A tenant at will is a tenant who has the landlord’s permission to stay on the premises beyond the expiration of the formal tenancy. Where also, a tenant occupies the premises with the landlord’s consent and makes rent payments pending the grant of a formal tenancy or lease, he is (by implication) a tenant-at-will.  A tenant holding over differs from a tenant at will. A tenant at will has the landlord’s permission to stay beyond the expiration date of the agreement, while the holding over tenant does not.

The general rule has been that where a party who would have been regarded as a tenant at will begins to pay periodic (weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly) rents and the landlord accepts, he thereby becomes a periodic tenant and possession ought not  be take from him without serving the appropriate notice to quit. That rule does not seem absolute, however, as the courts are now inclined to considering the facts of each case to see whether the parties actually intended to create a periodic tenancy

A case before the Supreme Court of Nigeria (ODUTOLA V. PAPERSACK NIGERIA LIMITED reported in [6] (2006) 18 NWLR, (Pt. 1012) was marginally treated as a holding over case of a yearly tenancy.  Thus NIKI TOBI, JSC, reading the judgment of the court, observed; “… the evidence show that the parties started with a yearly tenancy which finally became a tenancy at will by operation of law. While I agree that a tenancy at will can be converted to a yearly tenancy and vice-versa, the position in this case is that it is the yearly tenancy that was converted to a tenancy at will. And here, I hold that when the yearly tenancy ended in 1980, the tenancy at will commenced and the “holding over” started immediately thereafter.”

The tenant at will requires 2 notices, as the Court of Appeal has reaffirmed (  in the case of INTL. P.S. LTD. V. GLOVER reported in 2002,  7 NWLR (Pt. 765)  at P. 136) : “It can be seen from the foregoing that a tenant at will or weekly tenant has to be served with two statutory notices which are notice to quit which is a week’s notice and this will be followed by notice to tenant of the owner’s intention to apply to recover possession.”