Rental Unit Isn’t Ready: Tenant Overstays

Written on March 30, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Tenant OverstaysThe way you make money as a landlord is to have tenants. So naturally, you want to reduce vacancy time as much as possible.

But if you don’t leave enough time between tenants, you could have a really messy situation on your hands if the old tenant is still there when the new tenant plans to move in.

After renting property, it must be ready for move in. If not, you've breached the lease. Click to Tweet

Many renters wouldn’t even want to get involved in a landlord-tenant situation that starts out so rocky. They might wish to terminate the lease. And you can’t really blame them.

Common Scenarios & What To Do

If you can leave a month between tenants to make sure they’re out and to give you plenty of time to ready the place for the new tenants, you’ve greatly reduced the problem of not having your rental ready for new tenants on move-in day.

But if you don’t want to lose a month’s rent, although the situation can be risky, you can take steps to help ensure your tenants won’t become unwanted holdover tenants when the lease is up.

These are all hypothetical situations. To be sure about your own case, you would need to check your state laws or check with a local attorney.

1. Holdover for a Day

Your current tenant finds out that they can’t move into their new place until the first of the month, so instead of leaving your place on the last day of the month like they’re supposed to, they ask whether they can stay an extra day and move out on the first.

Whether you let them because you’re afraid they’ll be homeless for that one night, or whether you don’t, and they stay anyway, you’ve got a problem on your hands when your new tenant expects to move in (per the lease) on the first of the month.

Asking the new tenant to wait one extra day to move in, until the second of the month, might not be the end of the world, depending on how well your new tenant takes this news.

To make the situation more palatable to the new tenant, offer to put this person up in a hotel for the night. You might need to also pay the movers if there are extra costs involved with rescheduling the move or with storing furniture.

2. Charging Your Old Tenant

Whether and what you can charge your old tenant for staying that extra day depends on your jurisdiction and its laws. Typically, if you allow your tenant to stay an extra day, the cost would be on you. But really, you should never agree to let your old tenant stay one extra day if you have a new person coming in. You don’t want to get off to a bad start with your new tenant.

If you did not allow your tenant to stay an extra day but they did anyway, you might be able to charge that tenant a month’s rent for staying one day over.

Typically, however, you can’t charge two people rent for the month for the same unit. This would be double dipping. You might, however, be able to charge rent for that one day plus any expenses you had to pay the new tenant. You would wait to see what the new tenant charges you, and then you would probably need to sue your old tenant, unless they willingly pay.

3. Tenant Won’t Leave and Stops Paying Rent

If you have a tenant on your hands who refuses to leave altogether, and you already have a signed lease with a new tenant, you’ve got a big problem on your hands. You now need to start the eviction process. If that happens, you can’t very well expect your new tenant to just accept this situation and wait. You took a risk, and in this case, you lost. Hopefully you’ll get back all the money you’re out in a court judgment against your deadbeat tenant.

4. Offer Another Unit

If you have another available unit, you can offer that to your new tenant, either as a temporary place for this person to stay until the place they actually rented is available, or as a permanent place for your new tenant to move into instead of the intended one. The new tenant would need to agree on one of those options for this to work.

5. Offer to Pay Expenses

Another option is to offer to pay expenses your tenant incurs as a result of you not having the place ready. Expenses could include a hotel and paying the new tenant’s moving company if they will charge extra for the delay. Your tenant doesn’t need to agree to this. And you might not want to offer this, depending on how far along in the eviction proceedings you are. You might want to just give back this person’s money (but check with a lawyer on this) and break the lease. You can then wait until you get the old tenant out, and then advertise your place for rent.

Back to Square One

If the potential new tenant gets out of the lease because you couldn’t deliver on the property, you now are back to square one, and you might be out money from inconveniencing this person. If that happens, you not only have no tenant moving in, you still need to pay for any expenses this person incurred while looking for another place.

Typically what happens is that your would-be tenant will pay extra costs and then will send you a bill. If you refuse to pay it, expect to be sued. Likewise, if you incur extra costs due to the old tenant refusing to move out, you can sue them for damages.

How to Minimize Tenant Overstays with Your Old Tenant

Make it clear before any tenant moves in what your expectations are for moving out. If, for example, your tenant will sign a one-year lease, make sure they know what happens when that year is up.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does the lease automatically renew unless they let you know in advance they don’t wish to renew?
  2. If the lease doesn’t automatically renew, would they need to sign another one-year lease to stay, or will they simply become a month-to-month tenant?
  3. Does the lease terminate on the date specified on the lease?
  4. Do you plan to give notice to the tenant before the lease expires, even if the lease specifies a termination date?
  5. If the tenant stays as a month-to-month tenant and doesn’t sign a new lease, do they still follow the terms of the old lease?

All these issues are good ones to go over with your tenant before they move in so that there will be no surprises when the lease period ends.

You might wish to include a holdover provision in your lease that states what the penalties are if the tenant stays longer than they are supposed to.

Force the tenant to give 60 days notice

About two months before the lease is ready to expire, you should send your tenant a letter asking whether they want to renew the lease or if they plan on leaving. If they say they will not be renewing, it’s a good idea to send them another letter or an email that details what your move-out procedures are, such as having the place as clean as it was when they moved in and how to return the key to you.

Related: Require Your Tenants to Give 60 Days Notice of Non-renewal

Next Day Move-in: Risky but Possible

Although it’s risky to rent your place to a new tenant the day after your old tenant is scheduled to leave, it can be done. If you don’t like to gamble, you can always wait until your place is ready before advertising it for rent.

You might find someone who wants to move in right away, mid-month, instead of waiting until the first of the following month. In that case, you could prorate rent for that half month. That way, you’d lose only half a month in vacancy and can save yourself a huge potential hassle.

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23 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Katrina Carey

    Landlord gave keys to property that wasn’t ready for move in and refuse to accommodate for me for 2 week period. Trying to force me to pay for their mess up.

  • Tom Orler

    My lease expired Jan.31st but I needed to stay 2 extra days because my new place wasn’t ready. I asked the landlord if I could stay the 2 extra days and I agreed to pay 2 extra days of rent. She said yes. I stayed the two days. My deposit was due March 4th, which was 30 days after I left, but she didn’t return it until March 27th, 53 days after I left. State law says 30 days max. She made significant deductions from the deposit. She claims I was a holdover tenant, stating that gives her the right to hold my deposit until Mar. 31st, and she charged me extra rent as a holdover tenant. I claim she violated the 30-day provision of Nevada state law and now owes me the entire deposit. Who’s right? Am I a holdover tenant?

  • Brittany

    I signed a primary lease agreement but decided not to sign the actual unit lease in an effort to transfer it to another tenant if approved. I was not able to find another tenant and decided to just move in but when I returned they said that no units are available and they sold the specific unit that was potentially mine. Do I have the right to terminate since I am obligated to pay rent for a place that is not available to me and wouldn’t be in the next week?

  • Tansy Howard

    I have a tenant whose least was up on August 6, 2017. She inform me that day that she needed 14 more days to stay. I informed her I have a new tenant who is expecting to move in soon as possible an d she could not stay. She decided to stay any way. Can I charge her double rent for causing me to lose my new tenant.


    In my lease it states Tenant will grants permission to landlord to show premises to new tenants. My old tenant sign and agreed to the term. then she refuse when the time came. Can I charge her a fee for not keeping her agreement, and refuse to allow me to show the house her last month. How do I charge her for damages if she refuse to allow me to inter to see if there is damages

  • Tansy Howard

    I have a tenant whose least was up on August 6, 2017. She inform me that day that she needed 14 more days to stay. I informed her I have a new tenant who is expecting to move in soon as possible an d she could not stay. She decided to stay any way. Can I charge her double rent for causing me to lose my new tenant.


    In my lease it states Tenant will grants permission to landlord to show premises to new tenants. My old tenant sign and agreed to the term. then she refuse when the time came. Can I charge her a fee for not keeping her agreement, and refuse to allow me to show the house her last month.

  • Samantha

    Just needed to know, my lease ends March 1st’2018 and that is tomorrow, I’ve talked to one of the property Managers and she told me I could do a transfer to another apartment under the same property, and that I have to do a 30 day notice. The apartment I’m about to transfer to is ready in about 30 days, but my lease ends tomorrow. Am I allowed to stay in this current apartment until my new apartment is ready while my lease is already expired or do I have to move out tomorrow and wait until my new apartment is ready. But if I do continue to stay after my lease is expired, do I have to pay for that whole time I’m in this apartment until I move into my new one

  • Megan

    Was supposed to be moved out by feb,16,2018 have no where to go still can’t move I’m sick and it’s raining still here and paid for the month of February and a late fee. Can the owner do andything if we’re still here and our lease is up?

    • Penny

      Check your state’s tenant/landlord laws. You should be protected if the landlord accepted your rent. If rent was accepted for a full month, you should be entitled to stay until the end of the month. If the rent was not accepted, you can still stay as you have nowhere to go. In most places the Landlord must go to court to get an order of eviction and have the marshall come to evict you. If he/she threatens you or locks you out you can call the police. Most cities have tenant advocacy groups which can give you legal advice about your area.

  • Lisa N Leccese-Tringali

    In Nc gave 635 security deposit and paid 380 for utility’s changed in my name. Suppose to get keys on 1st of April. Gave my current tenant notice so go to get out lease up anyway. Find out tonight old tenant in new house will not leave owner said he gave her 2 mo th written notice and she won’t leave. I am so strapped for money having to pay security dep. Utilities and old rent. Me and mom out on street if we can’t get in I can’t afford a hotel. What can I do I need help!

  • Lisa N Leccese-Tringali

    Addition to above post signed 12 month lease

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Lisa,
      If you have given security deposit and that secures the rental for you and you have a lease or rental agreement that starts April 1 and the place isn’t ready April 1 because the old tenant won’t leave, the landlord has breached the agreement with you. Please read this blog post for suggestions on what you can ask from your landlord at this point. Good luck.

      • Ellyn

        I’m suppose to move into an apartment on 5-19-2018. Was told on 4-27-18 the people decided not to move out. I have a document from the apartment complex with details of my apartment # plus details about the electric being turned on and that on the 19th I would sign my lease. Problem is I already gave my notice where I have been staying. The complex offered a second floor apart. I can hardly walk up and down steps I have issues with my legs. So what do I do. NOWHERE TO GO ON SUCH A SHORT NOTICE.

  • Timothy Carty

    Hi, I have a friend who is moving out of her apt after a yr and 2 mths. She has been on a mth to mth and signed the lease on the 2nd of the mth. She plans on moving on the 8th of the new mth 6 days past when she originally signed. The landlord want to charge her 250 for the days . Is that normal for Conecticut. Her mthly rent is 850. Thank you.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Timothy,
      She is lucky her landlord is charging only $250. Typically, when you are on a month to month, if you stay even one day into the next month, you will be charged for the entire month. Landlords don’t typically charge by the day. They usually charge by the month.

  • Lana

    Quick walk through as landlord was short on time, paid security deposit and first months rent,handed me the keys and told me to move in that day, and was aware I needed to move in asap. Said she wouldn’t charge me the next 6 days if I did a light clean, she noticed dust on a fan. Went in a day later to do light cleaning and move in, and the home had mold along with roaches everywhere/water leaks and soft floors. Immediately notified her. She hasn’t been civil over the matter. I’ve sent demand letters out. She agreed to send someone to repair damaged then pulled back saying there wasn’t any damage. We could not move in, and had to move in with parents. Would this be a breach and failure to deliver upon her promise? No lease signed.

  • Marie Wicks

    I am a sub landlord/master tenant and have lease agreement with a sub tenant with landlord permission. I gave up too many perks in that the couple who moved in received a free week and talked me into moving things in two days before that (ugh!). Still, they have become difficult, boisterous, they left my beautiful room full of clutter (I have 2 bedroom/2 bath apt) and they love to argue. I am preparing a 30 day notice but that will take them into the middle of August 2018. I have another more gracious lady highly considering moving into the room, but concerned that couple will give me a hard time because they are too lazy and will not move quickly. I’m in Maryland. Do i just prorate them of half of Aug and hold sec dep for 30 days?

  • Michelle Zmick

    My tenant’s lease expired July 31 and he was given 60 days’ notice that he had to move out by that date because I was selling the condo, and closing was to be August 2. He did not move out until August 1, and when he did move out he left several pieces of furniture (bed, sofa, table, 4 chairs). He told me to dispose of this furniture, as he had no way to remove it. When the junk removal service came to remove it they found that he had live bedbugs in his bed, so this will require 3 treatments to kill the bedbugs before the furniture can be removed. The debugging and furniture removal will cost over $2000. Can I charge him for these costs and for an additional month or day(s)of rent? Can I take him to small claims court for this?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Michelle,
      I’m not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice, but I would think he owes you. If a tenant stays even one day into the next month, they typically owe for the month, and if you need to remove junk left by your tenant, that should be on the tenant to pay for the removal, not you.

  • Tim and Alicia

    We live in Phoenix Arizona and our landlord is trying to charge us for a holdover because we turned our keys in on the 2nd of the month instead of the first but the 1st fell on a Sunday and they were not open so we did return the keys as soon as we possibly could when they opened on Monday which was the second and then on the 3rd of the month they filed the holdover papers with the court when we had already turned our keys in and giving them possession of the property… is this legal? When we told the judge we were no longer in possession of the home the lawyer named some case stating they were Justified in filing the paperwork since we were still in possession at the time of filing but we were not.

  • Laura Agadoni

    Hi Tim and Alicia,
    I’m not an attorney, so I can’t comment on legal matters or on individual cases. I can just give you general guidelines. Leases are usually over the last day of the month, not the first day of the next month. So even if you are one day into the next month, you generally need to pay for the whole month. Why? Landlords can’t rent the place to a new tenant with a move-in of the first if you are still there. So they lose a month. Sometimes a tenant will agree to move in late, but typically when landlords rent, they start on the first.

  • Anna Preciado

    I received a 60 day notice in which I decided to leave 30 days earlier. Now the building is under construction and I have to move my furniture by this weekend and there is no access to any exits due to construction. Worse case scenario if I am not able to completely move everything over the weekend can i ask the landlord for an extra day ? Which will be October 1st. And just pay the prorate.

  • Barbara McLean

    I gave a 30 day notice to my landlord that I was moving out. At the end of the month I moved out. The landlord had new tenants moving in on the first of the month. He charged me prorated days for rent on the next month because he had the carpets professionally cleaned and needed to dry before the new tenants moved in. Can he do this? I paid for that month’s rent not for the next month’s rent because I moved out at the end of the month. He kept my $2000 deposit. He charged me for extra days. The carpet cleaning company and he charged me for light bulbs.

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