Tenancy at Will: The Circumstances and Issues

Tenancy at will is a flexible arrangement between a property owner and a tenant on the manner and way a tenancy would be. The tenancy is not usually a fixed one, its flexibility allows it to be easily adjusted from time to time between both parties (landlord and tenant). The bottom line is that the tenant occupies an apartment or space with the landlord’s consent on terms that may be determined by both parties.

This time of arrangement can also come in at the expiration of a formerly fixed tenancy. That is, assuming a yearly tenancy expires and the tenant quickly seeks the landlord’s consent to continue for an additional period agreed between them, say, 6 months extra on agreed rent payable at agreed periods for example, monthly or in advance of the extra 6 months tenure sort after. If the landlord agrees with the plea and consents to the tenant’s request on the specified term then a tenancy will just take place. All that’s important is that the property owner is aware and consents to the arrangement, the arrangement can be in written or oral form. However, many would believe that the written consent is the best approach.

Another important aspect of tenancy at will is that the arrangement can be terminated at any time by any of the parties, particularly when the terms or agreement has been breached by either party. The termination of tenancy at will is seen as valid when either of the parties gives a timely notice of termination.

Tenancy at Will

Circumstances that could lead to tenancy at will include;

  1. Where a tenant’s rent expires and the tenant decides to hold on to the property with the landlord’s consent irrespective of whether the rents are paid periodically or otherwise.
  2. Where a tenant holds on to a property under a valid lease or agreement with the landlord without having to pay rent yet for the apartment.
  3. Where the tenant is permitted by the landlord to occupy an apartment without paying rent for the period agreed.
  4. Where a tenant has been allowed to occupy a property still under construction pending the completion of the said property.

Characteristics of Tenancy at Will

  1. Tenancy at will is a flexible one which could be terminated at any time if any of the parties (landlord or tenant) gives a notice of tenancy termination.
  2. Tenancy at will could be a term not fixed or no specified period of time. But is based on an agreed period which could be monthly, half-yearly, yearly or for a period less than the specified.
  3. Tenancy at will allows for rent adjustment periodically depending on the market rental value or full rack rent passing on similar properties within the same neighbourhood.

Advantages of Tenancy at Will

  1. Tenants can be evicted easily when the tenancy terms and agreement are violated without a reasonable explanation or consent with less strenuous legal procedure
  2. Since the tenure is not for a fixed term it becomes easier to adjust or amend the terms initially agreed upon without any long legal formalities.
  3. Tenancy at will enables tenants to take up a tenancy for a short period of less than even a month at their convenience pending when he is ready to relocate or adjust the initial tenancy terms with the landlord’s approval.
  4. The property owner will continue to get his rent for the agreed period while making an effort to secure a new tenant to replace the existing tenant when he eventually moves out. This will reduce or totally shut the void gap for the property.


  1. The landlord may not enjoy the full rental value of the property since the tenure is only for a short time which will affect any major investment or real estate project (maintenance, renovation, conversion etc.) he intends to venture into. The effect of this could be in the form of delay or total dismissal of the project due to shortfalls in financial capacity.
  2. The tenant may or may not pay rent for the accommodation occupied for the period consented, causing the landlord to lose rent for the said period.
  3. Tenancy at will is mostly short-let. The landlord won’t be able to receive money in bulk.
  4. The rent payable could come in piecemeal.
  5. The risk of rent uncertainty is high hence, keeping the landlord in a probable state to make any improvement on the property.
  6. The tenant on the other hand is at risk of sudden rent increase in the period under the agreement. Having that the tenancy can be easily adjusted.
  7. Though tenancy at will is a flexible arrangement, but the tenant might be totally under the mercies of the landlord as it appears he is being done a favour.

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