Tenancy at Sufferance: What is it? Everything You Need to

When a lease agreement ends or is terminated, the tenant usually leaves the property, leaving it vacant and available to potential renters. But what happens when a tenant stays on a property past the termination of their rental agreement? Such an event creates a situation called Tenancy at Sufferance.

Tenancy at sufferance is a unique happening that could leave a property owner or landlord at a loss. Below, we look at why and how it happens, how to handle it when it does, and what rights the landlord and tenant have during the ensuing period.

What Is Tenancy at Sufferance?

Tenancy at sufferance refers to an agreement that allows a tenant to remain on a property after their lease term has ended, but the landlord has not asked them to leave the premises or filed an eviction lawsuit against them. Generally, the landlord has not given the tenant permission to stay on the property (by renewing the lease) but has not expressly asked them to leave.

A tenancy at sufferance, also called holdover tenancy, can occur on a residential or commercial property. When it does, the renter must adhere to the original lease terms, including paying rent at the current rates. The tenant can also be evicted from the property at any time and without notice.

Understanding the Tenancy at Sufferance

Tenancy at sufferance occurs when a once legal tenant prolongs their stay on a property after their permission to be on the property (i.e., the lease agreement) is terminated. The tenant, at this point, remains on the property without the owner’s consent or a clear notice to move out.

In some states, a tenant at sufferance might be considered a trespasser, although the two are different because the former entered the property legally. Other states use this definition to pass that tenants at sufferance cannot be removed from a property as trespassers.

If a tenant remains on a property past the lease agreement, they are still required to follow the terms of the expired lease and pay rent as set by the landlord. The rent must be paid on the original due date and through the payment method supplied in the lease.

If the lease included clauses about the landlord’s right to access the property with proper notice, these clauses must be upheld too. The landlord, in turn, can immediately file an eviction suit if the tenant fails to meet the original lease terms.

Upon finding out about a tenancy at sufferance situation, a landlord can choose to evict the tenant or accept their rent payments. Such a tenant can be expelled from the property at any time.

Tenancy at Sufferance Vs. Tenancy at Will

Tenancy at sufferance and tenancy at will are related but different terms. The primary difference is that the tenant in the latter has actual permission to live on the property past their lease termination date. Essentially, it is an agreement between the landlord and tenant to maintain the tenancy despite the rental agreement’s ends. A tenant at sufferance has no permission to be on the property.

Tenancy at will may sound much like typical tenancy, but it is not because, again, the rental agreement has ended. There is, therefore, no written agreement between the landlord and tenant, terms to be followed, or specified termination date. Instead, the agreement is verbal with some basic terms that each party must adhere to by default.

During both a tenancy at will and tenancy at sufferance, the landlord is obligated to maintain the property in a safe and habitable state and give the tenant notice before accessing it. However, both tenants can be evicted at any time, usually without notice, because no lease agreement exists.

Tenancy at Sufferance Tenancy at Will

The lease agreement has ended, and the tenant does not have permission to be on the property. The lease agreement has ended, but the landlord has consented to the tenant’s stay on the property.

The tenant must continue to uphold the terms of the original lease, including rent payment. The original lease is considered terminated, and the tenant and landlord enter a verbal agreement.

Tenant’s Rights

Although a tenant at sufferance is not permitted to be on the property, they still have some rights, such as the right to file a safety or health violation complaint and the right to privacy.

Landlord’s Rights

When a tenancy at sufferance situation arises, a landlord may elect to renew the rental agreement, look for a new tenant, or evict the tenant. The first option is common where the landlord and tenant are satisfied with the situation and would like to continue it. It becomes binding when both parties sign a new lease agreement, and the tenant at sufferance regains tenant status.

On the other hand, if the landlord elects to evict the tenant at sufferance, they may first send them a notice to quit or go directly to court and file for eviction. The last option is possible because the tenant is an illegal occupant, although the exact laws will depend on the state in which the property is located.

Note: In some states like Nebraska, a landlord may also file for damages up to three times their actual attorney fees and losses caused by their inability to rent the property.

If the landlord files an eviction lawsuit, the tenant may move out immediately or wait to plead their case in court. The matter will then rest in the hands of the court.

Requirements for Ending

If either party wishes to end a tenancy at sufferance agreement, they must send a notice to vacate to the other party at least 30 days before the set move-out date. That said, the exact timeline will depend on state laws, with some states not even requiring that a notice be sent.

Key Points

A Tenancy at Sufferance is a situation where a tenant remains on a property despite the termination of their lease before they are evicted. When a tenant gets into such a situation, they must continue to follow the original lease terms and pay rent at the current rates. They are also vulnerable to eviction without notice and trespassing charges depending on state laws. The landlord, on the other hand, can file for eviction but must continue to maintain safe and healthy conditions on the property.

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