A lease is a right to the use and occupancy of real estate for a period of time. A lease is also the written document that evidences the existence of a landlord/tenant relationship. A lease entitles the tenant to use and possession of the leased premises. The lease typically contains a series of rights and responsibilities to be honored by the landlord and tenant, as well as a recitation of the agreed-upon rent.

A lease may be evidenced by a written document, or it may be an oral lease. However, most states limit the enforceability of oral leases. For example, depending upon state law, an oral lease for more than one year may not be enforceable unless it is in writing.

The two principal forms of lease or leasehold interests are:

A periodic tenancy is a lease that continues for succeeding periods or intervals, until either the landlord or tenant gives proper notice of termination. For example, the landlord conveys to the tenant “from month-to-month,” or “from week-to-week.” To terminate a periodic tenancy, notice (usually in written form) must be given. The amount of notice required is typically equal to the length of the period or interval itself. For example, a month-to-month periodic tenancy customarily requires one month’s notice customarily to end the tenancy.

The tenancy for years is a lease for a fixed, determined period of time. The period may be anywhere from one week to one month or even as long as 50 years. For example, the landlord conveys to the tenant “from March 1, 1999 to April 10, 2001.” Since a term of years states from the outset when the lease will expire, notice of termination is not necessary to bring it to an end.