In some instances, long-term ownership of property is not ideal. Some individuals move frequently. Furthermore, not everyone is able to secure a loan from a financial institution to purchase his own property. In these scenarios, people resort to paying for temporary possession and use of a dwelling. This may be an entire piece of property, such as a house, or part of a property such as an apartment unit.

Prior to establishing tenancy, screening of prospective tenants is highly recommended. This will help ensure that you get a tenant who will pay rent on time, who will not use the dwelling for any illicit activity and who will respect other neighbors. A background check can be performed by a variety of companies, providing crucial information about a prospective tenant – possible criminal records, employment history, and credit history.

Types of Tenancy

In the United States there are three major types of tenancy. Knowing the key details of each may aid you in making a decision as to which one is preferable for you. These are fixed-term tenancy, periodic tenancy and tenancy at will.

Fixed-term Tenancy (also known as Tenancy for Years). The alternate terms used for this type of tenancy may cause some confusion. The term “tenancy for years” is misleading because this type of tenancy does not necessarily have to be for years. In fact, it can be as short as a few weeks.

The term, “fixed-term tenancy” provides a more accurate description of this type of tenancy, whereby the duration of tenancy is fixed. There are definite dates for the start and conclusion of the tenancy. There are some instances where certain events (for example, the start of winter) signal the end of the tenancy, rather than a fixed-date. The set end date marks the end of fixed-term tenancy.

Periodic Tenancy. It’s tenancy that automatically runs through successive rental periods (for example, month to month, year to year). Tenancy can be ended by provision of a notice either by the tenant or landlord. Most states require either party to give 30 days’ notice, but there are exceptions. In the state of Washington, the number of days’ notice for each party is 20.

Tenancy at Will. This type of tenancy neither involves precisely defined start and end dates nor agreed upon rental periods. It is an extremely flexible arrangement with no lease or rental contract. Despite this flexibility, notice should be given by either party choosing to end the arrangement. There are certain infractions that a renter can commit to break a tenancy at will. These include using the property for unlawful purposes, damaging the property, or if the tenant attempts to rent the property to another individual.

Of the three tenancy types discussed, tenancy at will is the most common. This should not be surprising since people who rent usually tend to be transients such as students and individuals who relocate often.

A Type Apart

There is one remaining type of tenancy that will be discussed further below because it is a tenancy type that most landlords seek to avoid. It is called tenancy at sufferance.

Tenancy at Sufferance (also known as Holdover Tenancy) is when a renter remains on the property without consent from the landlord after tenancy ends. If this happens, the tenant is now considered a trespasser. However, this does not give the landlord permission to simply discard the tenant’s belongings and change the locks. The landlord still requires court permission to evict the tenant.

The major difference between tenancy at will and tenancy at sufferance is that the latter does not oblige the landlord to give written notice.