Q: I signed a 12-month lease that I thought ended on June 30, 2017. Our lease agreement states that upon termination of the lease period, if we wish to vacate the apartment, we need to give “two full calendar months’ ” notice.
I’ve seen in several legal dictionaries, as well as the Merriam-Webster dictionary, that a “calendar month” is from a specified date in one month to the numerically matching date in the next calendar month. So, if I provided notice on May 13, 2017, two full calendar months would allow me to vacate on July 13, 2017. However, when we provided our notice, our landlord said that the property manager defines a “calendar month” as all the days corresponding to that month in the year. The landlord explained that since we gave notice May 13, we cannot end our lease until July 31, 2017, because notice wasn’t given before May started. Which is correct?
A: Since you signed a yearlong lease, it is considered a fixed-term lease because the length of the lease is for a specific amount of time. Even though fixed-term leases may identify an end date, most do not actually end on that day. Instead, the lease typically requires either the landlord or the tenant to provide some type of notice, usually one month or two months’ notice before the lease end date, to properly end the lease.
Minnesota law interprets “calendar month” to be a full rental period, i.e., one full month from the date that rent is due. Most leases state that rent is due on the first of the month, making a “calendar month” run from the first of the month until the end of that month. The basic rule in Minnesota rental leases is that a full rental period’s notice must be given, or one month’s notice. However, in your case, the lease requires two full months’ notice to properly end the lease. So, a two-month notice provided on May 13 is effective for July 31.
However, Minnesota law also prohibits the automatic renewal of leases for periods of two months or more. Some Minnesota courts interpret a two-months’ notice to end a lease as an automatic lease-renewal provision, and won’t allow it unless your landlord gave you proper written notice concerning this provision.
If your landlord provided you with the proper notice concerning this provision 15 to 30 days before the last day of April, then you didn’t give sufficient notice, and you need to pay rent through July 31. If you didn’t receive a written notice or warning from your landlord, 15 to 30 days before the last day of April, reminding you to provide a two-months’ notice to end your lease, then you should negotiate with your landlord to end your lease as of July 13. Keep in mind that some courts have upheld 60-day notice requirements in expired leases, even though there is a provision in Minnesota law prohibiting the automatic renewal of leases for periods of two months or more.
If your landlord agrees to end the lease on July 13, then make sure to get the agreement in writing and signed by both parties.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 650 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.