By the statute of frauds in most states the lease must be in writing, if for a longer time than one year. Generally, if for one year or less it may be made orally, and this is true even though the term is to commence at a date in the future. In a few states leases can be made for only a limited number of years, while in others a lease for more than a certain number of years must be recorded.
Aside from the above provisions any further agreement between the parties may be incorporated in the writing. A lease is but a contract, and the full agreement of the parties should be set forth. Frequently the following covenant is inserted: "The party of the second part hereby covenants not to sublet said premises, or any portion thereof, without the written consent of said party of the first part."
The term of the lease is the time for which it is to run. If the tenant has been in possession under a lease for one or more years, and he retains possession without executing a new lease, he is presumed, in the absence of some agreement, to be a tenant from year to year, which means that his term after the expiration of the lease is one year, and if he remains in possession after the next year he is a tenant for another year.
The covenants contained in a lease are either expressed or implied. The implied covenants exist whether they are mentioned or not; the express covenants must be included in the express conditions of the lease, and may be many or few. The implied covenants, on the part of the lessor, are those regarding quiet enjoyment and the payment of taxes. The usual words of grant in a lease are "demise and lease," or "grant and demise,"these words being said to import a covenant of quiet enjoyment. This covenant is broken when the tenant is evicted by some one who has a paramount title. The landlord also impliedly covenants that he will pay all taxes assessed against the premises during the term. There is no implied covenant on the part of the lessor, or landlord, that the premises are in a tenantable condition. On the part of the lessee, or tenant, there is an implied covenant that he shall pay the rent stipulated for; and, although no sum is specified in the lease, the tenant must pay a reasonable rent, unless it appears that it was the intention of the parties that none was to be paid. The lessee also impliedly to keep the premises in ordinary repair.
Aside from the covenants in a lease there are certain rights and liabilities which arise from the relation of landlord and tenant. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary the tenant is entitled to the exclusive possession of the premises. He is liable for waste and is estopped from denying his landlord's title; that is, the tenant cannot for any purpose claim that the premises do not belong to his landlord. The landlord is under no obligation to repair unless the lease expressly binds him to such duty. And he is entitled to the fixtures annexed to and made a part of the realty.
Unless the tenant is restrained by an express covenant against subletting or assigning, he may assign or sublet his lease without the consent of the landlord. If the interest granted by the lessee is for a shorter time or for rights inferior to those granted in his own lease, it is a sublease.
At the expiration of the lease the landlord is entitled to the possession of the premises, and if the tenant does not surrender them, the landlord may institute proceedings to evict him. The statutes in the different states provide the procedure by which the tenant holding over after his lease has expired may be evicted on short notice. This is termed "summary proceedings." This form of procedure is also provided by statute for the eviction of the tenant when he does not pay his rent. Where the tenancy is not for any fixed period, but is a tenancy from year to year or month to month, it cannot be terminated by either party except by notice. Under the common law a tenancy from year to year could be terminated by notice six months before the expiration of the period, and in the case of a tenancy for a shorter period, as from month to month, by a notice equal to the length of the period. Until this notice has been given, the landlord cannot evict the tenant, and until the tenant has given a like notice to the landlord, he is liable to be held for the rent unless the landlord accepts his surrender of the premises. The statutes in the different states have in many instances changed the common law rule and a shorter notice is rendered sufficient.