A life lease can be for the life of the tenant, for a specific term (e.g. 50 years), and some have no specified termination date. Under a life lease, a tenant pays an entrance fee for a rental unit. The tenant also pays rent each month to cover maintenance and other expenses. They then have exclusive use of their suite, shared use of all common areas and facilities, and other benefits. Majority of life lease communities are developed and owned by non-profit organizations, charitable groups, service clubs or religious institutions.
Properly structured, the life lease form of ownership offers similar protection to freehold ownership. For example, the life lease can be registered on title to the property the same as a deed can be registered on a condominium or detached house. When a resident leaves or passes away, the lease usually can be sold to someone on the sponsor’s waiting list or on the open market, or transferred back to the development’s sponsoring organization. Some life lease agreements permit the interest to be passed to the resident’s family through their will. Conditions of this right of transfer are determined by the non-profit organization that establishes the life lease project. Most non-profit organizations, in consultation with the residents, restrict who can live in the building to ensure that the integrity of the community is maintained. Often the life lease project maintains a waiting list of applicants, who meet the entrance criteria for the housing community, and have first option to purchase the life lease.