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Holdover Tenant: What to Do When Tenant Won’t Leave

By Alondra Segoviano

Although most tenancies have set expiration dates, there may be instances where tenants refuse to leave once that date arrives. This type of scenario may be tricky to navigate, but there are steps you can take to evict holdover tenants or renew the lease for another term with a higher rent price. 

Keep reading to learn everything to know about holdover tenants and ways to connect with other landlords that previously experienced this situation.

What Is a Holdover Tenant?

A holdover tenant is a tenant who remains in the rental property after their lease agreement expires. States vary in how long tenants can stay in the property after the lease expiration date, so it’s best to refer to local landlord-tenant laws to know the exact duration.

There are two ways to handle holdover tenants: you can require the tenant to pay a higher rent price to stay in the unit or deny payments to begin the eviction process. 

What to Know About Holdover Tenants

One of the best ways to avoid holdover tenants is by including a clause in your lease agreement that clearly states what will happen once the lease term ends. For example, your lease can state that the tenancy will convert to month-to-month with a rent price based on the rental’s market value if they don’t move out by the time the lease term expires or provide a non-renewal lease letter by the locally-required timeframe. 

Choosing to collect rent (or deny payments) can also influence the eviction process in some states. Collecting rent from a holdover tenant can automatically result in a new 12-month or month-to-month lease. You will then need to provide a notice of termination before eviction. However, if you deny payments, then you can initiate holdover proceedings in fewer steps.

Do Holdover Tenants Have Rights?

Depending on the state, holdover tenants may have limited rights once the lease ends, but it’s best to refer to local landlord-tenant laws to confirm. In most cases, holdover tenants can have some protections against eviction or increased rent prices, but that’s not always the case since they have a tenancy at sufferance. Tenancy at sufferance means the absence of objection without genuine approval from the landlord but has not been evicted. 

What Can Lead to a Holdover Tenant?

Lack of communication on what can happen once the lease expires can lead to tenants not knowing what to do past the expiration date. For that reason, it’s best to present lease renewal options to tenants 30 to 90 days before the lease expires. Presenting lease renewal options also allows tenants to share their plans to renew or provide a non-renewal lease letter if they plan to move out. 

In addition to presenting lease renewal options, you may want to consider having an active lease in place (if not already) with each tenant to make it easier for all parties to know what to do once the lease expires, regardless of the lease duration. 

What to Do in the Case of Holdover Tenants

Before pursuing eviction, confirm tenants are considered holdover tenants living in your unit without your permission. If you’ve accepted rent payments from the tenants or in a periodic tenancy — a rental agreement with no set end date — then you’ll need to refer to local landlord-tenant laws and consult a lawyer to determine what you can do next. In some cases, you may need to present a notice of termination to begin the holdover proceeding process, but this can vary.

Some states may allow you to begin the eviction process without notice to the tenant if you have not collected rent from them since the lease has ended. But as mentioned, consult a lawyer to ensure you complete the proper steps.

 

How Long Does It Take to Evict a Holdover Tenant?

The eviction process can generally last two weeks to several months, depending on the situation. Factors that can affect the timing of the eviction process include:

  • When an official notice has been issued to the tenant

  • How long it takes the tenant to respond to an official summons and complaint

  • If the tenant chooses to answer the complaint

  • The trial duration

  • If the tenant decides to appeal the decision