What is a tenancy at will?

What is a tenancy at will?

Have found yourself living in a family member’s spare room? Maybe you’re thinking about moving in somewhere new but need a stopgap before your tenancy agreement officially starts? Well, there’s a name for that! In situations like these, the agreement you have with your landlord will probably be classed as a “tenancy at will”.

Although the name includes the word “tenancy”, a tenancy at will has quite a few differences from the usual tenancy agreement you’re probably most familiar with. If you’re thinking about living under a tenancy at will or may already be in one, it’s helpful to know just exactly what it means and what your rights are. So, stick around because this blog will cover it all!

What is a tenancy at will UK?

A tenancy at will can come in a couple of forms, but in simplest terms, it’s when a landlord allows a tenant to stay in a property without an end date. So, if you’re wondering how long will a tenancy at will last, it can be pretty variable. They’re usually used as a form of temporary accommodation for the tenant or a kind of “placeholder” before an official tenancy agreement is signed. Because of that, you will sometimes hear them referred to as “month-to-month” tenancies.

As there isn’t a fixed term that ends the tenancy, there is an element of trust needed when agreeing to a tenancy at will from both the landlord and their tenant. As a result, many tenancies at will tend to arise when the landlord and tenant are friends or family.

Does a tenancy at will involve a written tenancy agreement?

If you’re entering a tenancy at will the “agreement” that you make can be written, but it can also just be a verbal one. A tenancy at will document tends to be shorter and cover much less than a more traditional tenancy agreement, similar to a licence. This is both because you won’t have any rights over the property in a tenancy at will and because they’re often used when a tenant needs to move into a property quickly so the document usually needs to be done quickly.

In general, a tenancy at will document will state that the tenancy…

  • Is a month-by-month agreement
  • Has no specific end-date
  • Allows both tenant and the landlord to end the agreement at any time

How does a tenancy at will differ from a normal tenancy?

The number one difference to keep in mind about a tenancy at will is that as a tenant you won’t have the ‘security of tenure’. In legal speak, that means that your landlord doesn’t have to get a court order to evict you, so it can happen at any time. In assured shorthold tenancies (the most common kind), your security of tenure also means that when you reach the end of your fixed term, unless you’ve violated your tenancy agreement, you have the right to renew it.

On the other hand, this feature of a tenancy at will gives you more flexibility. As mentioned above, it means that both you and your landlord can give notice whenever either of you choose. It can be done in writing or more informally - but if you have a written agreement it’s best to check to see if you’ve agreed to give notice in a specific way.

Also, because of the indefinite nature of a tenancy at will, there’s no fixed end date, and there’s also not even a minimum amount of time you as the tenant would be required to stay at the property.

There technically isn’t a maximum period of time you can have a tenancy at will either. In general, though, it shouldn’t be used for longer periods because if a situation arose where you had to go to court over the tenancy, it may be inferred that it has become a periodic tenancy instead. That would mean both you and your landlord would be required to give notice, and as a tenant you would then have the security of tenure.

What are the advantages of a tenancy at will?

So, now you’ve got the facts of a tenancy at will down you might be wondering, what are the pros and cons of this type of living situation? Let’s start with the advantages…

A tenancy at will is great for when you need to quickly sort out a living situation without having to draw a long legal document. Whether you have a verbal agreement or a short document drawn up, you can be in a new place quickly and with (hopefully!) less stress. Along with the fact you can give notice whenever you like, a tenancy at will also gives you plenty of flexibility.

Your landlord in a tenancy at will also still has all their core responsibilities. So, they’ll need to make sure they’re taking care of the place and providing a safe environment to live in.

From a landlord’s perspective, a tenancy at will can be a good way to have a short-term tenant if your property is going to be vacant for a short period of time. So if you’re wondering ‘what’s the notice to quit tenancy as wills?” - well both the tenant and the landlord can give notice at any time, so it’ll also make it easier for you as the landlord to evict a problem tenant  

What are the disadvantages of a tenancy at will?

Although not having to deal with a formal tenancy agreement can be a big perk, it also comes with some pretty noteworthy disadvantages. As mentioned earlier, in a tenancy at will you won’t get any security of tenure, so essentially you lose the right the keep your home without a court order. So, if your landlord decides at any point that they want their property back or want to sell it, you’ll have to move out.

With this, any tenancy at will requires lots of trust. You’ll want to feel as certain as possible that your landlord isn’t going to kick you out on the street without giving you a chance to arrange a new living situation. From the landlord’s side, tenancies at will also require plenty of trust in their tenant. Because their tenant can move out whenever they choose, the landlord will be less sure that they’ll have a steady stream of rent.

A few final tips…

If you’re planning on having a tenancy at will it’s always worth weighing up whether the rights you’re losing are worth it - if you trust your landlord and could use the flexibility it might be for you.

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