To hold that this right may be defeated after the tenant's death, by evidence of his condition of health, or by his declarations or those of his lessee imputing a belief, however well founded, or knowledge, if such knowledge be possible, that his life would not continue until harvest time, would in many cases subvert an important object of the rule, the encouragement of husbandry, and open a fruitful source of unseemly litigation. A tenant in failing health, especially if he had expressed a belief that his end was near, would naturally hesitate to put in crops which might be successfully claimed by his successor in title, or in respect to which his estate might become invoked in litigation.
The question asked by the defendants of a witness as to the customary mode of sowing rye and preparing the ground for it, was properly excluded. We have shown that the plaintiff had a right to sow the rye for his own use, and it was a matter of no consequence to the remainderman how he did it. Nor did his right to the crop depend upon his cultivating the land according to the rules of good husbandry. If it was done in an unhusbandlike manner and in such a way that the crop would be an inconsiderable one, it would be wholly his own loss. The fact of his hurried and imperfect mode of sowing the land may have been of pertinence to the question whether he was in reality sowing rye or only pretending to do so. But it was not offered for this purpose, but to show that he was acting in the belief that the tenant for life would die in a few days. But as we have already shown, this belief was of no importance. His right did not depend upon the condition of the tenant for life. And he would have no interest in putting any labor on the land as a matter of mere pretense, as he would only lose his labor by so doing. There is no error in the judgment appealed from.
21 New York, 280. - 1860.
Action for money had and received by defendant to the use of plaintiffs. Judgment below for plaintiffs. Defendant appeals.
Comstock, Ch. J. - Mrs. Coe, by virtue of her husband's will, had a life estate in the premises, out of which the rents in question accrued, and the plaintiffs owned the remainder in fee. She died April 5, 1855, the leases being then unexpired. On the 1st of May, following, the rents became due for the preceding quarter of a year. The defendant is the executor and residuary legatee of Mrs. Coe, and having collected the rents for the whole quarter, the principal question in the case is, whether he is entitled to apportion them by dividing the quarter into two periods of time, one before and the other after her death, and by retaining in his own hands the portion which accrued before that event.
As rent follows the reversionary estate, the law allows it to be apportioned where that estate becomes divided amongst different owners. This is according to the maxim, "accessorium sequitur naturam suiprincipalis." Thus, if a reversion descend on the death of the ancestor who gave the lease, and the coparceners or heirs make a partition, the rent will be apportioned in favor of each of them. So if the reversion be severed by will or even by conveyance of the owner, the same result will take place. 2 Platt on Leases, 131, 132, and cases cited. But the same reasons never existed for apportioning rent on the principle of time where the tenant was bound to pay it at stated periods. The sum accruing between each of the times of payment was a single entire debt, and was due only on the condition precedent of the tenant being entitled to enjoy the premises for the time in respect to which it was payable. If, therefore, a person having a life estate, with no power to make a lease to continue longer than during his life, should make a lease for years, reserving rent half yearly, and should die in the middle of a half year, the rent, according to the principles of the common law, would be lost for the half of a year. The executor or representative of the lessor could not recover it, because by the nature of the contract the lessor was not entitled to it except in the sums and at the times specified in the lease. His successor in the reversionary estate could not claim it for the additional reason that the reversion was not his until the lease itself was terminated by the death of the life tenant who gave it. If the lessee continues to hold afterwards, such holding is necessarily under some new contract with the party on whom the estate has devolved. Woodfall's Land and Ten. 248; 1 Salk., 65; 1 P.Wm. 392; 2 Id., 501, 502; 1 Man. & Gr., 589, 13 N. H., 343; 11 Mass., 493.1
If, however, the lease continues, although intermediate, the days of payment, the reversion passes wholly into new hands; the obligation of the lessee to pay rent continues also. Thus, in the middle of a quarter the lessor may convey the whole estate which is under the lease, or it may be sold under execution or mortgage, or he may die leaving it to descend to his heirs, or he may dispose of it by will. The lease itself is unaffected by these events, and the rent is, therefore, payable as though they did not occur; but it is payable only in the sums and at times specified in the demise. The reversion may be transmitted to a new owner during a period between the days of payment, but such an event does not divide the obligation of the tenant. The accruing rent follows the reversion wheresoever that goes, and neither the former owner nor his representative can recover any portion of it. Being recoverable only in a single sum and not until the prescribed day of payment, the common law gives it to him who is the reversioner at that time, and no case can be found where a court of equity has adopted a different rule. Says Mr. Woodfall, Law of Landlord and Tenant, 248, " at common law rent cannot be apportioned, but the reversioner becomes entitled to the accruing rent from the rent day antecedent to the decease of the tenant for life, whose representative was entitled to the arrearages due at some rent day before the death of the testator, or the intestate; for the law does not apportion rent in point of time nor does equity." See, also, 2 Greenleaf's Cruise, p. 116, §§ 44, 45,46, Ex parte Smyth, 1 Swanst. 3.37, and note, and other cases cited, supra. It is true there are in the English books some cases of a peculiar kind, where on the death of a tenant for life before the day of paying rent for the current quarter or other period, the rent has been divided between his representative and the remainderman; but these are all cases in which the lease terminated on the decease of the life tenant; either because he had no power to lease so as to affect the remainderman, or because if such a power was given to him it had been defectively executed, and the lessee, holding the premises until the rent day voluntarily paid the whole to the person who succeeded to the estate.