Do you get confused with the legal jargon in a lease agreement? Not sure what sufferance tenancy entails?
A rental agreement has a limited term. It’s specified in the contract how long tenants are allowed to stay (e.g. one year, two years, five years).
When a lease has expired, it’s possible for a tenant to remain in residence based on their lease agreement with their landlord. This is called tenancy at sufferance.
An important thing to be fully aware of in this lease agreement is that both landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities even after a lease term ends.
In this guide, you will learn:
- What is a tenancy at sufferance?
- How a tenancy at sufferance works and how it ends.
- Tenancy at sufferance vs. at will.
- Rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant.
What Does a Tenancy at Sufferance Mean?
Sufferance tenancy occurs after a lease has expired and a tenant continues to occupy the property. This is also known as a holdover tenancy.
In this situation, the landlord has not yet started eviction proceedings and the tenant still has not expressed permission to stay in the rental property.
In some states, you are considered to be a holdover tenant if you stopped paying rent.
This holdover tenancy can apply to both residential and commercial lease.
How a Tenancy at Sufferance Works
During a sufferance situation, a holdover tenant can not be considered as trespassing. They are legally permitted to be in possession of the property according to the original lease.
The main difference between a tenant at sufferance and a case of trespassing is that the tenant entered the property in a legal manner.
Or…in another perspective: A tenant at sufferance ended up staying in the property for a few more days than what was stated in the lease.
This can also occur if the tenant violates the lease terms or failed to pay rent. The landlord sends the tenant a notice to quit or move out.
In order to avoid eviction, a tenant at sufferance should still pay rent. The tenant must follow through with the terms and agreements of the original lease.
If the holdover tenant stops rent payment or violates the lease terms, the landlord has the right to evict the tenant.
Tenancy at Sufferance vs. at Will
It may seem like tenancy at sufferance and at will are similar. Both situations have the tenant occupying the property even after lease expiration.
The major difference these two have is the consent of the landlord.
Tenancy at Sufferance
In a tenancy at sufferance, the landlord doesn’t give the tenant permission to stay in the property beyond the lease term. There is also no agreement for a lease renewal.
This situation puts tenants in danger of eviction from the premises. If they do not follow the original terms of the lease, landlords have the right to give notice and commence the eviction process.
Tenancy at Will
In this case, the property owner grants permission for the tenant to stay. This permission does not need a new contract or lease and can be verbally expressed.
A tenancy at will is lenient but certain rules are still required to be followed by both parties.
- The tenants must continue rent payments within the due dates.
- The property owner must also keep the rental unit in mint condition and give proper notice before entering the tenant’s apartment.
This informal agreement can be terminated by either parties with a notice. This is not the same as violating a lease.
How to End a Tenancy at Sufferance
To end a sufferance tenancy, one party must send a written notice to the other party. By law, this must be done not more than 30 days BEFORE the desired move-out date.
The exact time frame is usually determined by state law.
Check the law of your state because some states do not require the tenants to be given notice.
A landlord has the right to offer a new lease to a new tenant. After giving the holdover tenant a notice to quit, they have the right to look for a new person to rent the premises.
If the tenant violates a term from the lease or does not deliver payment while at sufferance, the landlord may proceed to evict the tenant.
Keep in mind that the landlord must give the tenant notice before asking the court for permission to evict.
This can be a time-consuming procedure that will involve a court hearing. Once the tenant is evicted from the rental unit, the agreement ends.
Convert to Tenancy at Will
A tenancy at sufferance can be converted to a tenancy at will.
Both the landlord and tenant can arrange a new lease. This can either be written or oral. This can also occur if the landlord accepts payment for rent beyond the given term.
A state might require specific terms for the owner to keep a tenant at sufferance. But once the landlord recognizes the tenancy at will, they are considered to be committed to a new lease.
Leases can be very complex and full of legal jargon. Dealing with an eviction case or drafting a new lease will require the help of a real estate lawyer to keep your best interest in mind.
Rights and Responsibilities
In these types of situations, both the landlord and the tenant have their own rights and responsibilities.
As the one in possession of the property, the landlord can choose how to proceed with a holdover tenant.
They can evict the tenant, find a new one, or give their consent for the tenant to proceed with a new contract.
The owner also has the responsibility of maintaining the safe and habitable condition of the property.
They also have the duty to deliver a proper notice to quit. A perfect example should be sent via certified email and clearly states the date the tenant should move out of the property.
A tenant is still entitled to basic rights despite not having the landlord’s consent to remain in the property.
Tenants have the right to:
- Privacy within the property
- File a health/safety violation complaint
- Ask for a contract renewal
- Ask to a stay in court if an eviction occurs
How to Avoid Tenancy at Sufferance
Tenancy at sufferance can ignite friction between landlord and tenant. But there is always a more positive alternative.
The landlord can offer a periodic tenancy wherein the tenant can sign a short-term contract that will allow them to stay in the property. This contract can be arranged on a renewable month-to-month basis.
The landlord can offer this upon the end of the original contract.
Wrapping it All Up!
Resorting to legal proceedings and tenant mediation can cost you both time and money. There are a number of alternatives for a tenant to continue occupying the property beyond the contract term.
With all of these in mind, it’s important to know your rights and responsibilities as either a tenant or a landlord in this situation.
Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse!
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!