Tenancy at Sufferance and Holdover Tenants

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What You Should Know

  • Tenancy at sufferance occurs when a tenant occupies rental property after the lease agreement expires.
  • A tenant at sufferance is not considered to be a trespasser since they initially entered the property legally through a lease agreement
  • To end tenancy at sufferance, the tenant must either renew the agreement with the landlord or move out.
  • It’s possible to get consent from the landlord to occupy the property while being a tenant at sufferance.

What Is Tenancy at Sufferance


Tenancy at sufferance, also known as holdover tenancy, occurs when a tenant keeps living in a leased property when the lease agreement has expired, but before the landlord demands the tenant to vacate the property. The tenant at sufferance is usually allowed to occupy the property on the same terms and conditions outlined in the tenancy agreement, which includes paying monthly rent. If any of the conditions outlined in the agreement are broken, the tenant may be evicted without notice. Additionally, since the lease agreement has expired, the landlord has the right to demand the tenant to vacate the property.

Tenancy at sufferance may have a different meaning depending on the state, but usually, the tenant and the landlord have certain rights and responsibilities in this situation. It is also similar to a tenancy at will, but there are a few major differences between them.

Tenancy at Sufferance vs Tenancy at Will

Tenancy at SufferanceTenancy at Will
Occurs when the lease has expired and the tenant continues to occupy the property without the consent of the landlord.Occurs when the landlord agrees for the tenant to continue to occupy the property.
The lease agreement has expired and was not renewed.Instead of a written lease agreement, the agreement is verbal.
The terms of the now-expired lease agreement continue to apply.This arrangement does not have any strict rules and is not governed by law.

How Does Tenancy at Sufferance Work

Tenancy at sufferance begins when the tenant has a lease agreement that has just expired. The lease agreement usually has a fixed term included that obligates the tenant to rent the property until the lease is expired. In a tenancy at sufferance, the tenant continues to occupy the property, with the implied consent by the landlord to remain only due to the lack of action taken by them to evict the tenant. In this case, the tenant does not necessarily have to renew the agreement to legally occupy the premises. Instead, the tenant may start renting the property on a month-to-month basis, which provides the freedom for the tenant to move out by giving appropriate notice to the landlord.

The legal definition of tenancy at sufferance varies from state to state. There is only one difference between a holdover tenant and a trespasser. The tenant at sufferance is the person who came into possession of the property legally and now has overstayed the legal term outlined in the contract. A trespasser, on the other hand, is a person who never came into possession of the property legally. Every state defines both a holdover tenant and a trespasser differently, and states can have their own criteria to determine what occupancy status would be applicable.

Generally, the holdover tenant can stay in the rental property as long as the conditions of the lease agreement are met including the monthly payment of rent and the due date for monthly payments. The landlord must still notify the tenant before entering the property or showing it to prospective tenants. On the other hand, the landlord has the right to an immediate eviction if any of the clauses of the original contract are violated by the tenant. If any of the parties of the original lease agreement want to end the tenancy, the party must notify the other party one month before the end date unless otherwise stated in the contract.

How to Deal With Tenancy at Sufferance

There are different scenarios of how tenancy at sufferance may occur. The most common scenario is when the landlord and the tenant simply did not renew the contract before the lease expiration date. The landlord may also have started the eviction process, and did not evict the tenant while looking for a replacement.

The first scenario is very simple to resolve. If both parties are willing to renew the lease agreement or to sign a new lease, then they need to communicate and possibly renegotiate the terms of the agreement. If the tenant cannot reach the landlord, they may try to contact the listing agent of the landlord to talk about lease renewal. As soon as the agreement satisfies both parties, the tenant can sign the new agreement to legally be considered a current tenant.

The second scenario is not as simple. The landlord may not want to renew the agreement with the current tenants, so the tenants will need to look for another property to move to. During the holdover tenancy, the tenant should keep paying rent and not violate any clauses written in the agreement. They also should keep in mind that the landlord must ask the tenant to vacate the property one month in advance, which gives the tenant time to move.

Tenancy at Sufferance vs Tenancy at Will

The main difference between the two is the fact that tenancy at will has explicit permission from the landlord to occupy the property while tenancy at sufferance lacks this permission.

For tenancy at will, there is usually no written agreement between the landlord and the tenant, but they both live on verbally agreed terms. This agreement does not have any strict terms and conditions that must be satisfied. This gives freedom to both the landlord and the tenant. On the other hand, a lack of written agreement implies less security for the landlord and the tenant if an issue occurs. Because there are no set rules for the agreement, the landlord may evict the tenant without any notice and the tenant may end occupancy at any time. The situation also becomes more problematic when the tenant breaks something, or the landlord restricts the tenant from reasonably enjoying the premises.

Tenancy at sufferance, on the other hand, is when a lease agreement between the two parties has expired, but the tenant continues to occupy the property as a tenant. Holdover tenancy implies that the tenant does not have explicit consent from the landlord to occupy the premises. A lack of consent, in this case, does not mean a presence of the landlord’s forbiddance. It means that the landlord and the tenant did not renew the tenancy agreement for some reason. Tenancy at sufferance is still guarded by the original lease agreement, and the rights and responsibilities must be upheld by both parties. This includes the responsibility of the landlord to keep the property in a safe and habitable condition and give reasonable notice before entering the premises. The tenant also must keep paying rent on time and avoid causing damages to the property.

Landlord’s and Tenant’s Rights During Tenancy at Sufferance

The landlord has the right to decide what to do with the property when the lease expires. They usually have three options to end tenancy at sufferance: renew the contract with the current tenants, find new tenants, or evict the current tenants.

Meanwhile, the landlord has the right to enter and inspect the property by giving reasonable notice to the tenant. If the landlord chooses to find new tenants, the landlord also has the right to show the property to prospective tenants by giving reasonable notice to the current tenant. If the tenant breaks any of the conditions outlined in the original tenancy agreement, the landlord can file a court application for immediate eviction. State laws differ regarding tenancy at sufferance, so it is important to understand how to evict the tenant if needed.

The tenant also has all the rights that are outlined in the original agreement and are provided by the governing law. As long as the tenant pays rent on time and does not violate any conditions of the agreement, they cannot be evicted immediately. A proper eviction notice must be given in advance by the landlord for the tenant to find a new place to live.

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