In real estate, “estate for years” (also known as “tenancy for years”) and “tenancy at will” are two types of leasehold estates, each with distinct characteristics. Here’s a detailed comparison and definition of each:

Estate for Years (Tenancy for Years)

Definition: An estate for years, or tenancy for years, is a leasehold interest in property for a fixed period. This period can be for any length of time – days, months, or years.


  • Fixed Term: The lease has a definite start and end date.
  • No Automatic Renewal: The lease does not automatically renew upon expiration; a new lease agreement is required to continue the tenancy.
  • Binding Agreement: Both landlord and tenant are bound by the terms of the lease for its entire duration.
  • Termination: The lease terminates automatically at the end of the specified term. No notice is required from either party to end the lease.

Example: A tenant signs a lease to rent an apartment for one year, starting on January 1 and ending on December 31. The lease will automatically terminate on December 31 without the need for notice from either party.

Tenancy at Will

Definition: A tenancy at will is a leasehold interest in property that can be terminated at any time by either the landlord or the tenant. This type of tenancy has no fixed duration and continues as long as both parties agree.


  • Indefinite Term: The lease does not have a specified end date and continues until either party decides to terminate it.
  • Termination: Either party can terminate the tenancy at any time, typically with some notice (the required notice period can vary by jurisdiction).
  • Flexible Agreement: The terms of the lease can be changed at any time, provided both parties agree.
  • Informal Nature: This type of tenancy is often more informal and may not involve a written lease agreement.

Example: A tenant rents an apartment without a fixed-term lease. The tenant and landlord agree that the tenant can stay as long as they both are satisfied with the arrangement. Either the tenant or the landlord can decide to terminate the tenancy with a notice period specified by local law or the lease agreement, if any.