Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Tenant Definition:

A person to whom a landlord grants temporary and exclusive use of land or a part of a building, usually in exchange for rent.

Related Terms: Landlord, Lease, Residential Tenancy, Lessee, Lessor, Dominion Utile, Rent, Vassal, Tenancy, Licensee

The contract for this type of legal arrangement is called a lease.

Edwin Bell wrote:

"A tenant is one who holds, uses or enjoys the property of another with his consent or by his permission...."

In somewhat more legal language, Justice Beck of the Alberta Supreme Court (Re Calgary Brewing) contrasted the term with its counterpart, landlord, as follows:

"I think landlord means the lessor -- if he has not transferred the reversion or assigned the rent, or the transferee of the reversion or the assignee of the rent, and in this event the lessor is excluded.

"Similarly, I think tenant in all places where it occurs, means either the lessee, if he has not assigned his leasehold interest, or the assignee for the time being of the lessee, and this by virtue of privity of estate and in this case the lessee is excluded.

"Thus landlord means the person who is entitled to exact payment of the rent and the tenant is the person who, by reason of his possession or occupancy or his rights thereto, whether by privity of contract or estate, for the time being holds the premises under title immediately or mediately from the landlord or his predecessor in title, and by reason of his so holding is the person liable for the time being to pay the rent."

The word tenant originated under the feudal system, referring to land "owners" who held their land on tenure granted by a lord.

French: locataire.


  • Bell, Edwin, A Treatise on Landlord and Tenant Law in Canada (Toronto: Canada Law Book, 1904), page 5
  • Re Calgary Brewing & Malting Company, 9 WWR 563 (1915)

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