QAre there any regulations that allow a tenant with a one-year lease to continue to rent his/her current apartment on a month-to-month basis? My lease will expire in two months, and I received a lease renewal form from my landlord for another year. I think after initial lease expiration, I should have the option to rent it on a month-to-month basis. What is your comment? -- Z.S., Alexandria

AWhether landlords have to allow residents to rent their current apartments on a month-to-month basis depends on the jurisdiction in which the property is located. In many areas, landlords can refuse to rent on a month-to-month basis. On the flip side, residents do not have to sign a lease-renewal form just because they have received one.

Some leases have provisions that automatically renew the terms on a month-to-month basis when the lease term runs out. Residents and landlords alike should reread the lease thoroughly to remind themselves what they agreed to.

In many places, including Virginia, if a tenant stays over the end of a lease term, the lease automatically goes month-to-month with the tenant's first post-lease payment. That payment creates a verbal month-to-month agreement following the terms of the old lease.

If a landlord wants to change the rules in the old lease or terminate it at the end date, he must give notice -- normally a minimum of 30 days -- or institute a new written lease.

Landlords typically want good tenants to sign on for another year, said Robert Duffett, a lawyer with the firm of Baskin, Jackson, Hansbarger & Duffett in Falls Church. "It's such a bad market right now that landlords want you to renew for another year. Most good landlords will never go month-to-month so that they do not have vacancies from November to February. Nobody wants to move during the dead of winter."

"Landlords will usually tell you, 'I appreciate having you in my community,' and give you a choice of signing a lease renewal or paying a premium to go month-to-month," Duffett said.

If a resident chooses to ignore the lease renewal letter (or if the landlord didn't bother to send one) and continues to pay rent after the lease has expired, however, the landlord will be forced to treat it as a month-to-month tenancy, at least for the first month or until the resident decides to give notice.

Residents may choose to discuss the situation with a landlord who has asked them to renew well in advance of the lease term. They might want to find out sooner rather than later about possible rent increases or whether their landlord plans to replace them with more-permanent tenants.

Tenants should familiarize themselves with local housing rules so that they know what rights they possess and what to expect when entering into a lease.

Some landlords are exempt from certain regulations, often because they own only one or a small number of rental properties. Knowing whether a landlord has to follow the designated standards is important for a variety of reasons. For example, Fairfax County landlords who own four units or fewer are exempt from the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act and are not obligated to give notice before terminating a tenancy when the lease is up (assuming there is no automatic renewal clause).

The caveats in the policies are many and might confuse even the most well-intentioned renters and landlords. That's why it is a good idea for all parties involved to educate themselves on their jurisdictions' laws. These guidelines can be very different even for people living within close proximity.

I rent a bedroom in a single-family home, and I live with the homeowner. When I began renting, I asked for a lease or a "roommate agreement" to be signed stipulating any house rules and the rent. I was told by the owner that she did not feel it was necessary and that if there were any problems I should just tell her. There have been many problems since, but talking to her about them gets me a response of, "It's my house. I will do what I want."

She turns off my bedroom lights when I leave my room for just a few minutes. She rarely goes to bed before midnight and keeps me awake. She slammed the door in my face when I asked her to be quiet. She does not pick up after her dog, and the dog eats my cat's food, which is costing me a lot of money. The biggest issue is just a lack of common courtesy.

I am looking to move. My question is how much notice do I legally have to give her, if any? I fear that if I give her the standard 30-days' notice that she will become even more unbearable. I would prefer to tell her I'm moving the day before. If I don't give her 30 days' notice, can I still get back the portion of rent that I have paid for the remainder of the month or will I have to forfeit that? Thanks for your help in this matter. -- K.D., Severn

Ah, you had good instincts to ask for both a lease and a roommate agreement. A landlord's refusal to provide a written lease should raise a bright red flag. Even amateur landlords can find guidance on how to draw up a lease, and landlords who will not accommodate tenants on something as basic as drawing up written leases to protect both parties are likely to fail in other categories.

Red flags should also be waved when prospective roommates pooh-pooh roommate agreements. Even if they're not common documents, a good prospective roommate should realize that such an agreement could make living together smooth, or at the very least add to everyone's peace of mind.

It's easy to figure out in hindsight that either one of these red flags signaled rocky times to come. But since you cannot change these circumstances now, you need to do your part as you prepare to leave.

You have an oral lease, technically a binding legal agreement that you have established with your tenancy and monthly rental payments. With an unwritten rental agreement, typically you are required to give as much notice as the period between rental payments. If you are paying rent once a month, then 30 days' notice is appropriate. You would do well to follow the legal guidelines, especially if you want your security deposit back and hope to avoid a he said/she said court battle over stipulations that were not written down and can be hard to prove.