Leases: certainty of term

In Say v Smith ((1563) 1 Plowden 269, 75 E.R. 410) one of the questions was as to the validity of an agreement under which a tenant was to have a right (subject to paying the rent at the end of each ten year term) to a perpetual series of ten year leases. The court decided that this was not valid since there was no certainty of term:

‘[E]very contract sufficient to make a lease for years ought to have certainty in three limitations, viz. in the commencement of the term, in the continuance of it and in the end of it: so that all ought to be known at the commencement of the lease, and words in a lease which don’t make this appear are but babble … And these three are in effect but one matter, shewing the certainty of the time for which the lessee shall have a land, and if any of these fail, it is not a good lease for then there wants certainty.’

The arrangement was invalid since the understanding that the renewals would continue in perpetuity meant that there was no certainty of term.

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