Contributed By McGuireWoods LLP
The primary arrangement in Virginia to document the use of real estate for a limited period of time is a lease, in which a property owner (as “landlord” or “lessor”) grants a leasehold estate to an occupant or user (as “tenant” or “lessee”) for a stated period. This may also take the form of a sublease, where an existing tenant/lessee grants a “sub”-leasehold estate to another occupant or user (as “subtenant” or “sublessee”). The sublease is often on separate written terms and conditions, and is typically subject and subordinate to the primary (or “master”) lease.
Alternatively, parties may elect to enter into a license agreement, which is a contractual arrangement that can be similar in nature to a lease, depending on the terms negotiated by the parties. The primary difference between a lease and a license is that, at common law, a license is revocable by the grantor and does not grant any formal “property” rights. Licenses are typically utilized for more short-term uses where the parties do not wish to establish a formal leasehold estate.
Finally, parties may also enter into an easement for this purpose. Like a lease, an easement grants an interest in real property, and for this reason easements are most commonly used to grant rights of a permanent nature (eg, utility easements, rights of way, etc). However, temporary easements are utilized in certain circumstances (eg, temporary access/construction easements, crane swing easements, etc). Easements may be exclusive or non-exclusive in nature.