the lease), you would not owe anything.

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Do not accept an answer for this question from a landlord plain and simple. Wi law states, month to month is 28 days, it doesn't say that can be modified by a landlord, or a lease that is over, once it is over it is over. State law takes over, I know this my ll tried this and I won, and the countersuit for time off work, gas, and even lunch. I had people in the courtroom laughing at him, because of the lunch I won. If they take you to court ALWAYS do a countersuit. Enough ll's get it stuck to them they will stop these scare tacticts.

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