Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

This is a discussion on Automatic lease renewal (Virginia) within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; I am a current lease holder for a single family home in the Virginia. My lease expiration is March 31, ...

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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 11:36 AM   #1
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Confused Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

I am a current lease holder for a single family home in the Virginia.

My lease expiration is March 31, 2013,
Renewal period is a year.
Renewal Notice Period 30 days.
Term Clause: The Term shall begin on the Commencement Date and end on the Ending Date. THE TERM OF THIS LEASE SHALL AUTOMATICALLY RENEW for additional periods equal to the Renewal Period each, but either party may avoid a renewal by giving the other party written notice on non-renewal prior to the expiration of the then current Term by at least the Renewal Notice Period. Owner may chance any of the terms of this Lease effective as of any renewal date by giving Tenant written notice of the new term(s) at least 15 days more than the Renewal Notice Period before a renewal date. If Tenant fails to terminate this Lease to be effective on that renewal date, as provided above, Tenant shall have accepted all new or changed terms.

I had contacted my landlord February 10th stating that we may be purchasing a house and was wondering if we can go Month to Month to purchase a home and whether he will be able to help us find a home since he was a real estate agent. On February 22, 2013, I had notified my Landlord that we will no longer be looking for a home since we were looking to save more for a down payment and that we will be contacting him by February 25, 2014. I called on February 25th to have him call me back. On March 8th we then notified our Landlord that we will be submitting our 30 days notice. After applying for an apartment I called my landlord yesterday, March 12th, to see whether he had received the rental verification. He stated that our lease automatically renewed for another year per our lease agreement. He also stated in our rental verification that we were bound to an entire new lease.

The previous tenant was in the Military and he was able to break the lease "not because of orders but because of marital separation with no penalty." The lease is bound under the VRLTA. Not sure if this information is relevant at all.

How enforceable is this one year lease renewal? What are my options other than completing the next full year term?

Last edited by mskay; Mar 13th, 2013 at 11:44 AM. Reason: Add lease verbiage
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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 11:44 AM   #2
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Default re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

A landlord can put down ANYTHING they want on paper, and the only thing that will ever stand up in court is of course the Landlord Tenant act for said state. Even Lawyers get this wrong a lot of the time. I as well as a lawyer friend of mine do not read the leases any more...again they mean nothing when it comes to the tenant act.
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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 11:46 AM   #3
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Thumbs Up re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

Quote:
Originally Posted by WilliamShater View Post
A landlord can put down ANYTHING they want on paper, and the only thing that will ever stand up in court is of course the Landlord Tenant act for said state. Even Lawyers get this wrong a lot of the time. I as well as a lawyer friend of mine do not read the leases any more...again they mean nothing when it comes to the tenant act.
So for my situation is that something that would benefit me or the landlord? Is this due to the early termination for the previous tenant?
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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 12:04 PM   #4
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Default re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

There does not appear to be anything supporting your failure to give notice before the yearly renewal. The military occupant lost his housing allowance due to martial separation and moved back on base.

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Early termination of rental agreement by military personnel
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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 12:11 PM   #5
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Default re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

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There does not appear to be anything supporting your failure to give notice before the yearly renewal. The military occupant lost his housing allowance due to martial separation and moved back on base.

55-
248.21:1.

Early termination of rental agreement by military personnel
The previous tenant did not lose housing allowance. Also, per the SCRA and VRLTA, a move to military housing does not qualify as a military lease break.
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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 03:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mskay View Post
I am a current lease holder for a single family home in the Virginia.

My lease expiration is March 31, 2013,
Renewal period is a year.
Renewal Notice Period 30 days.
Term Clause: The Term shall begin on the Commencement Date and end on the Ending Date. THE TERM OF THIS LEASE SHALL AUTOMATICALLY RENEW for additional periods equal to the Renewal Period each, but either party may avoid a renewal by giving the other party written notice on non-renewal prior to the expiration of the then current Term by at least the Renewal Notice Period. Owner may chance any of the terms of this Lease effective as of any renewal date by giving Tenant written notice of the new term(s) at least 15 days more than the Renewal Notice Period before a renewal date. If Tenant fails to terminate this Lease to be effective on that renewal date, as provided above, Tenant shall have accepted all new or changed terms.

I had contacted my landlord February 10th stating that we may be purchasing a house and was wondering if we can go Month to Month to purchase a home and whether he will be able to help us find a home since he was a real estate agent. On February 22, 2013, I had notified my Landlord that we will no longer be looking for a home since we were looking to save more for a down payment and that we will be contacting him by February 25, 2014. I called on February 25th to have him call me back. On March 8th we then notified our Landlord that we will be submitting our 30 days notice. After applying for an apartment I called my landlord yesterday, March 12th, to see whether he had received the rental verification. He stated that our lease automatically renewed for another year per our lease agreement. He also stated in our rental verification that we were bound to an entire new lease.

The previous tenant was in the Military and he was able to break the lease "not because of orders but because of marital separation with no penalty." The lease is bound under the VRLTA. Not sure if this information is relevant at all.

How enforceable is this one year lease renewal? What are my options other than completing the next full year term?
You failed to provide your LL with proper notice that you intended to non-renew the lease with the required renewal notice period of 30 days prior to the current lease expiration date. All that flip-flopping didn't help, but ULTIMATELY, when you finally DID decide to decline the renewal, it was well into the month of March before it happened. That means the LL was correct in auto-renewing the lease per the terms outlined in that lease.

As for the LL's choice to allow the prior tenant out, that was the LL's prerogative to do so. While the law allows for an early termination for active servicemembers under specific circumstances, even though this particular military member didn't qualify under that law, the LL chose to allow him to break the lease anyway. That was the LL's choice, but it in no way obligates him to do the same for others if he doesn't choose to.

Bottom line here is that all that flip-flopping in your decision whether or not to give your notice is what hurt you here. The result is a lease renewal you aren't prepared to honor. You can still move, but you'd end up having to suffer the penalty of doing so, which means you will be required to pay the rent until the end of the new lease term, or until a new tenant can be found to replace you, whichever occurs first. Virginia law does require a LL to mitigate their damages by actively seeking a replacement tenant.
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Old Mar 13th, 2013, 04:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mskay View Post
The previous tenant did not lose housing allowance. Also, per the SCRA and VRLTA, a move to military housing does not qualify as a military lease break.
I am curious, that you are so well informed on the situation, yet you allowed this renewal to happen.
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Old Mar 16th, 2013, 08:35 PM   #8
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Big Grin Re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

Thank you for your responses. I have done research regarding Fair Housing Laws after getting into this predicament. After much research and speaking to a lawyer, I wanted to share the information I have gathered in case anyone else runs into this situation.

After speaking to our lawyer this is what I have come to understand. I by no means am a lawyer so please consult one for your situation. Again, I just wanted to share my experience at the chance that it helps someone else.

In the US there is a statute of frauds which states that contracts can not be enforced unless a written note or memorandum of agreement exists that is signed by the persons bound by the contract's terms or their authorized representatives. The law's purpose is to prevent the possibility of a nonexistent agreement between two parties being "proved" by perjury or Fraud. I did sign my current lease stating the renewal period of one year and renewal notice is 30 days. However, a new lease was never signed and when brought to court will be hard to enforce. That is the important part. the enforcability. You are bound under the lease per the contract however when brought to court the judge will find it difficult and almost always cannot enforce the lease.

A letter was drafted and given to the LL and property management company. To avoid court, time and money we have been released from the lease with a minor finders fee to find a new tenant.
Thank you for your time and I hope this helps someone in the future.
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Old Mar 16th, 2013, 11:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mskay View Post
Thank you for your responses. I have done research regarding Fair Housing Laws after getting into this predicament. After much research and speaking to a lawyer, I wanted to share the information I have gathered in case anyone else runs into this situation.

After speaking to our lawyer this is what I have come to understand. I by no means am a lawyer so please consult one for your situation. Again, I just wanted to share my experience at the chance that it helps someone else.

In the US there is a statute of frauds which states that contracts can not be enforced unless a written note or memorandum of agreement exists that is signed by the persons bound by the contract's terms or their authorized representatives. The law's purpose is to prevent the possibility of a nonexistent agreement between two parties being "proved" by perjury or Fraud. I did sign my current lease stating the renewal period of one year and renewal notice is 30 days. However, a new lease was never signed and when brought to court will be hard to enforce. That is the important part. the enforcability. You are bound under the lease per the contract however when brought to court the judge will find it difficult and almost always cannot enforce the lease.

A letter was drafted and given to the LL and property management company. To avoid court, time and money we have been released from the lease with a minor finders fee to find a new tenant.
Thank you for your time and I hope this helps someone in the future.
Your attorney must not be well-versed in contract law as it relates to rental lease agreements.

You EXPRESSLY agreed to an automatic renewal clause on the original lease when you signed it. With an automatic renewal clause, no new lease needs to be signed. The terms and conditions of the renewal are specified in the original lease document.

The terms of that automatic renewal are clear - you were required to provide written notice of your intent NOT to renew no less than 30 days prior to the expiration date of the current lease in order to avoid the automatic renewal going into effect. That means you would have needed to provide written notification of that intent NOT to renew by NO LATER than March 1st. You didn't tell the LL about deciding not to renew until another week later, on March 8th.

There's no fraud or deception involved here. You were indecisive about whether or not to renew, and you simply did not decide soon enough to avoid the automatic renewal clause that was clearly spelled out in your lease.

The management would have been well within their rights to pursue enforcement of the lease renewal. I think you were just being enough of a PITA that they elected to allow you out of the lease renewal. Sometimes it works, but often it doesn't. When it does, it's not because you made such a good argument. It's because they can probably very easily find someone else to replace you, which is a better deal all around.

It's also important to note that you did not get out of the lease entirely. The management agreed to let you out in exchange for an early termination fee (what you call a "finder's fee"). That is standard practice for many LLs who want to make sure that their tenants don't just skip out on fixed-term leases without some penalty.
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Old Mar 24th, 2013, 05:41 PM   #10
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Cool Re: Automatic lease renewal (Virginia)

My goodness. Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed. My question was how enforceable it was. The attorney handles landlord and tenant issues daily. As for me being a PITA I have been an excellent tenant.

The court system in Virginia finds it hard to enforce a renewal lease of one year. The finders fee of $150 is much less severe than any lease break fee I have ever seen on contract before. Don't be upset that someone else was able to think of something you may have missed. I posted my result for the benefit of other tenants not to upset people who clearly get upset entirely too easily. Enjoy your day.
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