When you rent a home, you typically sign a lease. It may be only on a monthly basis, but you’re committing to remain in the home and abide by the terms of the lease for that time period. Under landlord-tenant definition laws, a tenant at will is someone who remains in the home after the lease expires with the full approval of the landlord.
Tenant at Will Definition
A lease is an important document in any rental situation. However, there are instances where a tenant may get approval to remain in the unit after the lease expires. You may be house-hunting, for instance, or your landlord may plan to sell the property, allowing you to remain in the interim. Tenant at will is the most common type of tenancy, commonly referred to as month-to-month tenancy.
You are a tenant at will if you have an oral or written agreement that does not have a long-term date attached to it. The legal term of a tenant at will may be understood to be one month, but it’s typically assumed, whether you have a written agreement or not, that you will continue to pay rent at the start of each month. Laws on tenant at will situations vary by state, but generally speaking, if you stop paying rent in a tenant at will setup, your landlord can begin eviction proceedings.
If a landlord has a paying renter who has overstayed the legal term of a tenant and needs to be evicted, that landlord will have to go through a process similar to eviction when a lease is in place. This is determined by landlord-tenant laws in your state, but generally you’ll be required to present a notice of eviction and give the tenant a period of time to vacate the premises.
Holdover Tenant Definition by Law
Unlike a tenant at will, a holdover tenant is one who has remained in a rental property without the landlord’s permission. The legal term for a holdover tenant is a tenant at sufferance. A holdover tenant may continue to pay rent each month, and if the landlord accepts it, in some states it actually can automatically reset the lease. If a landlord has provided a notice to quit, though, in some states he can take legal action against a tenant if that person is past the legal term of the tenant agreement even if rent is being paid on time each month.
Since tenant definition law differs from one state to the next, it’s important to look into the laws specific to your municipality. Many leases have terminology built into them that will help protect a landlord in the event a tenant refuses to leave. If a landlord wants to evict the tenant, he should refuse to accept rent, treat the tenant as a trespasser and begin holdover proceedings to have the person removed.
Tenants by the Entirety
Often, a couple owns a property together, with both names listed on the title. Tenants by the entirety protects both spouses in this situation, disallowing one spouse from modifying her interest in the property without involving the other spouse in the process. Under the legal definition of tenants by the entirety, property that is owned by a couple is considered community property.
In many states, the legal definition of tenants by the entirety applies to a wide variety of assets. However, there are some states in which it only applies to real estate property. Tenants by entirety often comes up after someone dies. If a home belongs to a couple, yet the deceased spouse stated in her will she wanted it to go to a child, the legal definition of tenants by the entirety would legally trump the will.
- Mass Legal Help: Tenants at Will
- USLegal: Tenant at Sufferance Law and Legal Definition
- Foundations of Law - Tenancy by the Entirety
- LandlordStation: What is a Tenant at Will Eviction
- Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. "Tenancy at Sufferance." Accessed Sept. 11, 2020.
- New York State Unified Court System. "Tenant Questions & Answers in Holdover Eviction Cases." Accessed Sept. 11, 2020.
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.