Estate for years / Estate from period-to-period / Estate at will / Estate at sufferance

A leasehold estate, or leasehold, arises from the execution of a lease by a fee owner­- the lessor, or landlord— to a lessee, or tenant. Since tenants do not own the fee interest, a leasehold estate is technically an item of personal property for the tenant.

Leasehold tenants are entitled to possess and use the leased premises during the lease term in the manner prescribed in the lease. They also have restricted rights to exclusion.

Estate for years

The estate for years is a leasehold estate for a definite period of time, with a beginning date and an ending date. The estate for years may endure for any length of term. At the end of the term, the estate automatically terminates, without any requirement of notice.

For example, a landlord grants a tenant a three-year lease. After the three years, the leasehold terminates, and the landlord may re-possess the premises, renew the lease, or lease to someone else.


Estate from period-to-period

In an estate from period-to-period, also called a periodic tenancy, the tenancy period automatically renews for an indefinite period of time, subject to timely payment of rent. At the end of a tenancy period, if the landlord accepts another regular payment of rent, the leasehold is considered to be renewed for another period.

For example, a two-year lease expires, and the landlord grants a six-month lease that is automatically renewable, provided the monthly rent is received on time. At the end of the six months, the tenant pays, and the landlord accepts another monthly rent payment. The acceptance of the rent automatically extends the leasehold for another six months.

The most common form of periodic tenancy is the month-to-month lease, which may exist without any written agreement.

Either party may terminate a periodic tenancy by giving proper notice to the other party. Proper notice is defined by state law.

Estate at will

The estate at will, also called a tenancy at will, has no definite expiration date and hence no “renewal” cycle. The landlord and tenant agree that the tenancy will have no specified termination date, provided rent is paid on time and other lease conditions are met.

For example, a son leases a house to his father and mother “forever,” or until they want to move.

The estate at will is terminated by proper notice, or by the death of either party.

Estate at sufferance

In an estate at sufferance, a tenant occupies the premises without consent of the landlord or other legal agreement with the landlord. Usually such an estate involves a tenant who fails to vacate at the expiration of the lease, continuing occupancy without any right to do so.

 For example, a tenant violates the provisions of a lease and is evicted. The tenant protests and refuses to leave despite the eviction order.