What is a Tenant At Sufferance?

A Tenant At Sufferance occurs when a tenant continues to occupy the premises without the landlord’s consent after the lease has expired; also referred to as a holdover tenant. A tenant at sufferance situation typically occurs when the tenant is unable to secure another place to live prior to the lease expiring.

A tenant at sufferance is not a trespasser; they are in legal possession of the premises. However, they do not have the right to stay. Take caution! A landlord must never take it upon himself to remove the tenant’s belongings or change the locks. Massachusetts’ law strictly prohibits any “self help” actions by the landlord. A tenant at sufferance must be removed through Summary Process (eviction).

A common alternative to summary process is for the landlord to grant the tenant a Reservation, where the landlord accepts money for one additional length of time after the lease expires for Use and Occupancy only. The use and occupancy agreement should be in writing, clearly stating the terms of the use and occupancy and signed by both the landlord and tenant. Failure to distinguish the use and occupancy from a lease will create a Tenancy At Will.

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