A tenant at will is a tenant without a lease. Basically, it is someone living on a property with consent from the landlord but no proper documentation.
It is the most common type of tenancy and payment is usually handled on a month-to-month basis. Sometimes, it’s referred to as a “roll over” tenancy. With a tenancy at will, the tenure may be terminated at any time by the landlord or tenant without notice.
Who is a Tenant At Will?
- Someone who has an oral agreement to rent
- Someone who has a written agreement that specifies month-to-month tenancy with no fixed end-date (if you have a written agreement with your landlord that specifies an end-date, then you are not a tenant at will)
- Someone with an expired lease who is still living on the property and paying rent; the landlord may write “for use and occupancy only” on the rent check
- Someone with a written lease and no fixed end-date (in other words, someone with an invalid lease agreement)
- Someone living in a residential unit for over three consecutive months
A Tenant At Will’s Rights
A tenant at will has the right to lawful and exclusive possession of the rental unit. This means that the landlord cannot enter a tenant at will’s unit without permission. A lot of times landlords may think they can enter just because it is their property. However, under very rare and particular circumstances, a landlord may be able to. For more information on landlords’ entry rights, check out the law guides.
If you’re trying to get out of your rental agreement, it’s pretty easy to do. Just check your state laws and give your landlord the required amount of notice. You don’t need any reason to. Note that your landlord doesn’t either, though.
Evicting a Tenant at Will
It is important to remember that a tenant at will has certain rights that cannot be violated. As a landlord, you are required to follow the standard eviction process required by your state. The tenant should be given a set amount of time to vacate the property. This can be as short as a week or as long as a month.
Remember that it is illegal for a landlord to shut off tenants’ utilities or change the locks while they’re still living in the property. If the locks are changed during the eviction process, then you are required to give a copy of the key to the existing tenant. You are also not allowed to evict a tenant at will until the first day a payment has not been issued.
Your tenant makes a payment on May 1st and you decide you want them out on May 29th. You aren’t allowed to evict them yet, so you wait until June 1st to tell them they need to pack up and leave.
Since there is no valid lease agreement in place, there are no terms or policies for the tenant to violate. That means that, technically, you can evict a tenant just because you feel like it. Although, it is illegal for you to evict the tenant for retaliatory and discriminatory reasons. If you have followed through with the legally-compliant eviction process and your tenant has still not left by the specified date, you must issue a court order. From then on, you will have to pursue the matter legally.