Can A Landlord Decide Not to Renew a Lease? A Comprehensive Guide

Ok, let’s say you are a happy tenant and want to stay in your place, but realize that the lease term is almost expired. You may start to panic and wonder if your landlord can refuse to renew your lease.

Or, let’s say you are a landlord who has been plagued by a tenant who is really difficult to deal with, is constantly complaining, and while they never outright break the lease, they really push against the borders of acceptable behavior. You may be waiting for the day when that tenant’s lease expires.

In either case, it’s important to know when a landlord can decide not to renew a lease. The answer is not as simple as a yes or no, as it depends on various factors such as the applicable laws that apply and the specific terms of the lease.

In this article, I will answer this question and provide the legal landscape governing it. I will also provide some tips on how landlords can non-renew the right way and what the tenants rights and options are when a landlord exercises a nonrenewal right.

If you have don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:

Generally, a landlord can decide not to renew a lease, but often must provide proper notice, usually 30-60 days before lease expiration. In certain cases, such as rent-controlled properties, federally subsidized housing, or instances of retaliation or discrimination, a valid cause for nonrenewal is required.

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice.  You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

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Understanding Lease Agreements

A lease agreement is a legally binding contract between a landlord and a tenant, outlining the terms and conditions of renting a property. This agreement typically includes the length of the lease, the rent amount, and the rights and responsibilities of both parties.

Once the lease term comes to an end, both the landlord and the tenant must decide whether to renew the lease or terminate the rental relationship.

In most cases, the lease will automatically convert to a month-to-month agreement if neither party takes action to renew or terminate the lease.

Nonrenewal of Lease: General Rule

As a general rule, a landlord has the right to decide not to renew a lease.

However, they must provide the tenant with proper notice of their intention not to renew the lease. The notice period varies depending on the jurisdiction, but it usually ranges between 30 and 60 days before the lease expires.

It’s important to note that the landlord does not need to provide a reason for not renewing the lease, as long as they comply with the notice requirements and do not violate any applicable laws.

Nonrenewal of Lease: Where Cause is Required

In certain jurisdictions and under specific circumstances, a landlord may be required to have a valid cause for not renewing a lease.

This is known as “for-cause” nonrenewal.

The reasons for requiring cause vary, but they generally aim to protect tenants from unfair eviction or retaliatory actions by the landlord. Some common situations where cause is required include:

  1. Rent-controlled properties: In areas with rent control regulations, landlords are often required to have a cause for not renewing a lease. Rent control laws limit the amount that landlords can increase rent and protect long-term tenants from being evicted without a valid reason.
  2. Federally subsidized housing: Tenants living in federally subsidized housing, such as Section 8 or public housing, enjoy additional protections. In these cases, landlords must generally have a cause to not renew a lease, such as a violation of the lease agreement, nonpayment of rent, or criminal activity on the property.
  3. Retaliatory evictions: In many jurisdictions, it is illegal for a landlord to evict or not renew a lease in retaliation against a tenant who has exercised their legal rights, such as complaining about poor living conditions or organizing a tenants’ association. In these situations, the landlord must provide a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for not renewing the lease.
  4. Discrimination: Federal and state fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against tenants based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or familial status. If a landlord decides not to renew a lease based on any of these factors, it would be considered illegal discrimination.

Now as mentioned earlier, different jurisdictions will have different rules around nonrenewal rights and obligations, so you should familiarize yourself with the applicable laws in your area by conducting research or hiring a lawyer to help you.

For your convenience, here’s our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenant laws of your state.

If you prefer to have a lawyer assist you, I would try JustAnswer. They boast access to thousands of highly-rated, verified real estate lawyers whom you can connect with via their unlimited chat service.

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Landlord’s Responsibilities During Nonrenewal

When a landlord decides not to renew a lease, they must comply with the legal requirements and ensure that the nonrenewal is not based on discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. Some of the key responsibilities of the landlord during the nonrenewal process include:

  • Providing proper notice: The landlord must provide the tenant with a written notice of their intention not to renew the lease within the required timeframe, which usually ranges between 30 and 60 days before the lease expires. The notice must be clear, unambiguous, and delivered according to the local laws and regulations.
  • Abiding by fair housing laws: As mentioned earlier, a landlord must not discriminate against a tenant based on any protected characteristics. This means that the decision not to renew the lease should be based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
  • Documenting the cause: If the nonrenewal is “for-cause,” the landlord should keep detailed records of the reasons for not renewing the lease. This may include written documentation of lease violations, nonpayment of rent, or other issues that form the basis for the nonrenewal.
  • Remaining professional: The landlord should maintain a professional demeanor throughout the nonrenewal process, avoiding confrontations or hostile interactions with the tenant. This can help minimize potential disputes and ensure a smoother transition for both parties.
  • Handling security deposits: The landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within the timeframe specified by local laws, typically 14 to 60 days after the tenant vacates the property. The landlord may withhold a portion of the deposit to cover unpaid rent or damages, but they must provide an itemized list of deductions and the corresponding receipts.

Tenant’s Rights and Options

If a landlord decides not to renew a lease, tenants should be aware of their rights and options. These may include:

  1. Challenging the nonrenewal: If the tenant believes that the landlord’s decision not to renew the lease is based on discriminatory or retaliatory reasons, they can file a complaint with the appropriate fair housing agency or seek legal advice from a tenant’s rights attorney.
  2. Negotiating with the landlord: In some cases, the tenant may be able to negotiate a new lease with the landlord, addressing any concerns that led to the nonrenewal decision. This can be a win-win situation for both parties, as the tenant gets to stay in the property, and the landlord avoids the hassle of finding a new tenant.
  3. Finding a new place: If the nonrenewal is legitimate, the tenant should begin searching for a new rental property as soon as possible. This may involve researching the local rental market, viewing potential properties, and submitting rental applications.


The decision not to renew a lease is a complex issue that involves a delicate balance between the rights of the landlord and the tenant.

While a landlord generally has the right to decide not to renew a lease, they must ensure that their decision is in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, particularly in cases where cause is required.

Tenants, on the other hand, should be aware of their rights and options in case of nonrenewal and seek legal advice if they suspect that the decision is based on discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.

By understanding the intricacies of lease nonrenewal, both landlords and tenants can navigate this challenging process with confidence and professionalism.

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