“When an agreement ‘expires’ on a certain date, do you have to also give ‘notice’ of leaving?”

Question: Hi, Alan. I’m a cosmetologist who works in a hair salon. I basically work for myself, but I pay a “rental fee” on a weekly basis to the salon owner.

I had an agreement with the salon owner that went from 12/9/08 to 12/9/09. On 12/9/09 the shop owner was in a particularly bad mood, and I just had enough.  When I finished my work for the day I told the salon owner that this was my last day; I would not be coming back. I had already paid the rent up to 12/9/09.

I know it is common courtesy to give a 30-day notice as per our agreement, but it was expired on that very day.

Was I wrong, or right, in what I did? Thank you, in advance, for your reply.

        Josie             
        Porterville, California

Answer: Josie, your question is actually a good one, because even many lawyers often get confused between “expiration” and “termination” of a contract. From what you’ve written, though, it is hard for me to determine if you did “wrong” or “right.” Let me explain why:

If you have an agreement that says, in one way or the other, “This agreement expires on 12/9/09,” then the agreement, in law, “expires,” as if it was a living thing that just “died of old age.” When an agreement “expires” it just ends without the need for either party to give the other party any “notice” or “resignation.” It’s very different – almost the exact opposite –when one party “terminates” an agreement before it dies on its own; the law sees that as something of a “murder,” that is, one person ending the life of an agreement that, if left alone, would have survived. So, if your agreement did, in fact, “expire” on 12/9/09, then you were free to simply leave that day, without any advance notice of “resignation” or “termination.”

Actually, the law sees it this way: if the agreement by its own words expires on 12/9/09, then both parties had a full year’s notice of when it was ending, and needed no more. 

However, a few words you wrote confused me:  “I know it is common courtesy to give a 30-day notice as per our agreement.” That made me think it is possible that your agreement requires a 30-day notice, no matter what.

From my experience in these matters, though, I’m pretty sure you had to give a 30-day notice if you were terminating your agreement before it expired, not as a condition to its expiration.

You are correct, it would have been a bit more courteous to give some notice, but then again, it seems the salon owner perhaps did not deserve such a courtesy.

Thus, overall, legally and otherwise, it seems you did “right.”

Thanks for writing in. I hope you’ll become a subscriber – it’s free!

          Best, Al Sklover  

© 2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.