Tenancy at Sufferance: What Is It?

Tenancy at Sufferance: What Is It?
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A tenant might stay in a rental after their lease has ended. Learn what a tenancy at sufferance is and how it works.

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When a lease ends, the terms and conditions continue to apply as long as the tenant is still living on the property. This means they must pay rent and adhere to their other responsibilities. If a tenant pays rent during this period and the landlord accepts it, the result is a tenancy at sufferance, and they become a holdover tenant.

Tenancy at sufferance occurs when a lease expires, and a landlord doesn’t have a new lease with the tenant. In some states, the old lease terms may become a month-to-month situation, but both parties must ensure they have adequate protections. Here is what you need to know about tenancy at sufferance.

Tenancy at sufferance definition

A tenancy at sufferance is when a tenant remains in a rental property even after their lease has expired. Tenancy at sufferance occurs when a tenant continues to occupy a property without the landlord’s permission and before the landlord obtains an eviction order. It can occur in residential and commercial real estate.

In some states, this is defined as when tenants have stopped paying their rent since they have stopped adhering to their usual responsibilities.

Tenant at sufferance rights

The tenant is technically required to keep making rent payments. However, the landlord should be wary about accepting this since it can be seen as permission to remain on the premises, and the law may not consider the tenant trespassing. This is one example of how tenants at sufferance generally have the same rights as regular tenants. They also maintain their right to privacy and can file a complaint in cases of a health or safety violation at the property.

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Landlords can either choose to renew the lease or evict the tenant. They can allow the tenant to renew the former lease or sign a new one. If they want the tenant to vacate the property, they will need to serve them with a notice to quit, also known as a notice of termination. How the process will go depends on whether rent payments are made once the official lease ends.

Tenancy at sufferance vs. tenancy at will

Holdover tenants with tenancy at sufferance are individuals who have overstayed after their fixed-term lease. If they continue paying their rent and the landlord accepts it, they can remain legally. If they don’t or the landlord doesn’t accept the payments, they are trespassing and can be evicted. There are virtually no protections for either party in this type of situation.

“Tenants at will” or “estate-at-will” is the legal designation for individuals who don’t have a lease but have the landlord’s permission to be on the property. Because there is no formal contract, there is no binding agreement about the payment or length of stay.

However, both parties can decide on the responsibilities they want each other to adhere to. The stay can also be terminated at any time by either party. Both parties are bound by local regulations (usually state) when vacating or having the property vacated.

Pros and cons of tenancy at sufferance vs. tenancy at will

Tenancy at sufferance and tenancy at will are beneficial if the tenant or landlord (or both) needs a flexible rental situation. One common form of this is renting monthly with no set duration. Unlike holdover tenants, however, tenants at will are required by law to be given written notice and more time if the landlord wants to evict them. Tenancy at sufferance occurs without the explicit consent of the landlord, which means they won’t have adequate protections.

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How to end a tenancy at sufferance

Landlords have the right to end a tenancy at sufferance—even if they have been collecting rent. To do this, they have to serve the holdover tenant with a notice of termination, which accelerates eviction. Known as a holdover proceeding, this will be a specific type of eviction case that isn’t based on missed payments but other reasons such as lease expiration, bad behavior, squatting and so on. The regulations of this depend on the state.

The notice of termination must include the reason for the termination and the date the tenant must move. It must also state that the landlord will begin legal action if the individual doesn’t comply by the deadline. If a holdover tenant has overstayed without paying rent, the landlord can begin a holdover proceeding without giving them a notice of termination.


A tenancy at sufferance is a common situation. A landlord can experience it when they buy or invest in a rental property that already has tenants because they won’t know the various previous agreements. New landlords should ask for clarity on existing contracts before taking over a property. From the perspective of the tenants, on the other hand, the gray area of this holdover period is a nice way to continue renting without the commitment of a lease.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an estate at sufferance?

Estate at sufferance and holdover tenancy are alternative terms for tenancy at sufferance, which is a situation where a lease has expired, but the tenant remains on the property without the landlord’s consent.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.