Tenancy at Will

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Tenancy at Will
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Tenancy-at-will - this is a special form of a tenancy agreement which can be terminated at any time by either party to the legal relationship. Moreover, an important feature of such a transaction is the fact that it operates without any formal contract and does not usually characterize the duration of the tenancy or the form of payment for the provision of the premises. Alternatively, it's called estate-at-will. It is a convenient form of contract for both the landlord and tenant because it allows for easy modification of the contract terms without the risk of breaching the contract. The contract in question is usually concluded orally or in documents. However, the lack of formalization does not mean that the tenant or landlord is not entitled to special legal protection. They can still use a legal institution such as a notice to vacate or a claim for damages for misuse of the premises.

Tenancy-at-will essence

Tenancy-at-will is a phenomenon where there is a common agreement between the tenant and the landlord for the tenant to occupy the property. Furthermore, they agree that both landlord and tenant are able to terminate the contract at any time. In other words, it is the tenant who occupies the property in order to satisfy the wishes of the landlord [1].

It is worth mentioning that tenancy-at-will is not much different from a regular tenancy. For example, in the event of a change of landlord, the new landlord is responsible for the last rent and deposit due. This is due to a pure civilistic scheme, which provides for an automatic transfer of claims for the subject matter of the contract. Therefore, if the subject matter of the contract is real estate (and not specific behavior, the same for a specific entity), then the new landlord can be held accountable for a previous due liabilities [2]. Therefore, as an alternative for a tenancy-at-will it is possible to choose:

  • occasional lease
  • long-term formal tenancy agreement
  • formal tenancy agreement

Compensation rights from tenancy-at-will

Tenancy-at-will as a special legal form of tenancy of a dwelling is mainly governed by common law - i. e. precedent law. Established jurisprudence and practice over decades of lawmaking are the main basis for the enforcement of any claim for inadequate provision of benefits. Therefore, all requests should be demonstrated directly to the landlord or tenant so that they become effective.

However, when a court dispute arises, the parties are entitled to all the institutions provided for in civil proceedings. They may appoint witnesses to prove the validity of their performance and of the contract terms. However, the legal protection of such a legal relationship is limited and confines itself to the application of the general clauses provided for in substantive civil law.

In order to obtain a valid, legally effective tenancy agreement, which is a tenancy-at will, you must first of all agree on all the conditions that are necessary for a normal tenancy agreement. Thereafter, unless either party objects, the agreement can be concluded[3].

This is of particular importance in determining the so-called “acquisitions" of real estate, which was used in good faith by the tenant as the property of the tenant. This is due to the fact that tenancy-at-will very often manifests itself when a landlord implicitly transfers a dwelling for rent and the tenant considers that the property is being transferred to him/her for settlement.


  1. Onakoya, O. (2017), P. 282
  2. Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (2017), p.76-79
  3. Burn, E.H., Cartwright, J. (2011), p.202-203


Author: Melania Mazur