Tenancy At Sufferance

From CEOpedia | Management online
Tenancy At Sufferance
See also

Tenancy at sufferance is a tenancy (or estate) that exists when a tenant wrongfully holds over after the expiration date of a lease without the landlord's consent, as where the tenant fails to surrender possession after termination of the lease. A tenancy at sufferance is the lowest estate in real estate, and no notice of termination may be required from the landlord to evict the tenant. This kind of tenancy is designed to protect the tenant from being classified as a trespasser on one hand and to prevent his or her acquisition of title by adverse possession on the other hand[1]. This tenancy continues until the owner brings legal actions or the tenant voluntarily leaves[2].

Legal actions

The owner or the property manager, as the owner's agent, has two options when dealing with a tenant at sufferance. He or she may, under the common law, either:

  • evict the tenant without notice,
  • acquiesce to the tenancy.

The owner's acceptance of rent payments constitutes acquiescence and creates an estate at will or an estate from period to period. The property manager can sidestep costly legal entanglements by having written leases with all tenants that conform to local laws and statutes. Special lease provisions can sometimes alter or clarify the rights and obligations of the parties[3].

Connections with other tenancy types

A tenancy at sufferance differs from a tenancy at will in that under the tenancy at sufferance, the landlord has not consented to the continuation of the tenant's possession. Upon consent of the landlord, a tenancy for years for the same term (usually not more than one year due to the tenancy at sufferance) can be converted into a tenancy at will, a periodic tenancy or a tenancy for years for the same term (usually not for more than one year due to the statute of frauds)[4].

Differences from trespassing

A tenancy at sufferance is not a true tenancy, as it is created by a tenant wrongfully retaining possession of property. The tenant is, however, in a different position from a trespasser, someone with no right to be on the property. A trespasser can be summarily arrested, a tenant must be evicted[5]. Because a tenant at sufferance does not hold an estate (a possessory interest in the property), the landlord is not required to give the tenant notice of termination. Even so, the tenant cannot simply be forced off the property. The landlord is required to follow the proper legal procedures for eviction[6]. The eviction process provides protection for the person accused of wrongfully possessing the property that is unavailable for the trespasser[7].

Real world example

An example of a tenant at sufferance is the tenant who fails to surrender possession of the premises on the date specified in the lease agreement[8]. Suppose that Tenant Joe has a one-year lease with Landlord Sam. At the end of the term, Joe refuses to move out. Joe initially obtained possession of the property legally (under a valid lease), but he is remaining on the property without Sam's consent[9].



  1. Reilly, J. W., 2000, p393
  2. Kyle, R. C., 2016, p98
  3. Kyle, R. C., 2016, p98
  4. Reilly, J. W., 2000, p393
  5. Carper, D. L., McKinsey, J. A., 2011, p506
  6. Haupt, K. J., Rockwell, D. L., 2006, p28
  7. Carper, D. L., McKinsey, J. A., 2011, p506
  8. Kyle, R. C., 2016, p98
  9. Haupt, K. J., Rockwell, D. L., 2006, p28

Author: Gabriela Sambór