Home Definition Tenancy At Will (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

Tenancy At Will (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

What is Tenancy At Will?

How do you legally define it?

What are the essential elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

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What is Tenancy At Will

A tenancy at will (estate at will or month-to-month rental agreement) is an agreement entered into between a landlord and a tenant without a written contract.

A tenancy at will is sort of a property tenure between a landlord and a tenant where the term of the rent is not specified in writing.

In other words, tenants who are authorized by their landlord to use and access the premises but who have not signed an actual lease are considered to have a tenancy-at-will.

In the business and real estate lingo, we say that the lease is set on a “month-to-month”.

In most cases, a tenancy at will scenario will form when:

  • A lease agreement was defective
  • A written lease expires but the tenant continues to remain on the premises and the landlord tolerates it
  • Right from the beginning of the relationship, no lease was ever signed but the tenant started occupying the premises with the landlord’s consent (implicit or express)

Typically, tenancies at will take place between parties who are known to one another.

For example, it can be between business partners, family members, or other parties who already have a connection with one another.

Definition

How do you define tenancy at will?

According to Investopedia, tenancy at will is defined as:

A tenancy-at-will is a property tenure that can be terminated at any time by either the tenant or the owner/landlord. It exists without a contract or lease and usually does not specify the duration of a tenant’s rental or the exchange of payment. 

A tenancy-at-will is a property tenure that can be terminated at any time by either the tenant or the owner/landlord. It exists without a contract or lease and usually does not specify the duration of a tenant’s rental or the exchange of payment. 
Author

Agreement 

By its nature, a tenancy at will exists when there is no “written” agreement between the landlord and the tenant defining the scope and specifics of the lease.

However, although no written agreements are in place, the tenancy at will may be formed on the basis of an oral agreement or implicitly through the actions of the parties.

For example, if a tenant signs a one-year lease with the landlord where the agreement is set to expire (no automatic renewal), then if the tenant stays in the premises beyond the expiration of the lease, the relationship will move to a tenancy at will.

It’s like the tenant has a month-to-month lease with no specified timeline for the lease to terminate.

In another example, the landlord and tenant can reach a tenancy at will agreement (oral agreements) where they expressly agree to a month-to-month lease (or tenancy at will).

Obligations 

Even in the case of an at-will tenancy, the landlord and the tenant have certain obligations to respect vis-à-vis one another.

For example, the landlord will have a continuous duty to provide the tenant with a safe environment.

Similarly, the tenant must respect certain minimum obligations such as paying rent and respecting the rules of the building.

Types

What are the different types of tenancies?

There are four different types of tenancies, namely:

  • Tenancy at will
  • Tenancy for years
  • Periodic tenancy 
  • Tenancy at sufferance

A tenancy at will is when the law applies to the relationship between a landlord and a tenant who does not have a written lease.

A tenancy for years is a type of lease agreement where the term is specified.

You have a defined start date and a defined end date.

A periodic tenancy is a lease agreement where the parties have not stipulated specific end date.

In other words, the term of the lease is undetermined (a tenancy with no fixed duration). 

The parties can terminate the lease by sending a notice to vacate.

Finally, the tenancy at sufferance is a type of agreement where the tenant is occupying the premises, although the lease has expired but has yet to receive the landlord’s notice to vacate.

Termination 

How does a tenancy at will terminate?

The tenancy is called “at-will” because it can be terminated at any time by the parties.

In other words, at any point in time the landlord or tenant wants to terminate the lease, they’ll need to send a notice to vacate or notice of termination of tenancy.

Generally, since the tenancy is for a duration of one month, the typical notice to vacate or terminate is 30 days.

Since the parties do not have a written contract between them governing the terms and conditions of who notices should be sent and on what basis, the landlord or tenant can send a notice informing the other party of its intention to vacate the premises.

In case certain regulations were agreed to between the landlord and the tenant spelling out notification obligations, those have to be observed as well.

Eviction 

The eviction process works in a similar way whether there is a written lease between the parties or not.

Even though the parties do not have a written lease agreement for a breach of contract to take place, the tenant has an obligation to pay rent.

In the event of non-payment of rent, the landlord may evict the person or entity who has a tenancy at will.

To evict the tenant, the landlord will send a notice to the tenant giving 30 days to vacate the premises.

Typically, 30 days’ notice is what’s required.

For example, in Nevada, the law requires that the landlord provide the tenant with a five-day notice advising the tenant to leave.

The landlord must then send a second five-day notice advising the tenant to leave as their presence has become unlawful.

Example 

What are some examples of a tenancy at will?

In the following situations, you may be a tenant at will:

  • You have an oral rental agreement on a month-to-month basis
  • You have a written lease where the term is on a month-to-month 
  • You have a written lease but there is no end date to your lease 
  • You have an expired lease but did not sign a new one and the landlord has not objected to you staying 
  • The landlord sends you a notice to quit terminating the tenancy but eventually allows you to stay without signing a new lease 

Takeaways 

What is a Tenancy At Will?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Tenancy At Will

  • A tenancy at will is when a landlord and a tenant do not specifically have a written lease agreement defining elements like rent and lease duration 
  • This type of lease is also referred to as an “estate-at-will” or a “month-to-month lease”
  • Without a lease, the law governs the relationship between the parties
  • A tenancy at will can be terminated “at-will” by a party sending a notice to the other party
  • In most cases, a tenancy at will is formed when a written lease expires and the parties do not sign a new one or no specific lease is put in writing between parties who are known to one another (family, friends, business partners etc)
Double net lease
Estate at will
Freehold estate
Holdover tenant
Notice to quit 
Property law
Rent tenancy 
Single net lease
Sublease agreement
Tenancy defined 
Tenant at will 
Termination date 
Triple net lease
Author

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!

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