The Law Q&A | Veto by just 1 landlord enough to kill farm lease

The Law Q&A | Veto by just 1 landlord enough to kill farm lease

It's that time of year when farm leases soon start up for another 12 months.

What happens if you have more than one landlord owning the ground you lease and only one of them gave you a notice last autumn that your year-to-year lease was not being renewed, but the other landlords told you they are happy to renew the lease for another year?

An Illinois appellate court recently addressed that issue.

Year-to-year leases are ones which will automatically renew for another year unless one of the parties gives the other a notice in writing, before four months are left on that year's term, telling the other party that they do not want the lease renewed.

If no notice is given before that time, then the lease is automatically renewed under Illinois law for another year on the same terms as that previous year.

But suppose in your year-to-year farm lease with Cousin Iella and Cousin Elwood it was Iella, whom you could never stand at the family Christmas dinners, who gave you her written notice last Halloween of a nonrenewal (because she is just as sick of you as you are of her).

But also suppose that Cousin Elwood told you last Halloween that he's delighted to keep you on for another term. Are you terminated or not?

You are, say the Illinois appellate courts. Even if only one of your landlords gives you notice of nonrenewal, that's enough. It doesn't matter that the other landlord didn't give you such notice, and indeed may have given you a verbal agreement to renew.

This is what occurred in that case recently when a tenant was being evicted by the terminating landlord.

One way to avoid this predicament is to have a lease for a specific term with its own term of renewal. Specific term leases don't have to have this four-month termination requirement and indeed may have their own provisions for renewal.

Or they may say nothing at all about renewal and by definition will come to an end at the end of their specific term.

So, the way to avoid your fiasco is to have had a specific agreement that you will have a lease for one year which will automatically renew unless all the landlords agree to terminate.

If such an agreement had been made, Cousin Iella would have been bound to renew the lease unless she got Elwood on board to terminate.

By the way, any lease term longer than a year better be in writing otherwise it might not be enforceable under Illinois law. Thus, a farm lease, or any lease for that matter, that is vague as to its length, its renewal or its termination beyond the first year might end up being subjected to this four-month termination notice requirement, which need only be given by one of the landlords.

With any luck, maybe at the family Easter dinner Cousin Iella will choke on a turkey bone and Cousin Elwood will inherit her interest in the farm

Then you'd be back in business.

Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid Inc. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.