What Is Tenancy at Sufferance?

Learn whether a rental tenant can stay after their lease has expired

Tenant in an apartment reading a notice

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Landlords and tenants usually sign a lease agreement that allows the tenant to live in the rental property for a set period of time. However, there are situations when a tenant continues to live in the property after their lease has expired. Learn what defines a tenancy at sufferance.

Definition of Tenancy at Sufferance

Tenancy at sufferance occurs when a tenant remains in their rental unit after their lease term has expired. The landlord has not yet asked the tenant to leave or filed to evict the tenant, but has also not given the tenant permission to stay in the unit. It can also be referred to as a holdover tenant.

What Are the Binding Terms?

Since the tenant originally entered the property legally, they cannot be removed for trespassing. However, since the tenant is still living in the rental, even though their lease has expired, the tenant is still responsible for following the terms of the lease.

The tenant must pay their rent according to the original lease terms. This includes the amount stated in the lease, the due date and the method in which rent must be paid.

The tenant must follow any additional lease clauses that were included as part of the original lease agreement the tenant signed. This includes the landlord’s right to enter the tenant’s rental with proper notice to show the unit to prospective tenants. If the tenant violates any part of the original lease agreement, including paying their rent, the landlord has grounds for immediate eviction.

Is It Different From Tenancy at Will?

The main difference between a tenancy at sufferance and a tenancy at will is that the landlord has actually given permission to the tenant at will to live in the rental property after the original lease agreement has expired. The tenancy at sufferance is done without the landlord’s permission.

In tenancy at will, there is usually no written contract or lease agreement between a landlord and tenant. There are no strict terms either party must follow. There is usually no set ending date for a tenant at will.

While a tenancy at will is a lenient (usually verbal) agreement between landlord and tenant, there are still certain basic rules both parties must follow.

The landlord must:

The tenant must:

  • Pay their rent.
  • Not cause damage in excess of normal wear and tear.

Written Notice Requirement

If either party wishes to end the agreement, they must send the other party written notice of the desire to move out. This must usually be done at least 30 days before the desired move out date; the exact time frame will be determined by state law. If the tenant stops paying rent or violates other lease terms, the landlord has the right to serve the tenant a notice to quit and eventually file to evict if the tenant does not quit the behavior.

Landlord’s Rights

A landlord has a few different options during a tenancy at sufferance. They can choose to renew the lease, evict the tenant, or find a new tenant.

Renew Lease

If the landlord and tenant are both happy with the current living situation, the landlord can offer the tenant the option to renew their lease or to sign a new lease. The terms of the new lease that the tenant signs will now become binding.

File to Evict

The landlord can decide that he or she wants the tenant out of the property. The first step to do this is usually to send the tenant a notice to quit. Depending on state law, a landlord may be able to skip this step and immediately file for eviction with the court due to the fact that the tenant occupied the rental illegally.

A typical notice to quit should:

  • Be sent via certified mail.
  • Describe the behavior that must be corrected, in this case, moving out of the rental property.
  • Give the tenant a certain number of days to do so, which is determined by state law, but three to seven days is common.
  • If the tenant does not move out within the allowed time frame, the landlord can file with the court to formally evict the tenant.

The court will notify the tenant of the eviction proceedings. The tenant can decide to move out before the court date or can decide to wait until the court date to plead their case or try to be granted a stay.

Find New Tenant

If the landlord has not signed a new lease with the tenant at sufferance, the landlord has the right to find a new tenant to live in the rental unit. Once a new tenant has been found, the landlord can serve the current tenant with a notice to quit and move out of the rental so that the new tenant can move in. If the current tenant refuses to move, the landlord will have to file an eviction.

Tenant’s Rights

Even though a tenant at sufferance does not have a landlord’s permission to live in the rental, they are still entitled to certain basic rights including:

  • A safe and habitable dwelling.
  • Proper notice before a landlord can enter their unit.
  • The right to file a complaint about a health or safety violation at the property.