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Property II
University of Georgia School of Law
Milot, Lisa

I. Landlord & Tenant Law
a. Major Themes
i. Leases are both conveyances of land and contracts
1. Contract law has become the modern vehicle for reforming property doctrines
a. Traditional View: Leases viewed as conveyances of property
b. Modern View: Leases viewed as contracts between the landlord and the tenant with a continuing exchange of promises
c. Today: Lease is a hybrid with property and contract rules applying at different times.
ii. Basic principles of landlord tenant law fit all types of leases (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.)
1. EXCEPTION: Since the 1970s, the consumer protection movement has developed special rules and procedures to protect residential tenants (generally there are addition rules to protect residential tenants)
a. Reasoning:
i. Commercial leases are equal dealings between two parties
ii. Residential leases are contracts of adhesion
b. Process:
i. Common law: Pro-tenant judicial decisions
ii. Statutory law:
1. Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (URLTA): act that comprehensively regulates residential tenancies, in many instances reversing or modifying common law rules.
iii. Terminology:
1. Tenant: One who holds possessory estate in land for a determinate period or at will of another
a. During leasehold, tenant has a present possessory estate
2. Landlord: Holds an estate of greater duration than the tenant
a. During leasehold, landlord has a future estate in reversion (landlord gets property back if lease is not renewed)
3. Lease: Documentary instrument that creates the landlord tenant relationship. Leases DO NOT have to be in writing, in certain circumstances leases can be oral
a. Leases contain contractual covenants binding both parties (i.e. covenant to pay rent that is binding on the tenant)
b. Some leases may not have any covenant (i.e. no covenant to pay rent)
c. Leases can exist even if the tenant is not paying rent (no consideration)
i. Landlord still has obligations under lease
ii. Common law and statutory law obligations of landlord are still imposed
b. Nature and Types of Leasehold Estates
i. Leasehold is a possessory estate
1. Tenant has a right to a specific parcel of real property
2. Leasehold is a non-freehold estate (possessor does not have seisen)
3. Under English law, leaseholders were considered chattel real
a. Chattel: legal character as personal property (like actual chattels)
b. Real: Physical character as land
ii. There are four types of leasehold estates, distinguished by the duration & the tenant’s right to possession
1. Estate for Years (Term of years): Tenant has possession for a fixed period of time, agreed upon by the parties
2. Periodic Estate (periodic tenancy): The tenant has possession for a fixed period of time, which repeats unless either party terminates the lease by giving notice of termination to the other party
3. Estate at Will (tenancy at will): The tenant has possession for no definite length of time, and either party can terminate the lease at any time
4. Estate at Sufferance (tenancy at sufferance): When a tenant under one of the other three types of lease holds over (remains in possession without the landlord’s consent). The estate at sufferance lasts indefinitely-until the tenant is evicted or surrenders possession or until the parties enter into a different type of tenancy
iii. Most leases are bargained for exchanges: Landlord gives the tenant possession in exchange for rent.
1. Consideration is NOT required, a landlord can simply give a leasehold to a tenant
iv. Norms governing disputes between landlords and tenants can be found in a variety of sources:
1. Written lease: defines the rights and obligations of the parties
2. Common law: Rules that govern disputes in the absence of an enforceable agreement to the contrary
3. Statutes: Touching the landlord-tenant relation. Statutory schemes are rarely comprehensive
4. Ordinances: Local governments frequently enact ordinances that govern some leases and some disputes
5. Regulation: Some states have regulated the landlord-tenant relationship in unfair trade practice statutes or regulations adopted to implement those statutes
v. Leases vs. licenses
1. License: Right to use somebody else’s property for a period of time
2. Lease: Right to have sole possession of land for a period of time
a. A person must have a lease

Prescott v. Smits: Landlord rents to farmers. Farmers object to term of written lease. Eventually move off land b/c condition is inadequate. Landlord sues for unpaid rent. Farmer countersues for breach of oral contract by not providing land adequate for farming. Court turns 3-year lease into periodic tenancy for 1 year
c. Delivery of Possession
i. Dieffenbach v. McIntyre: Woman makes arrangements to rent 4 rooms as beauty parlor. At time, landlord fails to oust other tenants. Tenant argues she is given actual possession of the land, landlord argues that he is only required to provide legal possession. Court sides with tenant. (disturbing because it provides no bargaining ability for prior tenants- landlord can arbitrarily kick them out)
1. Today most states have statutes that regulate the right of a landlord to raise rent
ii. Delivery of Possession Rules
1. American Rule: Only obligation in lease is to provide legal possession
2. British Rule (Majority Rule): Landlord is required to provide actual possession
3. Restatement Rule: Hybrid of English & American rules
a. Landlord is required to move third parties within a reasonable period of time after the beginning of the lease
i. During that time, tenant is permitted to have rent abatement
b. Criteria for determining reasonableness
i. Did tenants have another place where they could live?
ii. Is there reason for the delay?
iii. Specific actions taken by the landlord? (different states have different standards of eviction)
4. URLTA: “At the commencement of the term a landlord shall deliver possession of the premises to the tenant. The landlord may bring an action for possession against any person wrongfully in possession and may recover [damages against the holdover tenant].