Written leases are in effect only for the period specified in the lease itself, for example, one year, five years, or more. For written leases, no notice is required from the landlord to the tenant that the lease will not be renewed unless the lease specifically states that notice of termination is required. Unless it contains a renewal clause, the lease automatically terminates at the end of the lease period.

The tenant generally has no right to have a written lease renewed unless the lease contains a renewal clause. A written lease could, however, state that the lease was automatically renewed unless either party notified the other (usually by a certain date) that the lease would not be renewed.

Notice to quit. The notice to a tenant (or landlord) that a lease is terminated should be written and possibly sent and delivered by registered mail (consult your attorney). A copy of the written notice also should be kept. A verbal notice to quit might be adequate, but could be difficult to prove in court if litigation were necessary to enforce the lease termination. The six-month prior notice deadline for oral leases applies to the date the notice is received by the tenant, not the date the notice is sent by the landlord.

Voluntary Modifications

All of these legal rules about lease termination may be changed through negotiation and voluntary agreement of the parties. For example, a landlord might want to renegotiate the lease based on higher crop prices. Even though Aug. 31 is past, the savvy tenant would negotiate with the landlord in order to keep the lease over the long term. If the tenant relies on a short-term legal advantage (the six-month termination notice requirement) to keep the current lease the same as the previous year, the tenant could end up losing the lease after the next crop year ended.

Conclusion

A written lease generally is preferable to a verbal lease because it provides a written record of the lease provisions. However, under Nebraska law, written leases for farmland are not required to contain advance notice of termination, as is required in Iowa. Because a verbal lease does require six months advance notice of lease termination, it may provide more legal protection for the tenant than a written lease, at least for one additional crop year. If you have legal questions regarding a farm lease, contact an attorney.