tenancy – possession or occupancy of real or personal property by right or title:

     This page is continued from Property >>>> Ownership:



1. The possession or occupancy of land under a lease; a leasehold interest in real estate.

2. The period of such possession or occupancy.  See ESTATE (1).

3. The possession of real or personal property by right or title, especially under a conveying instrument such as a deed or will. [1]

1. The occupancy of a tenant.  Possession under right or title.
     A tenancy exists where one has let real estate to another, to hold of him as landlord.  When duly created and the tenant put into possession, he is the owner of an estate for the time being, and has all the usual rights and remedies to defend his possession.  But a tenancy does not necessarily imply a right to complete and exclusive possession; it may be created with implied or express permission of a right to possession on the part of the landlord, for all purposes not inconsistent with the privileges granted o the tenant.  Morill v Mackman, 24 Mich 279.
     See cotenancy;  joint tenancy; privy; re-entry; tenant; use and occupation. [2]

1. The right to hold and occupy realty or personality by virtue of owning an interest in it.

2. Possession of realty under a lease; the relationship existing between a landlord or lessor and a tenant or lessee.

3. A term for the interest a tenant has under a lease. [3]

n. (14c)

1. Someone who holds or possesses lands or tenements by any kind of right or title. [1]

1. One who occupies the premises of another in subordination to that other person’s title and with his assent express or implied. 32 Am J1st L & T § 2.

Broadly, any person having a tenancy.

A tenant, although having exclusive possession,, charge, and control, is not an owner of the land within a satute making it unlawful for any person to hunt on the land of another without first having obtained permission of the owner. Anno: 2 ALR 799, s. 95 ALR 1099. [2]

1. A person who holds or possesses realty or personality by virtue of owning an interest in it.

2. A person who occupies realty under a lease with a landlord; a lessee. [3]

Related Terms:

occupancy – the act of taking possession of something that has no apparent owner (such as abandoned property) so as to acquire legal ownership.

possession – the detention or use of a physical thing with the intent to hold it as one’s own.

Various Forms of Tenancy:

cotenancy a tenancy with two or more cotenants who both have the right of undivided possession of the property as a whole.

  • joint tenancy – an estate held by two more more persons jointly, with equal rights to share in its enjoyment during their lives, and having as its distinguishing feature the right of survivorship.
    • tenancy by the entirety – an (tenancy and) estate in land or in personal property that exists between husband and wife; jointly owned with right to survivorship. — aka estate by the entirety; estate by entireties; estate by the entireties; tenancy by the entirety; tenancy by the entireties.
  • tenancy in common – a tenancy by two or more persons, in equal or unequal undivided shares, each person having an equal right to possess the whole property but no right of survivorship.

entire tenancy – (17c) A tenancy possessed by one person, as opposed to a joint or common tenancy.  See estate by entirety under ESTATE (1). [1

1. Sole ownership; ownership which is neither joint nor in common. [2]

3.  Sole ownership; ownership that is neither joint nor in common. See and compare joint tenancy; tenancy in common. [3]

general tenancy (18c) A tenancy that is not of fixed duration under the parties’ agreement. [1]  

1. Such a tenancy as was not fixed and made certain in point of duration by the agreement of the parties. Brown’s Admirs. v Bragg, 22 Ind 122, 123[2] 

1. See tenancy at will. [3]

life tenancy – held only for the duration of a specified person’s life, usually the possessor’s.— aka estate for lifelegal life estate; life estate.


several tenancy (17c) A tenancy that is separate and not held jointly with another person. 

tenancy at sufferance –  when a person who has been in lawful possession of property wrongfully remains as a holdover after his or her interest has expired, when their right to possession has ended. — aka holdover tenancy; estate at sufferance.

  • periodic tenancy – tenancy where no definite time is agreed upon and the rate is fixed at so much per month (year, etc.). — aka tenancy from period to period; periodic estate; estate from period to period (more specif.) month-to-month tenancy (or estate); year-to-year tenancy (or estate); week-to week tenancy (or estate). 
  • tenancy at will tenant holds possession with the landlord’s consent but without fixed terms; may be terminated by either party upon fair notice— aka at-will tenancy; estate at will.


tenancy by the curtesy See CURTESY.

tenancy by the rod See COPYHOLD.

tenancy by the verge See COPYHOLD.

tenancy for a term – an interest (estate) securing a tenancy, arising from an agreement or lease (or other contract) which must expire at a certain period, fixed in advance. — aka tenancy for a period; tenancy for years; term for years; term of years; estate for a term; estate for years; lease for years.

  • tenancy attendant on the inheritance – a tenancy for a term vested in a trustee in trust for the owner of the inheritance, as a form of personal property to the trustee. — aka tenancy attendant on an inheritance; term attendant on the inheritance.
  • tenancy in gross – a tenancy for a term that is unattached or disconnected from the estate or inheritance, such as one that is in the hands of some third party having no interest in the inheritance.

tenancy in coparcenary See COPARCENARY.

tenancy in fee See FEE SIMPLE.

tenancy in tail See FEE TAIL.

tenancy par la verge See COPYHOLD.

tenancy agreement See LEASE.

Various Types of Tenants:

customary tenant (16c) A tenant holding by the custom of the manor.  *  Over time, customary tenants became known as copyhold tenants.  See COPYHOLD.

     Excerpt from 2 Frederick Pollock & Frederic W. Maitland, The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I 361, 375 (2d ed. 1899):

     “The lord has a court; in that court the tenant in villeinage, even though he be personally unfree, appears as no mere tenant at will, but as holding permanently, often heritably, on fairly definite terms.  He is a customary tenant, customarius, consuetudinarius; he holds according to the custom of the manor. . . .  Then gradually . . . [d]eallngs with villein tenements are set forth upon the rolls of the lord’s court; the villein tenement is conceived to be holden ‘by roll of court,’ or even ‘by copy of court roll,’ and the mode of conveyance serves to mark off the most beneficial of villeinholds from the most onerous of freeholds . . . .  In Henry lll’s time this process which secured for the tenant in villeinage a written, a registered title, and gave him the name of ‘copyholder,’ was but beginning . . . . “

dominant tenant (1808) The person who holds a dominant estate and therefore benefits from an easement. Cf. servient tenant.

holdover tenant (1880) Someone who remains in possession of real property after a previous tenancy (especially one under a lease) expires, thus giving rise to a tenancy at sufferance.  — Sometimes shortened to holdover: See tenancy at sufferance under TENANCY.

hypothetical tenant See HYPOTHETICAL TENANT.

illusory tenant (1984) 1. A fictitious person who, as the landlord’s alter ego, subleases an apartment to permit the landlord to circumvent rent-law regulations.  2. A tenant whose business is to sublease rent-controlled apartments.


particular tenant – A tenant of a limited estate taken out of a fee.  See particular estate under ESTATE (1).

prime tenant (1942) A commercial or professional tenant with an established reputation that leases substantial, and usu. the most preferred, space in a commercial development.  *  A prime tenant is important in securing construction financing and in attracting other desirable tenants.

quasi-tenant (18c) A sublessee that the new tenant or reversioner allows to hold over.

servient tenant (1827) The person who holds a servient estate and is therefore burdened by an easement.  Cf. dominant tenant.

statutory tenant (1881) Someone who is legally entitled to remain on property after the tenancy expires.

tenant at sufferance (17c) A tenant who has been in lawful possession of property and wrongfully remains as a holdover after the tenant’s interest has expired.  *  The tenant may become either a tenant at will or a periodic tenant. — aka permissive tenant.  See tenancy at will; periodic tenancy.

      Excerpt from 4 James Kent, Commentaries on American Law § 3, at 117 (Charles M. Barnes ed., 13th ed. 1884):

     “Of Estates at Sufferance. — A tenant at sufferance is one that comes into the possession of land by lawful title, but holdeth over by wrong, after the determination of his interest.  He has only a naked possession, and no estate which he can transfer or transmit, or which is capable of enlargement by release; for he stands in no privity to his landlord, nor is he entitled to notice to quit; and, independent of statute, he is not liable to pay any rent. He holds by the laches of the landlord, who may enter, and put an end to the tenancy when he pleases; but before entry he cannot maintain an action of trespass against the tenant by sufferance.” 

tenant by elegit See ELEGIT.

tenant by the curtesy (15c) A life tenant who receives the estate from his deceased wife by whom he has had legitimate children.  * The children hold the remainder interest.  See CU RTBSY.

tenant by the verge See COPYHOLDER.

tenant for a term (18c) A tenant whose tenancy is for a dehned number of years, months, weeks, or days, set when the tenancy is created. — aka tenant for a period.

tenant for life See LIFE TENANT.

tenant in chief (17c) Hist. Someone who held land directly of the king. — aka tenant in capite.  See IN CAPITE.

tenant in common (16c) One of two or more tenants who hold the same land by unity of possession but by separate and distinct titles, with each person having an equal right to possess the whole property but no right of survivorship.  See tenancy in common under TENANCY.

tenant in demesne (di-mayn or di-meen) (17c) A feudal tenant who holds land of, and owes services to, a tenant in service. Cf. tenant in service.

tenant in dower (15c) A life tenant who is entitled to hold and use one-third of all the real property owned by her deceased husband.  See DOWER.

tenant in fee (16c) The owner of land held in fee. — aka tenant in fee simple.

     Excerpt from 31 C.J.S. Estates 5 11, at 27 (1996):

     “A tenant in fee simple is [one who owns] lands, tenements, or hereditaments, to hold to him and his heirs forever; generally, absolutely, and simply, without mentioning what heirs, but referring that to his own pleasure, or to the disposition of the law. An estate in fee simple is an estate of inheritance without condition, belonging to the owner, and alienable by him or transmissible to his heirs absolutely and simply; it is an estate or interest in land of one holding absolute and exclusive control and dominion over it, no matter how acquired.” 

tenant in service (17c) A feudal tenant who grants an estate to another (a tenant in demesne) and is therefore entitled to services from the latter.  Cf. tenant in demesne.

undertenant – See SUBLESSEE.

week-to-week tenancy. See periodic tenancy.

2. Someone who pays rent for the temporary use and occupation of another’s land under a lease or similar arrangement. See LESSEE. 3. Archaic. The defendant in a real action (the plaintiff being called a demandant). See real action under ACTION (4).

tenantable repair. (17c) A repair that will render premises fit for present habitation. See HABITABILITY.

tenantlike, adj. (1812) In accordance with the rights and obligations of a tenant, as in matters of repairs, waste, etc.

tenant paravail. (17c) Archaic. A tenant’s tenant; a sublessor.

tenant par la verge. See COPYHOLDER.

tenant-right. (16c) English law. A tenant’s right, upon termination of the tenancy, to payment for unexhausted improvements made on the holding. 0 This right is governed by the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1986.

tenantry. 17c) A body or group of tenants.

Tenant’s fixture – see fixture


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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