Month to Month Tenancy vs. a Lease

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V.I.P. Trust Deed Company

A contractor I know has rented a two car garage for approximately six months.  The garage is used for storage and it took a lot of time to load materials into the garage.  Now, after only six months, the owner has informed my contractor acquaintance that they need the garage back and he will have to vacate.  The question was, can they just ask for it back legaly?  The obvious answer, of course, is yes.

The purpose of a lease is to give both landlord and tenant a written contract affecting all the terms and conditions of the lease.  The most obvious terms are the LENGTH of the lease and rental AMOUNT.  The lease then goes on page after page with all other details, including security deposits, hazardous materials, property damage, holding over, etc., etc., etc.  The problem for my acquaintance is that this was done on a hand shake, rather than a written agreement.  The hand shake deal is fine and results in a MONTH TO MONTH tenancy.  Month to month tenancy does not have to be in writing, though as usual I strongly advise that ANY agreement for rent (of anything) be spelled out in writing.  In that case, you will, hopefully, never be in front of a judge with “he said, she said.”

In this case, the hand shake agreement resulted in a month to month tenancy with, by law, a 30 day notice.  The landlord is therefore only obligated to give a 30 day notice for change in terms or a 30 day notice to quit.  For instance, the landlord only needs to give 30 days notice to raise the rent $50 a month or $100 a month or WHATEVER.  “Whatever,” by the way, seems to have a meaning all to itself these days.  Semantics aside, it is obvious that any term or condition can be modified with 30 days notice to the tenant.  Is this fair?  Absolutely.  Please realize that the landlord went through some hassle, preparation, credit check, etc. to rent the property in the first place.  With apartments or commercial properties, the landlord would go through much greater expense, involving painting, cleaning, remodeling, etc.  With a month to month tenancy, the TENANT also has a right to leave with merely a 30 day notice.  A month to month tenancy is by nature a temporary, renewable tenancy.  At any time, either the landlord or the tenant can give the other a 30 day notice, unless otherwise provided in writing.  As I said before, even a month to month tenancy should be in writing, in which case this exact situation would have been spelled out.

So how does the contractor protect himself next time?  Simple:  Ask for a lease for one year, two years, six months or whatever the situation warrants.  If you are the tenant, I suggest a fixed term lease WITH an option to extend: perhaps a one year lease with an option to extend for another year or two.  The terms of that extension will also be included in the lease.

It is always easy to feel that one’s lot in life is “not fair.”  Try to look at it from the other person’s point of view for a moment.  If you have the gift of being able to look at things from the eyes of another, your life will proceed with much less stress and aggravation.


I have been planning to do a follow up on my Glendale Building Department horror stories.  The follow up article was intended to be specific examples of Design Review Board horror stories.  Though I have never been to a design Review Board meeting, I have had many, many first hand accounts of problems with one or the other Design Review Board over the years.  In trying to research the column, one of the Design Review Board members (Design Review Board No. 2) was gracious enough to spend approximately 15-20 minutes with me on the phone.  This person strongly defended the Design Review Board concept and purpose and “maybe” convinced me that a plan consultation with an architect would in most cases save many of the problems that arise.

In fairness for my upcoming article, I have decided to punish myself by forcing myself to listen to 4 hours of actual Design Review Board meetings on tape.  I will also be scheduling a meeting with the owner of a proposed house that has had major problems with one of the Design Review Boards over a LONG period of time.  In the meantime, I am soliciting any “pro” or “con” letters about personal experiences with a Glendale Design Review Board.  After discussing this with the aforementioned member of Design Review Board No. 2, I was told that, on occasion, an applicant actually thanks the Design Review Board for their help in improving a project.  I am not saying this tongue in cheek, as I certainly believe that does happen.  The real question is, one in a thousand, two in a thousand, or 500 in a thousand?  In the meantime, we shared horror stories, including one that this member was aware of involving the repainting the trim on a house because the actual trim paint did not match the color sample on the paper color chip submitted with the plans.

Peter Rosenthal
VIP Trust Deed Company