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Legal Dictionary

tenancy at will

Definition of tenancy at will

Further reading

A tenancy at will is a leasehold such that either the landlord or the tenant may terminate the tenancy at any time by giving reasonable notice. It usually occurs in the absence of a lease, or where the tenancy is not for consideration. Under the modern common law, tenancy at will can arise under the following circumstances:

  • the parties expressly agree that the tenancy is at will and not for rent.
  • a family member is allowed to live at home without formal arrangement. A nominal consideration may be required.
  • a tenant wishes to occupy the property urgently, but there was insufficient time to negotiate and execute a lease. The tenancy at will terminates in this case as soon as a written lease is completed. If a lease fails to be realized, the tenant must vacate the property.

In a residential lease for consideration, a tenant may not be removed except for cause, even in the absence of a written lease. If a landlord can terminate the tenancy at will, a tenant by operation of law is also granted a reciprocal right to terminate at will. However, a lease that expressly continues at the will of the tenant ("for as long as the tenant desires to live on this land") does not automatically provide the landlord with a reciprocal right to terminate, even for cause. Rather, such language may be construed to convey to the tenant a life estate or even a fee simple.

A tenancy at will terminates by operation of law, if:

  • the tenant commits waste against the property;
  • the tenant attempts to assign his tenancy;
  • the landlord transfers his interest in the property;
  • the landlord leases the property to another person;
  • the tenant or the landlord dies.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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