99-year lease

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A 99-year lease was, under historic common law, the longest possible term of a lease of real property. It is no longer the law in most common law jurisdictions today, yet 99-year leases continue to be common as a matter of business practice and conventional wisdom.

The law[edit]

Under the traditional American common law doctrine, the 99-year term was not literal, but merely an arbitrary time span beyond the life expectancy of any possible lessee or lessor.[1][2]

William Blackstone states that a lease was formerly limited to 40 years, although much longer leases (for 300 years, or 1000 years) were in use by the time of Edward III.[3] The 40-year limit was based on the unreliable text "The Mirror of Justices" (book 2, chapter 27).

In the law of several US states, a 99-year lease will always be the longest possible contract for realty by statute, but many have enacted shorter terms and some allow infinite terms.[4]

The 99-year lease concept has been more common under the civil law regimes when it comes to concessions of territory: most concessions last for 99 years.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mortgage News Daily web site article on a 99-year lease. Accessed 20 February 2008.
  2. ^ Cecil Adams, Why are leases made for 99-year terms?, 22 July 1977, found at The Straight Dope article on 99-year lease. Accessed 20 February 2008.
  3. ^ William Blackstone (1753), Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 2, Chapter IX "Of estates less than freehold"
  4. ^ Law Office of James Kaklamanos web site page on 99-year lease. Accessed 20 February 2008.