Garner v. Gerrish

Facts: Lease said "tenant has the privilege of termination of this agreement at a date of his own choice." There was also a provision that said landlord has a right to reentry if rent is not paid, and there is a 30 day grace. Tenant paid his rent timely. Owner dies, and executor of his estate, petitioner, served tenant with notice to quit the premises, but tenant refused. Petitioner then commenced this action to have tenant evicted. ® Petitioner argues: lease created a tenancy at will b/c it failed to specify a definite term ® Respondent argues: lease granted him a tenancy for life (period of time), unless he elects to leave. ® County Court decided: period of time is indefinite and uncertain. So granting the tenant the ability to terminate at will, then implies it is also at will of the landlord. When lease is made at will of tenant, then it must also be at will of the landlord. ® Decision on appeal. Issue: Whether a lease which grants the tenant the right to terminate the agreement at a date of his choice creates a determinable life tenancy on behalf of the tenant or merely establishes a tenancy at will. Holding: petition dismissed. Court decides it’s a determinable life tenancy. Reversed and

Reasoning: The court rejected the common law notion relied on by the lower courts, that such a lease created a tenancy at will. The court held there was no longer any reason why a lease granting tenant only the right to terminate should be converted into a tenancy at will terminable by either party. The lease in question simply granted a personal right to the appellant to terminate at a date of his choice and to hold otherwise would violate the terms of the agreement and the intent of the parties.

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