What Is a Holdover Tenant?

A holdover tenant is a renter who remains in a property after the expiration of the lease. If the landlord continues to accept rent payments, the holdover tenant can continue to legally occupy the property, and state laws and court rulings determine the length of the holdover tenant's new rental term. If the landlord does not accept further rent payments, the tenant is considered to be trespassing, and if they do not promptly move out, an eviction may be necessary.

Key Takeaways

  • A holdover tenant is a tenant who continues to pay the lease, even after it has expired. The landlord must also agree or else eviction proceedings may occur.
  • Holdover tenancy exists in a grey area between a full rental contract and trespassing. Even a simple one-sentence agreement offers more protection to all parties and should be considered.
  • This issue is often negated by the month-to-month rental clause existent in most tenancy agreements.

Understanding Holdover Tenants

For landlords wondering just how long can a tenant stay after the lease expires, they should include a clause in the original lease stating what happens at the end of the lease period in order to protect their property and interests. For example, a year-long apartment rental lease might specify that at the expiration of the lease, the lease converts to a month-to-month lease.

If a landlord accepts rent from a holdover tenant, the implications vary based on state and local laws. In some cases, accepting payment resets the lease term. To illustrate, if the original lease was for a year, a new year lease starts when the landlord accepts the payment. In other cases, accepting payment from a holdover tenant triggers a month-to-month lease.

If a landlord wants a holdover tenant to leave, they must not accept rent from them, and they must treat the tenant as a trespasser.

To remove the tenant from the property, the landlord must attempt to evict them through a holdover proceeding. This is a process that is usually handled in eviction or small claims courts.

Holdover tenants have a tenancy at sufferance. The term sufferance means the absence of objection without genuine approval, and a tenancy at sufferance is the opposite of a tenancy at will, where a tenant occupies the property with the consent of the owner but without necessarily a written contract or lease. Tenancy at sufferance, on the other hand, refers to holdover tenants of an expired lease who no longer have the landlord's permission to remain in the property, but who have not yet been evicted.

Special Consideration: Holdover Proceedings

A holdover proceeding is a court proceeding between a landlord and a holdover tenant. Holdover cases are essentially eviction cases that are not based on missed rent payments, and in addition to dealing with holdover tenants, these cases can also involve other issues.

For example, holdover cases can remove squatters who have never had a lease or permission to occupy the property. Similarly, if your landlord wants to evict you because you violated a term of the lease (unrelated to paying the rent), that may also be called a holdover case. Landlords may ask the courts for a holdover case if you or your guests have created a public nuisance or if you repeatedly refused to let the landlord enter the property.