Estate at Sufferance: How To Legally Handle Tenancy at Sufferance

Also referred to as holdover tenancy, estate at sufferance describes a leasehold estate where a tenant continues to possess a rental property after their lease expiration date. In addition, the lessee must comply with the rental agreement’s terms, such as paying monthly rent.

In many cases, the landlord or lessor may not have formally asked the tenant to leave. However, if the tenant stays on the property without consent from the landlord, they become a tenant at sufferance.

The landlord can evict the tenant by following specific legal procedures based on local regulations concerning tenant rights. Otherwise, the eviction could be deemed illegal, leading to a legal dispute between the tenant and the landlord.

What Is Estate at Sufferance?

Estate at sufferance is a leasehold estate that applies to a tenant who stays in possession of a rental property after their lease expires or terminates. As a result, the renter effectively becomes a holdover tenant who must adhere to the terms of the lease.

If the landlord fails to follow the proper legal procedures for evicting a tenant in estate at sufferance, the tenant may have grounds for a wrongful eviction lawsuit against the landlord. This means the tenant could claim attorney’s fees and damages for any injuries from the landlord’s actions.

It’s important to note that tenants at sufferance are not squatters. In general, squatters are trespassers who unlawfully take possession of abandoned or unoccupied pieces of real estate.

On the other hand, tenants at sufferance often have a legal right to be on the property if they’ve signed a lease agreement with the landlord.

What Are the Different Types of Leasehold Estates?

Lease agreements between a landlord and tenant give the latter the right to exclusively use and occupy a property for a set period. The three primary forms of leasehold estates include estate at sufferance, tenancy for years, and periodic tenancy.

Estate at Sufferance

A tenant at sufferance refers to a lessee who remains in control of a leased property beyond the expiration date of their rental agreement.

In general, unless the property owner serves an eviction notice, they legally have to accept the estate at sufferance while the tenant is complying with the lease terms. If the landlord chooses to evict their tenant, they must take appropriate legal action, or they could be liable for damages.

Tenancy for Years

Under tenancy-for-years occupancy, a tenant has the exclusive use and possession of the leased premises for some time, usually measured in months or years, as specified in the lease agreement. The tenancy terminates at the end of the term, and the tenant must vacate the premises.

Often used in commercial leasing arrangements, tenancies for years can also apply to residential leases. For example, if a tenant rented an apartment for two years, then decided to renew the lease for another two years, this would be considered a tenancy for years.

The main advantage of tenancy for years is that it provides stability and predictability for the lessor and lessee. The tenant knows they will be able to stay in the commercial property for at least the initial lease term. Meanwhile, the landlord benefits from a reliable source of income from rent payments during that time.

Periodic Tenancy 

This leasehold estate automatically renews itself for consecutive periods of equal duration, such as week to week, unless either party gives written notice of its intention to terminate the lease before the current period’s expiration.

The most common type of periodic tenancy is a month-to-month tenancy, which renews itself every month until either party gives the notice to terminate.

How To Handle a Tenant at Sufferance

A landlord with a tenant at sufferance could try first to negotiate a new lease agreement. For example, the revised rental agreement may involve continuing tenancy on a month-to-month basis, which allows both parties some flexibility.

If the tenant does not want to sign a new lease, the property owner can begin the eviction process by giving the tenant a notice to vacate. It is vital for the landlord to fully comprehend their state’s landlord and tenant laws to avoid a wrongful eviction lawsuit.

The penalties associated with wrongful eviction can involve fines, being ordered to pay damages, or even imprisonment. In some cases, the landlord may also be required to reinstate the tenant to their previous tenancy agreement.

In general, the eviction notice should state that the lease has expired and the tenant must leave the property within a certain number of days, typically up to a month. If the tenant resists vacating the property, the property owner can file an eviction lawsuit with their local court.

Then the court will set a hearing date for the eviction proceedings, and the landlord and tenant will have an opportunity to present their case. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, they can issue an eviction order.

The sheriff’s office may then post this order on the property. As a result, the tenant has to vacate within a specific window, or the sheriff may forcibly remove the tenant from the property.

How To Avoid Situations That Involve Estate at Sufferance

It is possible to avoid estate at sufferance altogether with proper legal planning. The most effective way to do this is by conducting thorough background checks on tenants and having a well-drafted lease agreement that clearly outlines the tenancy terms.

A property owner can include a clause in their lease agreement that requires the tenant to vacate the premises as soon as the original lease expires. This can protect the landlord’s rights and prevent the tenant from remaining on the property without the property owner’s consent.

Also, landlords should clearly understand state law and local regulations concerning tenancy at sufferance and eviction. This way, they can take the appropriate steps to protect their property rights and avoid legal complications.

What Are the Potential Upsides to Tenancy at Sufferance?

Property owners have the right to evict a tenant and regain possession of their property. However, certain benefits come with a landlord allowing a tenant to remain on their property.

One upside is that the landlord can continue to collect rent from the tenant while they remain on the property. This can be helpful if the property owner needs consistent cash flow or is trying to save up for repairs or improvements to their property.

Additionally, having a tenant on the property can help deter crime. If unscrupulous individuals know that someone is living on the premises, they may be less likely to target the property for burglary or vandalism.

Another benefit is that the landlord can use the tenant’s presence on the property as leverage in negotiating a new lease. If the tenant is unwilling to sign the revised lease, the landlord can evict them and find a new tenant who can agree to the updated terms.

Key Takeaways About Estate at Sufferance

Estate at sufferance is a legal term that refers to a tenant who remains on a property after their lease has expired. While the landlord has the right to evict the tenant, they must go through the proper legal channels to avoid wrongful eviction.

If the tenant refuses to leave the property after being served with an eviction notice, the landlord can file a lawsuit against them. Then the courts determine whether or not the tenant can lawfully remain on the property.

To prevent estate at sufferance, a property owner can ensure that the terms and conditions of their lease agreements are clear with a disclaimer that states the tenant has to vacate the property after their lease expires.

This way, both parties can comprehend their respective rights and responsibilities.

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