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What is a Lease on property?

February 1, 2021

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A Lease is an agreement, which creates the relationship of landlord and tenant.  The landlord leases to the tenant exclusive possession of land or tenements for a period of time.  The length of the Lease may be for a determinate period of time or at will.  The land subject to the Lease is sometimes referred to as the “leasehold.”  A Lease should contain, at the minimum: the length of the Lease, the amount of the rent, the payment periods, a clear identification of the parties to the Lease including their addresses, a clear description of the property leased, the amount of any security deposit, and any other terms agreed upon by the parties.  State law may require that other terms be included in the Lease, such as identifying the landlord and his/her agent able to receive notices, the time and manner of rent increases, and the method of termination.  Leases or rental agreements, as a form of contract, imply a duty of good faith upon the parties to the agreement.  In addition, a Lease or rental agreement usually implies other terms, even if they are not specified.  The Lease usually implies a covenant of quiet enjoyment.  This is a covenant given by a landlord to the tenant arising from the terms of the Lease by law.  The tenant is able to enjoy the possession of the premises in peace and without disturbance.  Regardless of whether it is included in the Lease, most states have held that the tenant has an implied right of quiet enjoyment of the premises.  Another covenant usually implied in a Lease is the warranty of habitability.  The warranty of habitability means that the premises are suitable for habitation by people.  The Lease or rental agreement also implies that the landlord holds possession of the land or tenements and is able to lease or rent them.


Leases for more than one (1) year must be in writing and signed to be enforceable.  Residential Leases should be in writing, and a copy of the Lease must be delivered to the tenant at the beginning of the Lease.  


Oral Leases for more than the time period specified by law are still valid between the parties.  However, if a dispute arises between the parties, the fact that it is not in writing may make it unenforceable.  The advantage of putting a Lease in writing is that it reduces the possibility of disputes arising between the parties due to ambiguity or uncertainty.


There are several types of Leases.  The Lease or rental agreement creates a tenancy.  A tenancy is an interest in real estate or tenement belonging to the tenant who possesses it exclusive of others except as the Lease or law may permit a landlord’s right of entry to demand rent or to make repairs.  A Lease may be for a specific time period as stated in the rental agreement.   A tenancy that has no fixed time period is known as a tenancy at will.  If the length of the Lease is not specified in the rental agreement, the length is determined by the payment periods for rent.  The length may be week-to-week, month-to-month or year-to-year.  These types of Leases are sometimes referred to as periodic estates.  If the tenant remains on the premises after expiration of the Lease without the landlord’s consent, a holdover tenancy results.  A tenant who remains on the premises after expiration of the Lease is known as a “holdover tenant” or a “tenant at sufferance.”  If the landlord chooses to consent to the continued presence of the holdover tenant, the tenancy becomes a tenancy at will.

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