TENANCY AT SUFFERANCE | Definition, Types and Examples

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Landlords and renters often sign a lease agreement that permits the tenant to live in the property for a certain amount of time, however, there are times when the tenant may choose to stay in the home after the lease period has ended. In such a case, a tenancy at sufferance occurs.

In this guide, we’ll define tenancy at sufferance and give examples for better understanding.

What Is Tenancy at Sufferance?

A tenancy at sufferance arrangement allows a property renter to stay in a property after the lease period has ended but before the landlord requests the tenant to remove the property.

If a tenancy at sufferance occurs, the terms of the original lease must be followed, including the payment of any rents owed. Otherwise, the tenant may be evicted without warning at any moment.

When it comes to defining a tenancy at sufferance, each state has its own set of rules, but in general, a tenant at sufferance is someone who stays in a property past the end of a lease, whether or not they pay rent.

Tenancy at will, on the other hand, is when a tenant occupies a property with the owner’s permission but without the need for a documented contract or lease.

Example Of Tenancy At Sufferance

Let’s say you inherited a property after your dad passed away. He had a tenant there for the last nine months and has three months left until the lease expires. Because you’re not interested in being a landlord, you’ve decided to sell the property rather than continue to own it.

However, after discussions with a real estate agent, you decide to hold off on listing the property until you can make some improvements. You’re in a state that requires you to give the tenant 60 days’ notice that you do not intend to renew the lease. In Month 10, you send out the notice.

Two months later, the lease expires and you head out to the property to take stock of the situation. Rather than vacate, the tenant has chosen to continue living on the property. At this point here the lease has ended but the tenant continues to occupy the space, it has become a tenancy at sufferance.

In a situation like this, you have the ability to evict the tenant by filing an unlawful detainer.

The amount of time it takes for this process will be based on your individual state. However, it’s important to note that in the case of eviction, the tenant can be held liable for damages, including missing rent payments and attorney’s fees.

READ ALSO: TENANCY AT WILL: Definition and How It Works

How Does Tenancy at Sufferance Work?

Landlords and their tenants typically have a specified lease that states the period for tenancy. Time usually ranges from six months to multiple years; the important thing is that these leases give the tenant the legal right to occupy the property.

Once the lease expires, the tenant is required to either sign a new lease or leave the property unless the two parties agree to a month-to-month arrangement, known as “tenancy at will.” On the contrary, if the tenant continues living at the property without a lease or an agreement, the situation becomes a tenancy at sufferance. This can happen whether the landlord has issued a valid notice to vacate or not.

Those living under a tenancy at sufferance otherwise known as estate at sufferance may not have the same legal rights as other types of tenants, although this will depend on your state. In some locations, tenants at sufferance can be ousted without any notice.

Some states will define a tenant at sufferance as one who maintains the legal obligations of the lease, such as paying rent and retaining the property. Other states, such as Virginia, will not consider it a tenancy at sufferance unless the tenant rejects to pay rent.

Requirements for Ending a Tenancy at Sufferance

The party who wants to end the contract must give the other party written notice of their intent to leave. This should be done at least 30 days before the intended move-out date, while state legislation will dictate the actual time frame.

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Landlord’s Rights in a Tenancy at Sufferance

During a tenancy at sufferance, a landlord has the option of renewing the lease, evicting the renter, or finding a new one. 

If both the landlord and the tenant are satisfied with their existing living circumstances, the landlord can give the renter the choice of renewing or signing a new lease. When both the renter and the landlord sign the new lease, it becomes legally binding. 

Conversely, the landlord may decide that the renter must leave the premises. In this situation, the first step would be to send the tenant a notice to quit. A landlord might be able to skip this step and instantly file with the court for eviction due to the fact that the tenant is occupying the rental illegally. It would depend on individual state law.

Before a landlord sends a notice to quit, it must satisfy the following;

  • Be sent via certified mail.
  • Clearly explain the behavior that must be corrected. In this case, the tenant must move out of the rental property regardless.
  • Give the tenant a certain number of days to move out. This is usually determined by state law. 
  • The landlord can file with the court to formally evict the tenant if the tenant doesn’t move out within the allotted time frame.

The renter will be notified of the eviction proceedings by the court. After which, the tenant has the choice of either moving out before the court date or appearing in court to present their case or request a delay. 

If a landlord has not signed a new lease with the tenant at sufferance, the landlord has the right to find a new tenant to dwell in the rental property. 

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Tenant’s Rights in a Tenancy at Sufferance

A tenant at sufferance is still entitled to certain basic rights even though they don’t have the landlord’s permission to remain in the rental. This includes the right to privacy and to file a complaint about a health or safety violation at the property.

Tenancy at Sufferance California

In California, if a tenant continues to occupy their apartment after the lease term expires without the landlord’s consent, a landlord can file an eviction lawsuit otherwise known as an “unlawful detainer”. Moreover, a holdover renter may be held responsible for the rent. As well as damage caused during the period they have exceeded their lease term.

Typically, a lease sets the amount of rent that a tenant must pay and provides for annual growth. When a lease expires, landlords have the option of increasing the rent for a holdover tenant. A commercial rent increase of 150 percent has been held to be enforceable in California courts. Provided the tenant had the option of leaving the property rather than paying the increase in rent.

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Tenancy at Sufferance Texas

In Texas, landlords have the option of allowing holdover tenants to remain on the property or evicting them through a forceful detainer lawsuit.

Tenancy at sufferance in Texas classifies holdout renters as either “at will” or “at sufferance.”

  • Tenancy at will: If the landlord continues to accept their rent payments, they have established a month-to-month tenancy with the same terms as the initial lease.
  • Tenancy at Sufferance: This occurs when the landlord rejects rent from the holdout tenant and indicates that the tenant must vacate the property. Landlords have the right to terminate this sort of tenancy at any moment by instituting a forced detainer action.

Nevertheless, courts in Texas reserve the right to consider the landlord’s and tenant’s behavior and decide whether there is a tenancy at will or at sufferance.

FAQs On Tenancy At Sufferance

What is the difference between tenancy at sufferance and tenancy at will?

The difference between a tenancy at sufferance and a tenancy at will is that the landlord has actually given permission to a tenant at will to live in the rental property after the original lease agreement has ended. While tenancy at sufferance happens without the consent of the landlord.

What are the landlord’s options in a tenancy at sufferance?

The landlord can choose to renew the lease, evict the tenant, or find a new tenant.

What is estate at sufferance?

Estate at sufferance usually arises when a tenant who has lawful possession of a property (for example, a lease) holds over without the owner’s consent. 

Can a landlord terminate a month-to-month lease without cause in California?

By the California Civil Code, a landlord can terminate a month-to-month tenancy for any reason, simply by serving notice. 


In tenancy at sufferance, the tenant is still responsible for upholding the terms of the lease like paying rent even though it may have expired. The landowner on the other hand must continue to keep the property in a safe and conducive condition.


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