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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Housing > Landlord-Tenant > Leases

What if my lease term expires? Am I still a tenant?


Lease agreements can be oral (spoken) or written. Typically, a residential lease agreement is to pay money or work in exchange for living somewhere. It is in your best interests to have proof that you are a tenant, such as a written agreement or rent receipts, to show that there is a landlord-tenant relationship. As a tenant, you are protected by the Anti-Eviction Act, and the landlord has to follow certain procedures and prove certain grounds in order to evict you. If you live on premises that have more than two total rental units or in owner-occupied premises of more than three total units, the Truth in Renting Act requires the landlord to provide written receipts for each cash payment.

Under New Jersey law, a landlord does not have to provide anything in writing regarding a lease renewal or extension. Following New Jersey Statute 46:8-10, a tenant whose initial lease term is for more than a month, and who continues to live in the property after that lease term expires, becomes a month-to-month tenant. However, you should read your lease very carefully. Some leases may contain clauses stating that they automatically renew for another year unless either the landlord or the tenant terminates the agreement. Regardless, any landlord would have to go through the eviction court process and prove one of the grounds for eviction in court. The expiration of a lease term is not one of the grounds for eviction in New Jersey.

If the landlord wishes to change the terms of the agreement or increase the rent, certain written notices are required by law. For more information, see Your Rights When the Rent is Increased and the section on the legal grounds for eviction in The Tenant’s Right to Court Process, which includes failure to accept reasonable lease changes. For a landlord to enforce any lease provision, it must be in writing, cannot be contrary to law, and has to be reasonable.

There are specific laws and circumstances that allow a tenant to terminate a lease early. If you need to do so, you should seek legal assistance. Even if you do not have a written lease agreement, you still need to provide advance notice that you are terminating your tenancy, preferably in writing. Doing so avoids any issues regarding the return of your security deposit or claims by the landlord for future rent. For more information see Ending or Breaking Your Lease.