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Questions on Tenancy at Will

A “tenancy at will” is defined as the occupation of real property by a tenant until the landlord gives notice to terminate the tenancy, usually 30 days prior to termination as decided by state law or agreement. This notice can be given at any time. Also, since the tenancy at will is an agreement created between a landlord and tenant, it cannot be transferred to another person as the landlord controls the right to occupy the premises.

Listed below are a few questions answered by real estate lawyers on tenancy at will related issues.

What is meant by a “tenant at will”?

A tenant at will is a tenant who does not have a lease for a specified period of time. He/she can be evicted by the landlord with a 30-day notice.

Can a person claim "tenant at will" to occupy a home that he used to share with his now deceased girlfriend?

A tenant at will is a tenant who lives in rented premises without a lease but pays rent on a periodic basis. This agreement can either be verbal or written. This arrangement can be terminated—without giving a reason—by either the landlord or the tenant, with a written notice that is 30 days or a full rental period in advance. If the tenant pays the rent on the first of each month, the landlord should give the tenant notice before the first day of the month. Thus tenancy at will is not something that you claim but it is an agreement that is reached between the tenant and the landlord.

I have a “tenancy at will” lease in my Denver apartment in Colorado. How much time does the management have to give me if they want to terminate my lease and get me to leave?

The law in Colorado says that the landlord needs to give you written notice at least 10 days before the end of any month period. This is of course assuming that you rent by the month.

I gave notice to a tenant at will in New Hampshire to terminate his tenancy but he has still not moved out within the 30 day period. What can I do?

You could seek an eviction from the District Court. Your local court can provide the forms you need to file. Once you file them, the sheriff will serve your tenant with the forms. There will be a return date (court date) on the forms, and the tenant would need to file an appearance form by this date.

The judge will then hear from both parties on the day of court. If the court is in agreement with you, you will get a "writ of possession" of the property. If the tenant still refuses to vacate the premises after the writ is issued, the sheriff can get him/her out.

Keep in mind though that there is a possibility that tenants can be allowed to remain in the property for up to 90 days by paying rent if a judge decides to let them.

My basement studio apartment in Cambridge, MA which is a tenancy at will has only one fire exit. Can I sue my landlord for living, for five months, in a unit that violates fire safety codes?

There are scores of units that do not have more than one exit. So there is no point in suing. Your options would be limited to moving out.

Since a landlord can terminate a tenancy at will whenever he or she chooses, the law grants the tenant a reciprocal right to terminate at will as well. Besides this, a tenancy at will can also be terminated by the law for a number of reasons. These include if the tenant damages the property or attempts to assign his/her tenancy to another person, if the landlord decides to transfer his interest in the property, if the landlord leases the property out to a new person, or if either the tenant or landlord dies.
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