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CHAPTER 15

The Landlord and Tenant Relationship

In a lease the owner of property (the landlord or lessor) contracts to grant a tenant or lessee exclusive possession of specific real or personal property. It typically is—but need not be—for a definite term and it also is typically given in exchange for rent. (Rent is not necessary for a lease's validity, just as a deed for the conveyance of any interest or estate need not be based on consideration to be valid.) Thus a lease is either a grant or a contract transferring the right to exclusive possession for an agreed, if indefinite, period of time. The lessor retains a reversion. Leased real property, after being described in detail, is usually known as “the premises.”

  No particular words of art are necessary to create a lease. Under the provision for real property interests in the Statute of Frauds, states require that a lease with a term longer than one, two, or three years—depending on the jurisdiction—must be in writing. If a lease is for a term exactly one, two, or three years, then it too should be in writing because most states' Statute of Frauds will require some writing for a lease to be enforceable. A few states require all leases to be in writing. If the Statute of Frauds requires that a lease be in writing, so must any agreement modifying or terminating it. The real property recording acts of many states require a lease with a term of more than one, two, or three years (depending on the state) to be recorded to be protected against bona fide purchasers. [1]

  Leases originally were considered conveyances of nonfreehold estates in land. Consequently many rules applicable to the conveyance of land still apply to leases. The law of contracts strongly, even predominantly, influences landlord-tenant law today. In some regards, tort law intrudes, and in the past 60 years or so governments have expanded regulation of the landlord-tenant relationship.

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