In This Article

  1. What is Tenancy at Sufferance?
  2. Rights of Both Parties in Tenancy at Sufferance
  3. Tenancy at Sufferance Example
  4. Tenancy at Sufferance vs. Tenancy at Will
  5. How to Avoid Tenancy at Sufferance
  6. Tenancy at Sufferance: The Bottom Line

In order to be a successful and profitable landlord, it’s vital that you understand how to legally deal with tenants — including those who are less than accommodating. 

Understanding how to legally handle a tenant who has overstayed his or her welcome can help ensure that you maximize profits on your rental properties while still operating within the framework of your state’s real estate laws. 

One such example of difficult tenant-landlord relationships involves tenancy at sufferance. 

But what is tenancy at sufferance? And how does it work for you, a landlord?

In this article, we will discuss:

  • What tenancy at sufferance, also known as holdover tenancy, is
  • How tenancy at sufferance applies to landlords
  • Both the landlord’s and tenants rights in tenancy at sufferance
  • Whether or not tenancy at sufferance is legal 
  • And more

If you’re ready to learn everything you need to know about tenancy at sufferance, let’s get started! 

What is Tenancy at Sufferance?

Tenancy at sufferance, also referred to as estate at sufferance or holdover tenancy, takes place when a renter continues to occupy a property beyond the expiration date on his or her lease. 

In cases of tenancy at sufferance, the tenant remains in the property after the lease has expired but before he or she has been told to vacate the property by the landlord

Also, the terms and conditions of the lease agreement continue to apply after the term. This includes:

  • mandatory payments as outlined in the rental agreement
  • responsibilities 
  • duties of each party
  • and more

For tenancy at sufferance to be in play, the tenant is required to have met every condition of the lease up until the point of lease expiration. 

Keep in mind that tenancy at sufferance is legal — yes, legal — based on the fact that the tenant had legal access to the property at the beginning of the lease and has at the moment not been told to vacate the premises by the landlord.

Rights of Both Parties in Tenancy at Sufferance

As is always the case in a lease agreement, both the landlord and the tenant have rights. 

If you own rental properties and have tenants who have stayed in the property beyond the expiration of their lease, they have entered into estate at sufferance. 

Next we’ll look at the rights of both the landlord and tenant.

Landlord’s Rights in Tenancy at Sufferance

If you want to end a tenancy at sufferance, you have several legal options available to you. 

Renew the Lease

You can renew the lease with the tenant who has stayed beyond the expiration date of the previous lease. Once a new lease has been signed, estate at sufferance no longer applies. 

Written Notice To Vacate

If you decide to maintain ownership of the property, you can provide written notice to the tenant to vacate the property by a certain date. Nearly every state requires this notice to be delivered through certified mail. 

Begin the Eviction Process

You can begin eviction proceedings against the holdover tenant to begin the legal process of removing him or her from your property.

Tenant’s Rights in Tenancy at Sufferance

The most important right to remember is the tenant’s right to a safe and viable abode. 

As the landlord, even if the lease has expired, you are obligated to provide a safe place for the tenant because he or she entered into the property legally at the beginning of the lease. 

The tenant is also afforded the right to privacy, meaning that you as the landlord must provide ample notice before entering the property. 

Finally, tenants have rights in court. Once served with written notice to vacate the premises, they can leave before that date or appear in court to ask for legal permission to remain in the property.

Tenancy at Sufferance Example

To get a better understanding of tenancy at sufferance, also referred to as holdover tenancy, let’s take a look at an example. 

Let’s say that you own a single-family property that a renter signed a one-year lease on. 

The lease started on June 1, 2020, and was set to expire on June 1, 2021. 

On June 2, 2021, the tenant was still living in the property with your knowledge. You have now entered into a holdover tenancy situation. 

As the landlord, you have to make a decision about how to handle the situation. 

Ideally, the tenant would have returned the keys to your property on June 1, but that obviously didn’t happen given that tenancy at sufferance has started.

Ideally, you would be able to have a conversation with the tenant and let them know they needed to leave the property, or you could sign a new lease giving them an extended period of residency. 

However, if the tenant does not want a new lease and refuses to leave based on your request, you will need to take legal action. 

The first step is a written notice to vacate the property delivered by certified mail. 

If that doesn’t work, you will need to take legal eviction action to terminate the tenant’s holdover tenancy.

Tenancy at Sufferance vs. Tenancy at Will

In the case of holdover tenancy, landlords need to be careful and not confuse it with tenancy at will

In cases of tenancy at will, the tenant is occupying your property with no written lease or a written lease that does not contain an expiration of the agreement. 

Tenancy at will simply means the tenant is legally inhabiting the property without a written date that he or she must leave. 

This is clearly much different than tenancy at sufferance. 

It is important to note that you can convert an estate at sufferance to tenancy at will. If you and your tenant can come to a verbal agreement that allows him or her to stay, you have entered into tenancy at will. 

Additionally, you convert to at will tenancy if you resolve your tenancy at sufferance with a new lease that does not contain an expiration date.

How to Avoid Tenancy at Sufferance

Entering into tenancy at sufferance can be a headache for real estate investors, requiring much needed attention that can detract from other real estate projects. 

So how can landlords avoid it? 

If you have developed a trusting, professional relationship with your tenant, you may not have to worry about him or her staying beyond the end of their lease. 

However, if you believe that there is a chance of holdover tenancy becoming an issue, being proactive is key. You can send a notice to vacate the property by the date specified in the lease through certified mail. 

Also, ensure that you rent to not just any tenant, but the right tenant

Tenancy at Sufferance: The Bottom Line

Let’s recap: what is tenancy at sufferance? It is a situated created by a tenant who makes the decision to stay beyond the end of his or lease. 

As a landlord, it’s crucial that you understand how to legally protect yourself from the financial impact caused by tenancy at sufferance. 

While your rental property business depends on leases being enforced, in order to achieve optimal success, it is important that you ensure that you are operating within your state’s real estate laws that govern landlord-tenant relationships — and be proactive by choosing the right tenants to live in your rental property