Tenancy at Sufferance

A tenancy at sufferance as it is defined in most jurisdiction arises in narrow circumstances and is “as illusory as the rings of Saturn viewed edge-on”.[1] The tenancy at sufferance arises when a tenant under one of the other types of tenancy wrongfully holds over.  The definition varies by statute in some jurisdictions.[2]

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Tenancy at Will

A tenancy at will is terminable by either party or upon the death of either party.  No particular formal notice to terminate is required.  However, some courts have required the landowner to demand possession and allow a reasonable time for the occupant to vacate.  

If a lease is terminable at the will of only one party courts have interpreted the agreement variously as terminable by either party, a life estate, or even a fee simple title. 

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Landlord Liability for Snow and Ice

Landlord liability for snow and ice accumulation varies by jurisdiction. There are at least two established rules.

Under the older natural accumulation rule, or the Massachusetts rule, landowners have no duty to protect invitees from conditions caused by natural accumulations of snow or ice.[1]

On the other hand, the rule known as the Connecticut rule requires landlords to keep common areas in a safe condition regardless of the cause of the danger. The landlord is not the guarantor of tenants’ safety and therefore a tenant may be required to show the landlord had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition and failed to fix the condition within a reasonable amount of time. [2]

The duty of the landlord being to exercise reasonable care to prevent the occurrence of defective or dangerous conditions in the common approaches, the fact that a particular danger arose from the fall of snow or the freezing of ice can afford no ground of distinction. Indeed, the causes which are at work to produce it are no more natural causes than are those which, more slowly, bring about the decay of wood or the rusting of iron. To set apart this particular source of danger is to create a distinction without a sound difference.

Reardon v. Shimelman, 102 Conn. 383 at 388, 128 A. 705, 39 A.L.R. 287 (1925).

This is not a substitute for legal advice. For more information about the duty of the landlord to keep the premises safe from snow and ice accumulation in a particular location and under particular circumstances consult an attorney.

[1] The traditional position and its name stem from Woods v. Naumkeag Steam Cotton Co., 134 Mass. 357, 45 Am. Rep. 344 (1883). See also 62A Am. Jur. 2d Premises Liability § 699 (1990 & Supp. 1995) (discussing landowners’ responsibility for snow or ice both on adjacent public sidewalks and on private premises).

[2] Geise v. Lee, 84 Wn.2d 866, 529 P.2d 1054 (1975) (imposing the duty on mobile home park owners to keep the driveways between the homes safe for pedestrian traffic where snow and ice created dangerous conditions)