LEASES AND TENANCIES: The ownership of property entails several important rights for the property owner. Most notably, these include the right to possess and occupy the property, the right to exclude others from the property and the right to gift or sell the property. However, a property owner may grant some of these rights to another for a period of time. When a property owner enters into an agreement with another to transfer the right to occupy and use the property, a tenancy has been created. Landlord-tenant law is the body of laws governing the relationship between the landlord, who conveys the property, and the tenant, who occupies it.


lease is the contractual agreement between the landlord and tenant which grants the tenant the right to possess real estate owned by the landlord for a period of time. The lease spells out the terms of the tenancy, and the obligations each party undertakes over the course of the rental period.

During the Leases and Tenancies period, the landlord cedes the right to occupy and possess to the tenant. This transfers to the tenant all the rights connected with possession of the property, including the right to exclude the landlord himself from entering the property.

However, the landlord retains title to the property.  This allows the landlord to transfer the ownership of the property to another by selling, gifting, or granting the property as an inheritance during the tenancy.

Note that many of the protections that states have constructed to protect the rights of tenants apply only to residential leases.


The owner of a property may grant others certain rights with respect to the property which allow them to use it for specific purposes.

For example, since hotels tend to rent rooms for a short duration, provide services connected with a hotel stay and retain basic control over the premises, a guest at a hotel is generally considered to be a licensee rather than a leaseholder.

Since licensees do not have the right of possession, they cannot enforce their rights through civil actions, such as trespass or nuisance, though they may have other avenues of redress. Likewise, the protections afforded to leaseholders in the context of a landlord-tenant relationship do not apply to licensees.

When the grant from the owner leaves it unclear whether she intended a lease or a license, the law considers several factors to determine the status of the grant of use. These include whether the agreement uses language typical of a Leases and Tenancies, the type and degree of restrictions on the use of the property as well as whether the owner retains the right of entry and a measure of control over the property.[4]

Types of Tenancies

However, there are a number of different ways a Leases and Tenancies can describe the time period of the tenancy arrangement, each of which creates a different type of tenancy.[5]

Term of Years

At the end of the period, the tenancy automatically comes to an end. There is no need for either party to communicate with the other, or to give notice of termination.[6]

A term of years does not have to specify a specific calendar date of termination to be valid.  

Periodic Tenancy

For month-to-month or week-to-week tenancies, a party must give notice a full period in advance and the termination must be at the end of a period. For example, if a week to week tenancy renews automatically each Sunday, the party seeking to terminate has until Saturday to give notice that the upcoming period will be the last. The Leases and Tenancies would terminate at the end of the following week.

If the landlord allows the tenant to remain, the law will treat the ongoing tenancy as a periodic tenancy.[15]  Alternatively, if a tenant takes possession of property under an invalid lease, but the tenant nevertheless offers rent and the landlord accepts, this may be considered a periodic lease under the law.[16]

Tenancy at Will

Note that while this form of tenancy can be ended at any point, it is considered a lease rather than a license. For as long as it lasts, the landlord has the full rights of possession, and can bring legal actions against trespassers.

However, a tenancy at will can also result from a problem arising in the intended formation of another type of tenancy.

For example, the law generally requires that long term leases cannot be entered into orally but must be in writing. In many US states, the cut-off for the written lease requirement is one year.[19] An oral agreement for a period which exceeds the length specified by law is an invalid Leases and Tenancies. For as long as this situation persists, the tenant has all the possessory rights of any tenant, including the right to exclude the landlord. If the tenant subsequently pays rent, and the landlord accepts it, a periodic tenancy is created.[20]

At common law, a tenancy at will could be terminated with no advance notice. However, most states have enacted statutes providing a notice requirement. Generally, these laws mandate a 30-day notice of termination, though often only the landlord, and not the tenant, must provide notice.[21]

Tenancy at Sufferance

The final category, tenancy at sufferance, concerns the tenant who wrongfully remains in possession of a leased property past the date of a valid termination. Examples of such holdover tenants include a tenant who refuses to vacate after termination of a lease, or a tenant who enjoyed a month-to-month tenancy but refuses to leave despite being given timely notice of termination during the prior month.

In these circumstances, the tenant possesses the property against the wishes of the landlord, and without a valid lease agreement. However, since she entered the property under a valid lease, a holdover tenant is not considered a trespasser, and the landlord must adhere to state law regarding evictions to oust the tenant from the property.

Alternatively, the landlord has the right to hold the tenant to another term without the tenant’s agreement.


[1] See NY Real Prop L § 223 (2012).

[2] Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act [URLTA]1972.

[3] Union Sq. Park Community Coalition, Inc. v. New YorkCity Dept. of Parks & Recreation, 22 N.Y.3d 648 (2014).

[4] Township of Sandyston v. Angerman, 134 N.J. Super.448, 341 A.2d 682 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 1975).

[5] See Restatement of The Law2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § § 1.4-1.8.

[6] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 1.4.

[7] See Smith’s Transfer & Storage Co. v. Hawkins, 50 A.2d 267 (1946).

[8] Womack v. Hyche, 503 So. 2d 832 (Ala. 1987).

[9] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 1.5.

[10] See AMERICAN LAW OF PROP. § 3.23.

[11] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 1.5.

[12] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 1.5, comment f.

[13] See, e.g.; See Cal. Civ.  Code § 1946.

[14] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 1.5.

[15] Maniatty v. Carroll Co., 41 A.2d 144 (Vt. 1945).

[16] Radvansky v. City of Olmsted Falls, 395 F.3d 291 (6th Cir. 2005).

[17] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 1.6 comment a.

[18] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 1.6 comment b.

[19] See, e.g., New York Consolidated Laws GOB, § 5-703.

[20] URLTA § 1.402(a).
[21] See, e.g., NY Real Prop. Law § 228.

[22] See City of Pittsburgh v. Charles Zubik & Sons, 171 A.2d 776 (Pa. 1961).

[23] See URLTA § 1.401(d).

[24] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 14.4 comment f.

[25] Restatement of The Law 2d Property: Landlord and Tenant § 14.4, comment i.