Tenancy At Will

Tenancy At Will
Tenancy At Will
Full Overview Of Tenancy At Will

A tenancy at will is a flexible yet temporary arrangement that allows tenants to occupy a property without a fixed term. This type of tenancy can be advantageous in various commercial and residential scenarios, providing landlords and tenants with short-term solutions while offering flexibility and convenience.

At DLS Solicitors, we aim to provide a comprehensive overview of tenancies at will, exploring their legal basis, practical applications, benefits, and potential pitfalls.

What is a Tenancy at Will?

A tenancy at will is a tenancy arrangement that exists at the pleasure of both the landlord and the tenant. It is characterised by its indefinite duration and the fact that either party can terminate it at any time without prior notice.

Key Characteristics of a Tenancy at Will

  1. Indefinite Duration: Unlike fixed-term leases, a tenancy at will does not have a predetermined end date. It continues until either party decides to terminate it.
  2. Termination Flexibility: The landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy at any time, with or without notice.
  3. Non-Exclusive Possession: The tenant does not have exclusive possession of the property in the same way as a leasehold tenant would.
  4. No Security of Tenure: Tenants at will do not have the same statutory protections and security of tenure as those under fixed-term tenancies.

Tenancies at will are governed by common law principles rather than specific statutes. This distinguishes them from other types of tenancies, such as assured shorthold or periodic tenancies, regulated by legislative frameworks like the Housing Act 1988.

Creation of a Tenancy at Will

A tenancy at will can be created either expressly or impliedly:

  1. Express Creation: This occurs when both parties explicitly agree to a tenancy at will, often documented in writing.
  2. Implied Creation: A tenancy at will can arise implicitly from the parties’ conduct. For example, if a tenant continues to occupy the property after the expiration of a fixed-term lease without a new lease agreement, a tenancy at will may be inferred.

Termination of a Tenancy at Will

Given its flexible nature, terminating a tenancy at will is straightforward. Either party can terminate the tenancy at any time; in most cases, no formal notice is required. However, it is good practice to provide written notice to avoid potential disputes.

Practical Applications of Tenancy at Will

Tenancies at will are commonly used in both commercial and residential contexts. Here are some scenarios where a tenancy at will may be particularly advantageous:

Commercial Property

  1. Short-Term Occupancy: Businesses requiring temporary premises, such as during office renovations or while searching for a permanent location, can benefit from the flexibility of a tenancy.
  2. Interim Arrangements: When negotiations for a long-term lease are ongoing, a tenancy at will can provide a stopgap solution, allowing the tenant to occupy the property while final terms are being agreed.
  3. Testing a New Market: Companies looking to test a new market or location may opt for a tenancy at will to avoid long-term commitments.

Residential Property

  1. Transitional Housing: Individuals needing temporary accommodation, such as those between homes or undergoing renovations, may find a tenancy at will suitable.
  2. Probationary Tenancy: Landlords might use a tenancy at will to assess a tenant’s suitability before offering a longer-term lease.
  3. Emergency Housing: In situations requiring immediate housing, a tenancy at will can provide an immediate but temporary solution.

Benefits of Tenancy at Will

For Landlords

  1. Flexibility: Landlords can regain possession of the property at any time, providing significant control and flexibility.
  2. Short-Term Solution: It offers a practical short-term solution without committing to long-term lease arrangements.
  3. Avoidance of Statutory Obligations: Tenancies at will are not subject to the same statutory obligations as fixed-term tenancies, reducing administrative burdens.

For Tenants

  1. No Long-Term Commitment: Tenants benefit from occupying a property without committing to a long-term lease, providing flexibility for changing circumstances.
  2. Immediate Occupancy: Tenancy at will arrangements can often be set up quickly, allowing for immediate occupancy.
  3. Negotiation Leverage: Tenants can negotiate the tenancy terms at will without being bound by the more rigid structures of formal leases.

Potential Pitfalls and Considerations

Despite its benefits, a tenancy at will also presents several potential drawbacks and considerations for landlords and tenants.

Lack of Security

  1. For Tenants: The primary disadvantage for tenants is the lack of security of tenure. Since the tenancy can be terminated at any time, tenants face uncertainty regarding the duration of their occupancy.
  2. For Landlords: While landlords benefit from flexibility, the lack of a fixed-term agreement can result in frequent changes in tenancy, leading to potential vacancy periods and loss of rental income.

Uncertain Legal Status

The informal nature of tenancies at will can sometimes lead to disputes regarding the terms and conditions of the tenancy. Establishing each party’s rights and responsibilities can be challenging without a formal written agreement.

Property Maintenance and Responsibilities

In a tenancy at will, property maintenance and repairs responsibilities may not be clearly defined. This can lead to disputes and misunderstandings between the landlord and tenant.

Rent Reviews and Increases

Unlike fixed-term leases, tenancies at will typically do not include provisions for rent reviews or increases. This can result in financial uncertainty for both parties.

Best Practices for Tenancy at Will

To mitigate potential risks and ensure a smooth tenancy-at-will arrangement, both landlords and tenants should consider the following best practices:

Clear Communication

Establishing clear communication from the outset is essential. Both parties should discuss and agree on the tenancy terms, including rent, maintenance responsibilities, and termination procedures.

Written Agreement

While a tenancy at will can be informal, it is advisable to document the terms of the arrangement in writing. A simple written agreement can help clarify expectations and reduce the likelihood of disputes.

Regular Reviews

Given the indefinite nature of a tenancy at will, regular reviews of the arrangement can help ensure that it continues to meet the needs of both parties. This can include discussions about rent adjustments, property maintenance, and any changes in circumstances.

Legal Advice

Seeking legal advice before entering into a tenancy at will can provide valuable insights and ensure that the arrangement complies with relevant legal requirements. Solicitors can help draft a clear and comprehensive agreement that protects the interests of both parties.

Case Studies and Examples

Temporary Office Space

A tech startup in London requires temporary office space while its permanent premises undergo renovations. It enters into a tenancy at will with a local landlord, allowing it to occupy the office on a short-term basis. The flexibility of the arrangement suits the startup’s needs, and it can terminate the tenancy as soon as its new office is ready.

Interim Retail Location

A retailer wants to test a new location in Manchester before committing to a long-term lease. They agree to a tenancy at will with the property owner, providing immediate access to the retail space. This allows the retailer to assess the market and make an informed decision about a potential long-term lease.

Transitional Housing

A family in Birmingham is between homes and requires temporary accommodation for three months. They enter into a tenancy at will with a local landlord, providing the flexibility they need during their transition period. The arrangement allows the family to move out when their new home is ready without being tied to a fixed-term lease.


Tenancy at will is a versatile and flexible arrangement that serves various short-term needs for commercial and residential properties. While it offers significant benefits, including flexibility and immediate occupancy, it also has potential pitfalls, such as a lack of security and unclear legal status.

At DLS Solicitors, we understand the complexities and nuances of tenancy at will arrangements. Whether you are a landlord seeking to provide temporary accommodation or a tenant in need of short-term occupancy, our experienced team can provide expert guidance and support. By adhering to best practices, maintaining clear communication, and seeking legal advice, both landlords and tenants can ensure a smooth and mutually beneficial tenancy-at-will arrangement.

Tenancy at will’s flexibility makes it an attractive option for various scenarios, from transitional housing to interim commercial space. By understanding its legal basis, practical applications, and potential challenges, stakeholders can make informed decisions that align with their needs and objectives. At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to helping you navigate the intricacies of tenancy at will and achieve successful outcomes.

Tenancy At Will FAQ'S

A tenancy at will is a rental agreement where either the landlord or tenant can terminate the tenancy at any time without prior notice. It is a flexible, informal arrangement that does not have a fixed term.

Tenancy at will is often used in situations where the parties need a temporary arrangement, such as when a tenant is waiting for a new lease to be finalized or when property is being sold and the new owner has not yet taken possession.

A tenancy at will can be created orally or in writing. It arises when a tenant occupies the property with the landlord’s consent without a formal lease agreement specifying a fixed term.

A tenant at will has the right to occupy the property and use it as agreed with the landlord. However, they have limited security of tenure and can be asked to leave at any time by the landlord.

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate a tenancy at will at any time, typically without any requirement for prior notice. The termination can be done verbally or in writing.

The landlord’s obligations include ensuring the property is habitable and safe for the tenant, maintaining the property, and respecting the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the premises.

Yes, a tenancy at will can be converted into a more secure tenancy if both parties agree to create a formal lease agreement with a fixed term and specified conditions.

Yes, rent is typically payable under a tenancy at will. The amount and frequency of rent payments should be agreed upon by the landlord and tenant, even though there is no fixed term.

If a tenant at will refuses to vacate the property after the landlord has terminated the tenancy, the landlord may need to pursue legal action to regain possession, such as applying for a possession order from the court.

The main risk for tenants is the lack of security, as they can be asked to leave at any time without notice. This can make it difficult to plan for the future and find alternative accommodation quickly.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 16th July 2024.

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