ESTATE AT WILL: Definition and How It Works

estate at will

There are four forms of leaseholds in real estate, one of which is the estate at will. The last three are periodic estate, estate for years, and estate at sufferance. This post will go over them all. However, we will focus primarily on the estate at will.

What is An Estate At Will?

An estate at will is a property tenure that can be ended by either the tenant or the owner/landlord at any moment. It exists in the absence of a contract or lease and usually does not specify the length of a tenant’s rental or the method of payment. The agreement is governed by state law, and the conditions may differ from state to state, while federal law may apply in circumstances of discrimination. 

An estate at will is sometimes known as a “tenancy-at-will”. This arrangement is often advantageous to both tenants and owners, who may want the option to change rental situations simply and without breaching a contract.

A planned sale is a common reason for requesting an estate-at-will arrangement. A landlord may use an estate-at-will lease to keep a tenant in a building until the end of its useful life. The renter is required to quit the property once the landlord sells it without prior notice. Tenants may be able to negotiate a lower rent or other benefits in exchange for the uncertainty of their status. This is irrespective of whether they are occupying commercial or residential real estate.

Tenants may also request such an agreement if they believe it will benefit them. If they need to relocate quickly for work or other reasons, some tenants may benefit from the flexibility of an estate-at-will lease. If they are at work, they can stay in the facility for as long as they need to. And then they can leave without penalty. When it comes to commercial leases, the opportunity to move quickly to capitalize on other opportunities can be favorable to the tenant.

How Does an Estate at Will Work?

Estate at will is a type of agreement between a landlord and a tenant. It either avoids the rigorous conditions and restrictions of a regular lease agreement or serves as an interim permit for the tenant to use the property while the landlord negotiates a formal lease. When the legal lease is signed and completed, it instantly supersedes any previous tenancy-at-will arrangements. When the lease terms have ended or have become faulty due to mutual agreement, it is possible to agree on an estate at will.

A tenancy at will is distinguished by the absence of an original contract. This aspect, in reality, separates tenancy at will from a typical monthly tenancy. This monthly tenancy is simply an extension of a previously agreed-upon agreement to continue establishing norms that apply to both the tenant and the landlord.

Tenancies at will, on the other hand, are governed by statute in numerous jurisdictions throughout the United States. This is particularly in terms of the termination notice period, which basically makes them equivalent to periodic tenancies.

Example of an Estate At Will

When you let a friend or family member live in your house, you are likely to have a renter at will. There are no set lease periods or lengths for the individual’s stay with you. There is an assumption that the individual will not cause any damage to your home. Furthermore, you and the tenant may have worked out an arrangement in which the tenant agrees to pay your rent and cover your utilities.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Estate at Will 


Flexibility- Having a lease with a renter who isn’t normal can be advantageous. Tenants that have a regular lease agreement will have less discretion in their living situation. They must be considerate of the rented property. Despite the fact that they are typically exempt from official regulations. Security deposits, lease terms, move-in procedures, and walk-through inspections are just a few examples.


The landlord has the right to terminate the tenancy at any time- In the case of a tenancy at will. There are several disadvantages to be aware of. The landlord is not required to provide a cause for the renter to vacate the property. Because there is no written contract between the landlord and the tenant. Because of this. The tenant is unsure whether they will have a place to live for the duration of the lease period if all lease terms are met.

Other Types Of Leaseholds

Estate for Years

Estate for years has a beginning and an end. You own an estate for years if you rent an apartment for two years. It will begin on June 1 and end on May 31 of the second year. Although it is referred to as a “for years” estate, it might last for as little as one day or as long as a thousand years. Some statutes say that any estate that lasts more than a particular number of years—for example, one hundred years in Massachusetts—is a fee simple estate.

Unless otherwise specified in the lease, the estate for years ends at midnight on the last day designated in the lease. Calendar dates do not have to be explicitly stated in the lease. It may read something like, “the tenant may occupy the premises for six months beginning one week after signing”. Assume both the landlord and the renter sign on June 23. As a result, the lease term begins on July 1 at 12:00 a.m. and ends just before midnight on December 31. Unless otherwise required by law, the landlord is not compelled to provide a notice of termination to the tenant. If the tenant dies before the lease time expires, her property interest, along with her other personal property, can be inherited under her will or under the laws of intestate succession.

Estate at Sufferance

When the first lease expires but the renter refuses to leave the property, an estate at sufferance occurs. As a result, he is living without the owner’s or landlord’s consent.

An estate at sufferance usually means that the owner must initiate eviction procedures. A month-to-month lease, on the other hand, requires the landlord to collect payment once the lease expires.

Consequently, the renter has the legal right to occupy the property and has secured permission from the landlord via payment.

A leasehold estate at sufferance, on the other hand, means that the landlord cannot be compensated in order for him or her to retake control of the property later on.

Periodic Estate

It is a tenancy that lasts indefinitely and does not have an expiration date. Terminating the lease requires proper notice from either the renter or the landlord. In other words, it is a circumstance in which someone can lease a home on a weekly or monthly basis and have the opportunity to move (with sufficient notice) that a long-term lease does not allow.

The Importance of Creating an Estate at Will

To avoid a periodic tenancy, it is necessary to carefully create a tenancy at will. The case of Javad v Aquil [1991] 1 WLR 1007 can be used to illustrate this principle. During the course of negotiating a ten-year formal lease, the plaintiff (landlord) granted the defendant (tenant) permission to inhabit a certain property.

The tenant stayed at the property for a few months and paid rent three times a year, three times a year. The landlord and the renter, however, were unable to strike an arrangement. And the latter was in charge of evacuating the premises. In following court proceedings, the landlord alleged that their arrangement constituted. A tenancy at will, with the tenant having the right to leave at any time.

The defendant, on the other hand, insisted that the agreement be followed. Because he had already paid three quarterly payments to the plaintiff, he was granted a periodic tenancy. After years of legal wrangling, the court eventually found in favor of the plaintiff. The judge ruled that the landlord-tenant arrangement could not be a periodic tenancy. There were no other pertinent factors pointing to such an agreement. In addition, there are various ongoing confrontations between the two parties.

It is common for two factors to have contributed to this uncommon situation: (1) the length of the tenant’s rent-paying tenancy and (2) the absence of insistence on a formal lease arrangement.

Protections Offered By An Estate At Will

Despite the absence of a formal, written contract agreement, a tenancy at will gives legal protection to both parties involved. The landlord is required by law to provide a safe environment for the renter. If the landlord takes possession of the property from the tenant. The landlord is required by local legislation to offer prior notice to the renter. In addition, the landlord must allow the tenant sufficient time to recover any possessions from the property.

Similarly, the renter is responsible for paying the landlord’s rent on time and sticking to any stipulations. And any other terms that the landlord and tenant have mutually agreed upon. The renter is also liable for any damages to the property that are not the result of normal wear and tear and must be rectified or paid by the landlord (where appropriate). Both the landlord and the tenant are obligated to observe local statutory laws when leaving or having the property vacated.

Tenants Notice of Intention to Vacate

This is a formal notice that you intend to leave your home.

A tenancy at will typically does not necessitate the tenant to provide formal notice of his intention to vacate the property. However, both the tenant and the landlord must follow local landlord-tenant legislation. When both the tenant and the landlord intend to leave the property, they normally issue a 30-day written notice. It’s worth mentioning that neither the landlord nor the tenant is required by law to provide a reason for the eviction notice.

It is only permitted if the renter has caused significant damage to the rented property or has been a nuisance to other neighbors. For the landlord to give the renter a seven-day notice to vacate.

Getting Out of an Estate at Will

An estate at will arrangement may or may not include written and agreed-upon requirements for notification of intent to depart. Provisions are typically outlined in local landlord-tenant laws. Both the renter and the landlord are required to provide a 30-day notice. This signifies that either the renter or the landlord wishes for the tenant to vacate. The other party must be notified within 30 days. Neither party is required to provide a reason for the request to leave. The notice is traditionally in writing.

Landlords in Maine, for example, can evict renters at any time without giving a reason, but they must provide a 30-day written notice of the eviction. In the state of Maine, however, a landlord can give a tenant a seven-day notice to vacate under a tenancy-at-will agreement if the tenant causes serious damage to the premises, is a nuisance to neighbors, is a perpetrator of domestic violence or sexual assault, and is at least seven days behind on rent.

In certain instances, a tenancy-at-will might also be without the need for a notice to vacate. If the tenant or property owner dies, or if the landlord decides to sell the property, the tenancy agreement is null and void.

How Do I Evict A Tenant At Will In Washington State?

In Washington, the only means for a landlord to evict a renter is with a court order. It is illegal for a landlord to try to evict a tenant by any other means, such as turning off utilities or changing the locks on the rented property.

How Do I Evict A Tenant At Will In California?

A California landlord must correctly serve the tenant with a 30 day notice to depart in accordance with both the California Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure to terminate a tenancy at will.

What Happens If A Tenant Refuses To leave A Property?

They can apply to the court for a possession order as long as they have given you proper notice. If the court issues a possession order to your landlord and you still do not leave, your landlord must apply for a warrant for possession, which allows bailiffs to evict you from the property.

How Long Does It Take To Evict A Tenant Who Refuses To Leave?

They must provide you at least 14 days’ notice before evicting you. You may be able to ask the court to defer the day you must depart again, for example, if you can now repay your arrears or you will be homeless. Your council may have a legal obligation to assist you in finding housing.

What Are My Rights As A Tenant Without A Lease?

A renter who does not have a written contract has the same statutory rights as a normal tenant who has a contract, such as water, heating, a safe environment, and so on. Similarly, the tenant is still responsible for paying rent on time and taking reasonable care of the property.

In Conclusion,

An estate at will continues indefinitely unless one of the parties decides to terminate it. Under the estate at-will agreement, the landlord can ask the tenant to relocate immediately, and the tenant can also move at any time and give the notice to terminate the agreement.

Before entering into an estate-at-will agreement, landlords and tenants should weigh the benefits and drawbacks. Other types of agreements include month-to-month leases, in which either party can cancel with a month’s notice, and year-long leases.

In general, it’s vital to understand what a leasehold agreement is and how it affects the estate you’re buying or selling.

Estate At Will FAQs

How long does a tenancy at will last?

A tenancy at will permits a tenant to inhabit a property indefinitely, with both the landlord and the tenant free to terminate the agreement at any time by providing instant notice. It is typically utilized as a temporary or interim solution for commercial property occupation.

Who is a tenant at will?

A tenant at will is one who has the landlord’s authority to remain on the property after the legal tenancy has expired.

Can An Executor of a will be left anything?

Yes, the executor of a will can also take part in the will.

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