LAND, houses, cattle and services can be leased. In this article, we will focus on leasing land. According to the Civil Code of Saint Lucia, Chapter 4.01, 2006 Revised Edition, Book seventh, Chapter first, clause 1509: a lease is a way to give an individual the rights of enjoyment of land for a specified period. It is renting land; the lessor is the individual who owns the land and the lessee is the individual renting the land. Here are some points to consider when signing a lease agreement.
(1) Rent: be clear how much the land is being rented for, and whether or not this is a fair price compared to similar properties. Depending on the area, the quantity of land and how much the land is worth (is it flat, hilly, has a water feature), and the rental value should be comparative to other properties in the area. The lessee should do some research to make sure he or she is getting a good deal. Further, it should be clear how the rent will be calculated and when it will be paid.
(2) Commencement: it is important to know the date which the lessee will start renting for the land. This should be spelt out in the lease agreement. If for some reason it becomes difficult to move onto or start using the land by the agreed date, this should be discussed in advance to determine what course of action to pursue. The commencement date can be adjusted to reflect the delay especially if it beyond the control of the lessee; for example, renovations are being done to the property.
(3) Length: the agreement should indicate how long the lease will be effective; whether it is a short term or long term lease would be clear depending on the duration of the agreement. Ordinarily, if the lease is for under a year, it is considered a short term lease and if it is for longer, then it is a long term lease.
(4) Is there an option to renew? A useful inclusion to the agreement which is not compulsory by law is whether the agreement can be automatically renewed to the satisfaction of both the lessor and lessee once the time has lapsed for the lease. In any event, if the parties have not agreed to such an extension and the lessee remains on the property eight days beyond the expiration of the lease without any objection from the lessor, the lease is deemed to have been renewed. It would mean that the lease has been extended, and the lessee would have to continue to pay the rent beyond the time period of the agreement.
(5) Duties and obligations of the lessor and lessee: these will vary depending on the characteristics of the property and the express terms and conditions agreed by the parties. For example, the lessee would be expected to maintain the property and keep it in good condition, and to use the property for the purpose for which it is designed. Further, the lessee would be responsible for any damage or injury to the property while leasing the property unless the lessee can prove that damage was not his or her fault. On the other hand, the lessor would be expected to deliver the property in good condition and allow the enjoyment of the property giving the time of the lease. The lessor cannot change the form of the lease while the property is being leased.
(6) Seek legal advice:The client shouldconsult a lawyer to prepare the lease agreement on his or her behalf. It is mutually beneficial to both parties for the lease agreement to be clearly drafted. The lessor’s attorney would usually draft the lease agreement. There are legal and practical considerations that an attorney can advise on which can easily be omitted if attempted without first discussing this with a lawyer.
It is important when signing a lease to read and understand the terms and conditions of the lease. Both parties, the lessor and the lessee, should have a witness with them to sign the agreement before a lawyer. Leases vary in length and content depending on the specifications of the property and the purpose of the land being leased. It is an interesting alternative to ownership of land, which would attract tax and other financial commitments.
Ms. Trudy O. Glasgow is a practising attorney at the law firm Trudy O. Glasgow & Associates and a court-appointed mediator in Saint Lucia (and has also taught law at University level in the UK)*
This column is for general use only, for advice specifically for your case, please see your lawyer.
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