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  • Writer's pictureAlice Devine

Who Says Latin Is Dead? Certainly Not The Lease Document...

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Remember crusty Mr. Murphy who taught Classics? He told us the subject was relevant to our lives. Pick up any lease document, and we realize he was right. Latin rears its elegant head throughout legal documents. So if you skipped class, knowing some common phrases might help in your day-to-day real estate life. See below for some of the most common:

#learntolease #understandleaseclauses

Ad valorem: according “to the value;” imposed at a rate percent of value (ad valorem tax on goods)

For leases . . . sometimes used in expansion, extension, and rights of offer clauses that discuss fair market value.

Bona fide: “In good faith, genuine”

For leases . . . implies sincere good intention regardless of outcome. Can refer to a landlord's or tenant's efforts during the course of the lease (and in court).

Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware, a principle in commerce: without a warranty, the buyer takes the risk

For leases . . . ‘nuff said.

De facto: common in practice, but not established by law; in reality

Force majeure: OK, you’re right, it’s French—not Latin—and means (1) Superior or irresistible force or (2) An event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled

For leases . . . often used in “Damage and Destruction” clauses; think lightning, earthquakes, hurricanes.

Quid pro quo: “This for that” or "something for something;" something given or received for something else

For leases . . . the granddaddy of negotiation concepts.

Subrogate: to put in the place of another; especiallyto substitute (something or someone, such as a second creditor) for another with regard to a legal right or claim

For leases . . . think insurance clauses.

In my own leasing career, I have found the Commercial Lease Law Insider helpful (note: this is my own tip, not any paid advertisement). By signing up for the free eAlerts at, you receive “commercial real estate news and trends, as well as quick tips for drafting owner-friendly leases and avoiding lawsuits,” according to the site. If you fall in love with the publication, you can subscribe to the regular newsletter, which will lighten your wallet some. Honorary JD not included.

Old Mr. Murphy must be having quite a laugh.


(Definitions source:


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