tenancy at will

What is Tenancy at Will & How It Works?

A tenancy at will, also known as a month-to-month agreement, is a type of property rental arrangement that does not require a formal lease agreement. It offers flexibility for both landlords and tenants, allowing them to terminate the tenancy at any time without a specified duration or exchange of payment. This article will explore the concept of tenancy at will, its workings, and the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants in such arrangements.

Stay tuned as we explore the intricacies of tenancy at will and provide valuable insights into the termination of tenancy, tenant rights, and landlord responsibilities.

How a Tenancy at Will Works?

Tenants without a lease often have a tenancy-at-will, which is sometimes called a month-to-month or at-will agreement. This type of tenancy does not specify its duration or the exchange of payment. It can be created through an oral or written agreement, or by continuing tenancy after a lease has expired. Both parties have legal responsibilities, including adhering to any rules agreed upon and following local regulations for vacating the property.

A tenancy-at-will provides flexibility for both landlords and tenants. It allows tenants to occupy the property on a month-to-month basis without being tied to a lengthy lease agreement. This arrangement makes it easier for tenants to change their rental situations when needed. Landlords also benefit from the flexibility as they can adapt the rental terms based on their changing needs or preferences.

An oral agreement can establish a tenancy-at-will, but it’s always recommended to have a written agreement in place. A written agreement provides clarity and protection for both parties. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant, ensuring a fair and transparent rental arrangement.

When entering into a tenancy-at-will, it’s important for both parties to understand their legal obligations. The tenant is responsible for paying rent on time, maintaining the property in good condition, and following any agreed-upon rules or regulations. The landlord, on the other hand, must provide a safe and habitable environment, maintain the property, and respect the tenant’s privacy.

It’s also crucial to follow local regulations when it comes to terminating a tenancy-at-will. In some jurisdictions, a specific notice period may be required. This notice period gives both parties enough time to make alternate arrangements. By adhering to the local laws and regulations, both landlords and tenants can ensure a smooth and lawful transition when it’s time to vacate the property.


Key Points:

  • Tenancy-at-will is a month-to-month agreement that doesn’t specify duration or payment exchange.
  • It can be created through oral or written agreements or by continuing tenancy after a lease has expired.
  • Both landlords and tenants have legal responsibilities.
  • Written agreements are recommended for clarity and protection.
  • Local regulations must be followed when terminating a tenancy-at-will.

The following table summarizes the main differences between a tenancy-at-will and other common types of tenancies:

Tenancy Type Duration Payment Exchange Legal Obligations
Tenancy-at-Will Month-to-month Not specified Adhering to rules and local regulations
Tenancy-for-Years Fixed period Agreed upon in lease Maintenance, rent payments, and following lease terms
Periodic Tenancy No set end date Periodic rent payments Notice to vacate, maintenance, and rent payments

Tenancy-at-Will Protections

Even in the absence of a written agreement, both tenants and landlords have certain legal protections. It is important to understand these rights and responsibilities to ensure a smooth and fair tenancy-at-will arrangement.

Tenant-occupied property: Landlords are required to provide a safe environment for their tenants. This includes ensuring that the property meets safety standards and addressing any potential hazards or repairs promptly.

Notice to vacate: While a tenancy-at-will does not have a formal agreement, terminating the tenancy still requires proper notice. Typically, a notice to vacate is necessary to inform the other party of the intention to end the tenancy. The length of notice may vary depending on local statutes and agreements between the parties involved.

Safe environment: Tenants have the right to expect a safe and habitable living space. Landlords must address any issues that may jeopardize a safe living environment, such as structural problems, pest infestations, or faulty electrical systems, in a timely manner.

Tenant Responsibilities

Tenants have certain responsibilities when occupying a property without a formal lease agreement. These responsibilities include:

  • Pay rent on time: Tenants are responsible for making timely rent payments as agreed upon with the landlord.
  • Maintain the property: Tenants must keep the property clean and report any maintenance issues promptly.
  • Avoid property damage: Tenants are expected to take reasonable care of the property and avoid causing any damage beyond normal wear and tear.

By fulfilling these responsibilities, tenants can ensure a positive tenancy-at-will experience.

Landlord Responsibilities

Landlords also have certain obligations when renting out a property without a formal lease agreement. These responsibilities include:

  • Provide a safe environment: Landlords must ensure that the property meets all necessary safety requirements and address any potential hazards.
  • Give notice before entering: Landlords should provide proper notice before entering the tenant-occupied property, except in cases of emergencies.
  • Follow local statutes: Landlords must comply with local statutes and regulations regarding tenant-landlord relationships, including eviction procedures.

By fulfilling these responsibilities, landlords can maintain a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with their tenants.

tenant-occupied property

The image above depicts a tenant-occupied property, illustrating the importance of maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for tenants.

Vacating a Tenancy-at-Will

In most cases, a 30-day notice is required for both the tenant and the landlord to terminate a tenancy-at-will. This notice provides a reasonable timeframe for both parties to prepare for the transition and find alternative arrangements. Termination without notice is not the norm in a tenancy-at-will agreement, as it goes against the general principle of providing adequate time for the other party to adjust.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. Landlords in Maine have the ability to evict tenants without giving a reason by providing a 30-day written notice. This means that tenants in Maine must be prepared for the possibility of their tenancy being terminated without cause.

In certain circumstances, such as serious property damage or rental arrears, a shorter notice period may be sufficient. In such cases, a seven-day notice can be given, allowing for a quicker resolution to the situation. This shorter notice period is meant to address urgent matters where the tenancy cannot feasibly continue.

It is important to note that a tenancy-at-will can also be terminated without notice if specific circumstances arise. For example, if the tenant or property owner dies, or if the landlord decides to sell the property, the tenancy can be ended immediately. These situations are considered exceptional and do not follow the usual notice procedures.

termination without notice

Notice Duration Requirements
30-day notice Both tenant and landlord Adequate time for transition and preparation
Seven-day notice Specific circumstances (e.g. property damage, rental arrears) Urgent matters requiring a quicker resolution
Termination without notice Tenant or property owner death, landlord’s decision to sell the property Exceptions to the usual notice requirements

Other Types of Tenancies

While a tenancy-at-will offers flexibility, there are other types of tenancies that provide more stability and additional rights for tenants. Let’s explore some of these options:


A tenancy-for-years is a common type of tenancy with a fixed period and specified start and end dates. This type of tenancy provides tenants with a clear understanding of the rental duration, offering peace of mind and security. Unlike a tenancy-at-will, which can be terminated at any time, a tenancy-for-years ensures that both landlord and tenant commit to a specific rental term.

Periodic Tenancy

A periodic tenancy, on the other hand, does not have a set end date. Instead, it continues on a periodic basis, such as month-to-month or year-to-year. While periodic tenancies offer more flexibility compared to tenancies-for-years, they generally require notice to vacate. This means that either the landlord or tenant must provide a certain period of notice before terminating the tenancy, ensuring both parties have time to plan and make necessary arrangements.

Lease Renewal

A significant advantage of tenancies-for-years and periodic tenancies is the potential for lease renewal. In these types of tenancies, landlords and tenants have the opportunity to extend the rental agreement beyond the initial term. Lease renewal provides tenants with the continued enjoyment of their rental property, allowing them to maintain the stability and convenience they desire.

Exclusive Possession

One essential aspect of both tenancies-for-years and periodic tenancies is the concept of exclusive possession. Tenants in these types of tenancies have the right to occupy and possess the rental property exclusively, as long as they fulfill their obligations and pay rent. This provides tenants with a greater sense of security and control over their rented space.

To further understand the differences between these types of tenancies, take a look at the table below:

Type of Tenancy Fixed Duration Notice to Vacate Lease Renewal Exclusive Possession
Tenancy-for-Years Yes No Yes Yes
Periodic Tenancy No Yes Yes Yes
Tenancy-at-Will No No No No

As shown in the table above, tenancies-for-years and periodic tenancies offer more stability, lease renewal options, and exclusive possession rights compared to a tenancy-at-will. These alternatives can be appealing to tenants who seek long-term security and commitment.

What is a Right of Survivorship?

A right of survivorship is a crucial aspect of property ownership and inheritance. It applies to property deeds that convey ownership to multiple tenants. In such cases, if one of the tenants dies, the remaining tenants automatically inherit the deceased tenant’s share of the property. This legal provision helps ensure a smooth transfer of property rights and prevents disputes or complications regarding ownership.

The right of survivorship is particularly relevant in the context of a tenancy-at-will agreement. When multiple tenants have this right, it provides them with reassurance that their share of the property will pass on to the surviving tenants in the event of their demise.

The specific terms of the tenancy-at-will agreement will determine the application of the right of survivorship. It’s essential for tenants to understand their rights and responsibilities regarding property ownership and inheritance within the framework of the tenancy-at-will agreement.

Understanding Property Ownership and Inheritance

When tenants enter into a tenancy-at-will agreement, they become co-owners of the property. The right of survivorship ensures that if any of the co-owners pass away, the remaining co-owners automatically inherit the deceased co-owner’s share of the property. This provision simplifies the transfer of ownership without the need for probate or other legal processes.

For example, consider a tenancy-at-will agreement between two friends, Alex and Ben, who jointly own a property. If Alex passes away, Ben will automatically inherit Alex’s share of the property, and vice versa. This provision can bring peace of mind to both tenants, knowing that their interests are protected.

It’s important to note that the right of survivorship only applies when explicitly mentioned in the property deed or the tenancy-at-will agreement. Tenants should carefully review their tenancy-at-will agreement to understand whether this provision exists and how it affects their rights and responsibilities.

Example of a Right of Survivorship Table:

Tenants Ownership Share Right of Survivorship
Alex 50% Yes
Ben 50% Yes

In the table above, Alex and Ben are tenants in a tenancy-at-will agreement with equal ownership shares of 50%. Both tenants have the right of survivorship, meaning that if one of them passes away, the other tenant will automatically inherit their share of the property.

Understanding the right of survivorship is crucial for tenants in a tenancy-at-will agreement. It provides clarity regarding property ownership and inheritance, ensuring a smooth transition of assets and avoiding potential disputes or complexities.


Terminating a tenancy-at-will requires proper notice and compliance with the law. Although this type of agreement offers flexibility for both landlords and tenants, it lacks the security and stability of a lease agreement. It is crucial for both parties to understand their legal obligations and protections. Landlords must fulfill their responsibilities in ensuring a safe environment for tenants, while tenants need to prioritize timely rent payments and avoid property damages.

When considering a tenancy-at-will, it is essential to carefully assess the specific needs and circumstances of both landlords and tenants. Open communication and clarity regarding expectations can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes down the line. This includes discussing termination procedures, notice periods, and any other pertinent terms specific to the tenancy-at-will agreement.

Tenant rights and landlord responsibilities should be taken seriously in any tenancy agreement. Whether a lease agreement or a tenancy-at-will, both parties play important roles in maintaining a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship. By understanding their obligations and exercising open communication, landlords and tenants can ensure a mutually beneficial tenancy experience.


What are the risks of a tenancy at will?

While a tenancy at will offers flexibility and can be a convenient option for both landlord and tenant, it also comes with certain risks. As there is no formal agreement or lease in place, either party can terminate the tenancy at any time with little to no notice. This can lead to uncertainty and instability for both parties. Additionally, as there is no written contract outlining terms and conditions, disputes may arise over factors such as rent payments and property maintenance.

What is the difference between a tenancy at will and a licence?

A tenancy at will and a licence are both types of agreements that allow a person to occupy a property. However, there are some key differences between the two. A tenancy at will is typically a more formal agreement where the occupant pays rent to the owner and has certain rights to the property. On the other hand, a licence is more informal and grants only limited rights to the occupant, such as permission to use a specific room or area in the property.

Why is a tenancy at will not regarded as a legal lease?

A tenancy at will is not considered a legal lease because it lacks the essential elements of a traditional lease agreement, such as a specific duration or fixed rental amount. While it may seem like an informal arrangement, a tenancy at will still grants certain rights and obligations to both the tenant and landlord. However, without the clear terms and conditions of a formal lease, it is not recognized as a legally binding agreement in most cases.

How long can tenancy at will last?

With tenancy at will, the length of time is not specifically defined and can vary depending on the agreement between the landlord and tenant. However, it is typically used for short-term rental agreements that are less than six months.


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