A tenancy period is the amount of time designated on a lease agreement for real property. During this period, the lessor relinquishes possession of the property, and the lessee owes money.
The following are the most common tenancy periods utilized in lease agreements for residential or commercial property:
- Tenancy for a Term: A tenancy for a term arises when the parties have agreed on a termination date for the leasehold estate. If the agreement is for more than one year, the Statute of Frauds usually requires that it be in writing. If the term expires, the tenancy ends automatically.
- Periodic Tenancy: Periodic tenancy arises when the parties have agreed on regular payment of rent but have not established any termination date. Unless either party indicates they wish to terminate the tenancy, the period is automatically renewed.
- Tenancy at Will: A tenancy at will exists when someone possesses another’s land with her consent but without any agreement regarding the termination or payment of rent. Both parties may terminate the contract anytime, though most jurisdictions require some notice.
- Tenancy at Sufferance: A tenancy at sufferance arises when a tenant holds over after the expiration of his term without the landlord’s consent. The landlord can decide whether to treat him as a trespasser or a tenant for another time.
Often, tenants’ problems can be easily resolved using common sense and consulting reputable resources on landlord-tenant law, such as a local tenants’ rights group. The more you know about your legal rights, the better. On its Tenant Rights page, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website provides a wide range of state and local resources, including links to fair housing groups, rent control boards, tenant unions, and legal aid organizations for every state.
Many legal aid websites provide useful information on tenant rights, even if you do not qualify for legal aid. Nevertheless, some issues are not easily resolved and could seriously threaten your enjoyment of your rental or, worse yet, necessitate you to vacate your rental. Getting a lawyer’s help might be the best way to protect your rights in these situations.
Your Landlord is Evicting You
Hiring a lawyer might increase your chances of success if your landlord serves you with a termination notice that you intend to contest. Select a local attorney knowledgeable about landlord-tenant law and who has experience fighting evictions. A lawyer can devise creative solutions that you might not be aware of, such as arguing that your landlord’s eviction was retaliatory (and thus illegal) if the circumstances warrant it.
Your Landlord is Evicting You Without Necessary Court Procedures
According to state and local law, landlords must follow eviction procedures. You may need a lawyer if your landlord tries to evict you by taking matters into his own hands, such as locking you out, canceling your utilities, or even removing your doors, windows, and possessions. Self-help remedies of this type are illegal. Regardless of how convincing a landlord’s case is for ending a tenancy, they do not have the right to take, or even threaten, self-help actions against you.
Your Landlord Discriminates Against You
An attorney may be able to stop your landlord’s illegal actions and help you recover damages for any harm that you suffer if you believe your landlord is discriminating against you. An option is to hire an attorney to sue the landlord in court.
Another choice is to file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or a state or local agency in HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP).
Over 10,000 discrimination complaints are filed annually with HUD and state and local agencies in FHAP. Suppose HUD finds there is reasonable cause to believe your landlord is discriminating. In that case, you will benefit from having a HUD lawyer represent you before an administrative law judge at no cost. A judge can award you compensation and attorneys’ fees, impose penalties against your landlord, and order other relief.
Your Landlord Won’t Make Necessary Repairs
Your landlord’s failure to fulfill important obligations under your lease and the law can lead to major problems. You can think of a landlord who puts off heating system repairs until winter is well underway or a landlord who ignores a tenant’s request to fix a broken window until a burglary occurs.
If this is the case, you might choose to implement one of your state’s tenant remedies (such as rent withholding or “repair and deduct”), but you might need some explanation on how to do it correctly. Consulting an attorney might be your best option. Additionally, a lawyer can try to communicate with your landlord on your behalf, explore the possibility of a quick settlement, and sue your landlord if necessary.
Your Landlord Isn’t Fulfilling Promises
In some cases, landlords make promises to encourage hesitant applicants to rent from them. For example, a landlord might promise to install an electronic, gated parking lot if an applicant is concerned about neighborhood crime. You might need to hire a lawyer to write a stern letter to your landlord if he fails to honor the promise. The letter should remind the landlord that he can be sued for some criminal activities at his rental and threaten a lawsuit if he does not follow through.
You’ve Been Injured or Made Sick
Even well-run rental properties can experience accidents. However, if your landlord’s negligence caused an accident, he might be responsible for your injuries. You might break your leg if you slip on an icy patch on the steps of your building. (Perhaps the landlord should have arranged regular de-icing, which would have removed the danger). Or, you might discover a mold outbreak in your rental only after you and your family have become very ill.
If you’re injured on someone else’s property, you will need a personal injury lawyer with experience in premises liability.
Regardless of whether or not your landlord created the problem directly or intentionally, there are many legal theories that can be used to convince a court or an insurance adjuster that he should be held responsible. Attorneys are skilled at identifying which theories might apply and incorporating them into arguments.
Your Property Has Been Damaged
You may suffer damage to your personal property when your landlord fails to maintain the rental property. A landlord’s faulty wiring repair job, for example, could cause an electrical fire in your living room, damaging your furniture and other possessions.
The insurance company will cover the loss and then seek reimbursement from your landlord if you have renter’s insurance. Consider hiring a lawyer if you don’t have insurance or your coverage is inadequate, and the damage to your property is substantial. Alternatively, you could consult with a lawyer for an hour or two to find out how to proceed and what arguments to use to get reimbursed.
Do I Need a Lawyer Before Signing My Lease?
Leases are very complex agreements with many clauses that can be negotiated. A landlord-tenant attorney will be able to provide you with the legal information you need and inform you of the type of tenancy that is best for your needs. A landlord-tenant attorney will also protect your interests when negotiating your lease to ensure that the lease is the best lease possible for your needs.