Landlord And Tenant Leases

( Originally Published 1918 )

Leases are contracts by which one party, called the lessor or landlord, gives to a second party, called the lessee or tenant, possession of land or other real estate for a fixed period of time, receiving in return for the use, possession and profit thereof a fixed compensation called the rent.

Duration.—A lease may be for life, by sufferance at will, or for a term of years.

A Lease for Life terminates with the death of the lessee or tenant or any person specified as such in the lease.

A Lease by Sufferance of the landlord exists when a lease for a term of years has expired and the tenant is allowed to remain in possession. Such possession in some states may be terminated without notice.

A Lease at Will is one which exists only during the will of the landlord and may terminate at the will of either party, as the rights of possession on the part of the landlord or the rights of abandonment on the part of, the tenant may justify, or by the death of either party, or by sale of property, or by due notice. Statutes usually regulate this notice in each state.

A Lease for a Term of Years begins and ends at a certain specified date. Under the latter the tenant possesses greater privileges than under either of the two former.

Written or Unwritten.—Leases for a term of more than one year, in most of the states, must be in writing, and hi some states must be executed, acknowledged and recorded in the same manner as deeds, otherwise they are invalid as against third parties without notice. In some states, such as Massachusetts, any lease not in writing is a lease at will.

In Pennsylvania a lease for three years or more must be in writing under the statute of Fraud. Where no time is mentioned it is deemed a lease for a year. Short notice is provided by statute in some cases.

Essential Specifications in a written lease are: dates, names, rent, description.

The Date fixes the beginning of the lease. Where no date is mentioned the time commences ordinarily with the delivery of the lease. This, however, is not always conclusive if another date can be proven.

Names.—The law recognizes only one Christian name and the surname. If a party assumes a false name he is nevertheless responsible. The landlord deals with the man, not with the name.

The Rent—Rents may be payable in other valuables besides money; the amount should, however, always be stated. If not stated, the law will allow the landlord what the use of the premises is reasonably worth.

Description of Premises. The lease must de-scribe the premises. It need not be in full detail; any general description that will identify the property is sufficient. The parts and appurtenances that ordinarily belong to such premises are included.

Who Cannot Give a Lease.—A husband cannot make a lease which will bind his wife's property after his death. A guardian cannot give a lease extending beyond a minor's majority which the minor cannot annul if he wishes, but if he does not annul it the tenant is bound by it. Under the common law a married woman cannot lease her property, but under the statutes of most states she can. A special statute supersedes the common law.

A minor cannot make a valid lease, but can become a tenant. Students under age hiring rooms come under this class.

Rights of Landlord

Subletting and Assigning Lease.—The landlord can prohibit his tenant from subletting the premises, or any part of them, or from assigning the lease, by stating the prohibition in a special clause of the same.

Tenant Breaking the Condition.—If the tenant has broken the condition of the lease by subletting the premises, the landlord, if he accepts the rent due, knowing of the subletting, cannot remove the tenant.

Right to Inspect Premises.-The landlord has the right to enter upon the premises to ascertain whether there is any waste or injury done, after first giving notice of his intention.

Making Repairs.—Unless expressly covenanted, the landlord is not obliged to make the necessary repairs. If a tenant wishes his land-lord to make special repairs during the term he must stipulate for the same in the lease. But if the landlord does agree to make all necessary re-pairs and fails to do so, even that does not relieve the tenant from paying rent.

Notice to Quit.—In case of a tenant at will, or one who holds over after the expiration of his lease with the consent of the landlord, a notice to quit is necessary to compel him to give up his possession. This notice must, as a general rule, be given at a date before some "rent day," and distant from it by the usual period at which rent is payable. Thus, if it is payable monthly, there should be a month's notice ending on the day when the rent is payable. The time for giving notice, however, is usually fixed by statute in the different states in order that summary proceedings for possession may be commenced. If the rent is in arrears, only a brief notice is required. In most of the states this is fixed at from five to fourteen days. Such notice need not be made to end upon the day when rent is payable.

Refusal to Vacate.—If a tenant refuses to vacate the premises after the termination of his lease, from any cause, the proper and safest way for the landlord, as well as the cheapest, is to get him out by process of law, or by a sealed lease to a third party, who can legally claim possession.

Rights of Tenant

Some of the rights of tenants are embodied in the above statements of the rights of the landlord.

To What a Tenant Is Entitled.—In taking possession of the premises the tenant is entitled to all the privileges and appurtenances to the property in all their details without being expressed in the lease.

Sale of Property.—The landlord affects the tenant's rights by selling the property, if he has a written lease. Such sale must be made subject to the rights of the tenant.

The Right to Sublet.—A tenant can sublet the rented premises or any part of them, unless expressly prohibited from doing so by the terms of the lease. He, however, remains responsible to his landlord, unless the latter accepts such third party as his tenant in place of the former and releases him in writing.

Lease Assignable.--A tenant's lease is always assignable unless it contains restrictions to the contrary. Such an assignment, however, in some states, must be under seal. The assignment may be for a part or the whole of the original term, but if for less than the original term, then it is properly subletting.

The Subtenant.—The subtenant bears no relation to the original landlord and is not responsible to him for rent. The tenant from whom he has rented is his only landlord. In the case of an assignment of the lease the new tenant becomes the tenant of the original landlord and must pay him the rent.

Repairs.—A tenant cannot make repairs upon the property rented and deduct the amount paid out from the rent, for that would be in effect compelling the landlord to do it.

Making Improvements.—For improvements that become part of the premises, or such as can-not be removed without injury to the same, the tenant can claim no allowance from the landlord; but a tenant may remove from rented property articles which he has placed for use in some trade, such as engines or other machines, or even in some cases of buildings erected for the same purpose, or articles for domestic use, such as furnaces, shelves, gas fixtures, etc. Of course a ten-ant can remove his personal property any time at pleasure.

Right to Quit—Where the renting is for a definite time no notice from either party to the other is necessary, as the landlord has the immediate right of possession as soon as the time expires; so the tenant has also the right to vacate at that time without giving notice to the landlord. Where, however, no limit of time is set a notice from either party is required.

Payment of Taxes.—Where the tenant is to pay the taxes on the property he occupies it must be distinctly stated in the lease, as a verbal promise is of no effect.

Effects of Mortgage.—If after renting the land-lord should mortgage the property, the mortgagee's rights would be subject to those of the tenant holding a lease in writing (duly recorded if necessary under statute), and a sale or fore-. closure could not disturb the tenant's possession.

Duties of the Landlord

1. It is the landlord's duty to see to it that his tenant has the quiet enjoyment of the premises and is not disturbed by any one having a better title to the same than the landlord.

2. The landlord must not render the tenant's occupation uncomfortable by erecting anything like a nuisance on or near the premises.

3. If not otherwise provided for in the lease, it is the landlord's duty to pay the taxes, ground rent, or interest on a mortgage that may exist.

4. The landlord is not bound to make repairs or allow the tenant for repairs which he may make unless especially agreed for in advance and so stated in the lease.

Duties of the Tenant

1. The tenant must take such care of the premises that others may not be injured by any neglect of any part of it.

2. The chief duty of tenant is to pay rent. If no time for possession is fixed, then he is only obliged to pay for time he has occupied; but if under any agreement for a certain term he will have to pay for that term.

3. He is expected to keep the premises wind and water tight and repair all damages made or suffered by him. Natural wear and tear he need not make good.

4. The tenant is obliged to return the premises to his landlord at the end of his term undiminished in value by any willful or negligent act of his. This requires him to replace broken doors or windows, or such other articles as may have been broken by use, neglect or accident.

Lease for Renting a House--Short Form

This instrument, made the first day of April, 19-- witnesseth, that I have this day let and rented unto Charles Waters my house and premises, No. 430 Lincoln Ave., in the City of Aurora and State of Illinois, with the sole and uninterrupted use and occupation thereof for one year, to commence the first day of May next, at the monthly rental of twenty-five dollars, payable in advance.

Witness my hand and seal.


Lease for Renting a House—Long Form

This Indenture, made the 20th day of May, 19 -, between William B. Clark, of Chicago, State of Illinois, of the first part, and James L. Holmes, of the same place, of the second part,

Witnesseth, That the party of the first part has hereby let and rented to the party of the second part, and the party of the second part has hereby hired and taken from the party of the first part, the ground floor, cellar, and second story of the premises known as 4244 Indiana Ave., in the City of Chicago, with the appurtenances, for the term of three years, to commence the first day of June, 19-, at the yearly rental of nine hundred dollars ($900), payable in equal quarterly payments on the usual quarter days in each year.

And it is agreed that if any rent shall be due and unpaid, or if default shall be made in any of the covenants herein named, then it shall be lawful for the said party of the first part to re-enter the said premises and to remove all per-sons therefrom.

And the said party of the second party covenants to pay to the said party of the first part the said rent as herein specified, and that at the expiration of the said term the said party of the second part will quit and surrender the premises in as good state and condition as reasonable use and wear thereof will permit, damages by the elements excepted; and the said party of the first part covenants that the said party of the second part on paying the said yearly rent and per-forming the covenants aforesaid shall and may peaceably and quietly have, hold, and enjoy the said demised premises for the term aforesaid.

In witness whereof the parties hereto have hereunto interchangeably set their hands.


Landlord's Agreement

This certifies that I have let and rented, this first day of September, 19-, unto Charles Burrows, my house and lot, No. 450 Taylor. Street, in the City of St. Louis, State of Missouri, and its appurtenances ; he to have the free and uninterrupted occupation thereof for one year from this date at the yearly rental of five hundred dollars, to be paid monthly in advance, rent to cease if destroyed by fire or otherwise made untenantable. HENRY BRANDON.

Tenant's Agreement

This certifies that I have hired and taken from Henry Brandon his house and lot, No. 450 Taylor Street, in the City of St. Louis, State of Missouri, with appurtenances thereto belonging, for one year, to commence this day, at a yearly rental of five hundred dollars, to be paid monthly in advance unless said house becomes untenantable from fire or other causes, in which case rent ceases, and I further agree to give and yield said premises one year from this first day of September, 19-, in as good condition as now, ordinary wear and damage by the elements excepted.

Given under my hand this day, etc.


Landlord's Notice to Quit


SIR: Please observe that the term of one year for which the house and land situated at No. 450 Taylor Street, and now occupied by yourself, were rented to you, expired on the first day of September, 19-, and as I desire to repossess said premises you are hereby requested and required to vacate the same.

Respectfully yours,


St. Louis, Mo., June to, 19-.

Tenant's Notice of Leaving


SIR: The premises I now occupy as your tenant at No. 450 Taylor Street I shall vacate on the first day of July, i9-. You will please take notice accordingly.

Yours truly,


St. Louis, Mo., Sept. io, Io--.


Although the general laws applicable to landlords and tenants are given under that head, some additional features pertaining to farm leases demand special attention.

General Duties of Farm Tenants.—A tenant of a farm is bound without a special clause in the lease to cultivate the land, and generally so to manage all the affairs of the farm as good husbandry requires, and as is the custom in the vicinity.

Crops.—As a general rule when no time is specified at which the tenancy shall cease, the tenant is entitled to the so-called "away-going crops," or crops of the present season, but when the time is fixed and certain the tenant is not entitled to such crops, because he knew when he sowed that he took the risk of getting his crops off before the termination of his lease. It is also held that the tenant leaving is entitled only to the annual productions of the soil raised by his own labor, which does not include the permanent and natural products of the earth, such as trees, fruits of the orchard, natural grasses and the like. Local usages of the country are, however, largely taken into consideration here, and special statutes of the states may vary greatly in this respect.

Manure.—It is a general law that manure upon a leased farm cannot be removed by the outgoing tenant.

Fixtures.—The question as to what constitutes fixtures on a farm is a broad one, and we can only say that respecting this the rules are liberal in favor of the tenant. It is stated in a general way that a tenant may sever and remove at any time all such fixtures of a chattel nature as he has him-self erected or placed upon the rented premises for the purpose of ornament, domestic convenience, or to carry on a certain trade; such may be in some cases engines, machinery or buildings erected by him for such machinery.

Taxes. The tenant in possession is generally considered as liable for the taxes, but without special agreement he is under no obligation to his landlord to pay the taxes. This statutory liability varies in different states.

Good Advice.—No class of litigation is more intricate and technical than that of landlord and tenant. It should therefore be avoided if possible. In order to do so have your lease carefully executed, specifying as far as possible all details of conditions, and then observe them carefully. If, however, any one, be he landlord or tenant, anticipates difficulty, then we advise him to secure the services of a competent lawyer to help him if possible to avert the litigation or to conduct it for him.

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