Off-Campus Community Living University of Illinois Off-Campus Community Living Student Affairs

Renewal of Lease

Renewal Clause in Lease

A landlord has no obligation to renew your lease or to offer you a new lease on the apartment you occupy. If you want to be informed about the availability of your rental unit before the landlord leases it to someone else, ask to have a renewal clause included in your lease, such as:

The renewal deadline for this unit is __________________. Lessor agrees that, prior to this date, Lessor will not rent this unit for the subsequent lease term to anyone other than Lessee.

This clause does not obligate you to renew and it does not obligate the landlord to offer you renewal, but it keeps you informed and gives you time to plan on making a renewal decision. Don't forget that you and the landlord must place your initials at the end of this clause to show you both agreed to add it to the lease.


When you sign a New Lease

In most cases, tenants do not actually "renew," but rather, sign a new lease. If you sign a lease for another year, be sure to:

Have the start date of the new lease be the same date as the end date of the current lease.
Write onto your new lease that your deposit from the previous lease is carried over to apply to the new lease.

Beware of Renewal Notices

If you receive a notice from your landlord asking if you want to renew, do NOT just check "yes," sign your name and return it. The consequences of taking this action could be:

  1. The landlord considers this a contract and expects you to pay another year's rent, even though you never signed a new lease.
  2. The landlord rents your place to someone else for the next year saying you never returned the form.

If you receive a renewal notice and want to renew, the best course of action is to contact the landlord, make an appointment and sign a new lease with the landlord in a way that ensures you walk away with a copy of the contract that has been signed by the landlord.

If you respond to a renewal notice, at the very least, you should keep a copy of the letter the landlord sent with the notice, photocopy the portion you sign before you return it, and send your response by receipt-return, certified mail through the post office so that you can prove you sent it back. If you think you are just saying that you are interested in renewal but do not want to be obligated for another year, don't sign anything.


Automatic Renewal Clauses in Leases

Some leases include a provision for the lease to automatically renew for another year if you fail to give notice by a certain date that you do not want to renew. In Urbana, this is a prohibited lease clause that cannot be enforced against you. In Champaign, Savoy, and most other cities, no law prohibits automatic renewal clauses so you should assume the provision is binding.

If your lease has an automatic renewal clause and you do not want to renew, send the landlord notice by return-receipt, certified mail at the post office, keeping a copy of your notice, that you do not want to renew.


Holding Over

When you have a lease for one year or some other fixed term, you must move out when the lease is up. If you continue to stay after the lease ends, your landlord can consider you to be a holdover tenant and your landlord will get to decide whether your lease is extended on a month to month basis OR if you automatically renewed your lease by virtue of the fact that you did not get out when the original lease ended. If your original lease were for a full year, staying one day after the lease ended could automatically renew you for another year -- but only if that's what the landlord chooses.

A landlord can also sue to evict a holdover tenant and charge you double the amount of the rent or any other amount stated in the lease for the period of time you continued living in the apartment or house after your lease ended.

The only exception is in the City of Urbana. Chapter 12.5-11 of the Urbana City Code provides that if the landlord did not give you notice at least one month before the end of your lease telling you that your lease would not be renewed, your tenancy would continue on a month to month basis until either you or the landlord gave the other party a month's notice, in writing, to end the relationship. Outside of Urbana, be careful. You might think you are continuing on a month to month basis, but the landlord has the power to decide that you've continued for another year.

If your landlord did give you a notice offering you a new lease and you did not respond, but you did not move out when the lease ended, whether in Urbana or anywhere else, the landlord would get to decide whether your tenancy continues month to month, or for an entire year, or if you are a holdover who owes double rent and will be taken to court for eviction.

The best way to protect yourself is to obtain a signed agreement from the landlord before your original lease ends stating whether your lease is will continue on a month to month basis or for another year. Without such an agreement, you really must move out when your lease ends or the landlord will get to decide the terms of your continued occupancy. The landlord does NOT have to inform you immediately of which course of action s/he has chosen, making your situation even more precarious.


The Tenant Union does not provide legal services of any kind. All information provided in this publication is intended to help the average person prevent problems and deal with common concerns of renting. When legal help is needed, always consult with an attorney at law.