landlord showing apartment to tenants

Understanding Tenancies and Tenants’ Rights

Acquiring residential real estate in the form of single-family and multi-family properties is a common method to build wealth and generate a strong and consistent cashflow. As a residential real estate investor, you need to understand the basic aspects of tenancies and the rights that your tenants will have. Landlord-tenant laws are state-specific and must be strictly adhered to. Engaging an experienced real estate lawyer from the start of your residential real estate investing can ensure you avoid legal issues, which maximizes your profit while minimizes your time. At Palumbo Law, our lawyers are real estate and business law experts, and we are here to help.

Three Types of Tenancies

In Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, there are three common tenancies:

  1. Fixed-term tenancy
  2. Tenancy at will (also known as a “month-to-month tenancy”)
  3. Tenancy at sufferance (also known as a “holdover tenancy”)

A fixed-term tenant is one that is entitled to reside on the premises for a specific duration. Fixed-term leases have a specified end date, although some may contain options to renew or extend. Conversely, a tenant at will is a tenant who is on a month-to-month lease, which can be either verbal or in writing. Unlike the fixed-term lease which has a set end date, the month-to-month lease continues indefinitely until either the tenant notifies the landlord that they are not renewing the month-to-month lease, or the landlord notifies the tenant that they must vacate the property.

In cases where a tenant’s lease ends and they do not vacate, but rather remain living on the premises, they become a tenant at sufferance. A tenant at sufferance, or a holdover tenant, often results when a tenant is required to vacate but cannot locate a new residence. As a result, they do not leave the premises as they do not have a new residence to move to. Note that a tenant at sufferance is not a trespasser even though they do not have a right to stay in the premises.

If a tenant is refusing to move out and has become a tenant at sufferance, they can only be evicted through a formal process. Landlords must seek a court order to evict a tenant at sufferance. Landlords cannot take the eviction into their own hands through “self help” actions by removing the tenant’s personal property from the residence or changing locks. If a landlord engages in self help, the tenant may bring legal action against them resulting in significant time and cost to the landlord. If you are a real estate investor and are having issues with tenants, please contact our office to schedule a consultation to discuss the matter and your options. 

Landlord-tenant Lawyers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut

At Palumbo Law, we represent landlords in landlord-tenant disputes and provided legal counsel to investors on handling tenant issues. State landlord-tenant laws are complex – compliance with the laws can make or break an investment. If you have questions pertaining to the landlord-tenant relationship, or real estate investing more generally, please contact our office to set up a consultation or complete the contact form. Our experienced attorneys have successfully helped hundreds of real estate investors navigate the complex landlord-tenant laws in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.