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Ground Lease


A ground lease is a type of agreement that permits a tenant to develop a piece of property during the lease period. The tenant has to return the land and all improvements to the property owner when the lease ends. The property owner generally retains all the rights to the land.


The phonetics of “Ground Lease” is: /graʊnd li:s/

Key Takeaways

  1. Long-term Agreement: Ground leases are typically long-term lease agreements. This usually spans over several decades, sometimes even up to 99 years. The tenant can construct buildings or make improvements on the property during the lease term.
  2. Land Ownership: Despite the long-term lease, the ownership of the land remains with the landowner. While the tenant owns any improvements made on the land, the ownership of these developments typically reverts back to the landowner at the end of the lease term.
  3. Risk and Reward: Ground leases pass some responsibilities from the landowner to the tenant. The tenant will generally be responsible for property taxes, building insurance, and maintenance costs. However, the tenant also tends to reap the financial benefits of property appreciation and rental income from subtenants.


A Ground Lease is an important term in business/finance as it refers to an agreement in which a tenant is permitted to develop a piece of property during the lease period, after which all land and improvements are turned over to the property owner. The significance of a ground lease comes from its potential long-term financial benefits for both tenant and landowner. For instance, it allows landowners to retain ownership and provides them with a steady income without any capital investment, while for the tenant, it enables them to utilize a piece of land with a lower up-front cost in comparison to buying the land outright. Ground leases are also significant due to their potential for tax benefits and their unique implications in the realm of borrowing and finance.


A ground lease serves a distinct yet vital role within the realm of real estate, benefiting both the lessee and the lessor in unique ways. Essentially, it avails the opportunity for a tenant to use a piece of undeveloped land for development purposes, usually spanning a considerable length of time, such as decades or even up to 99 years. This is particularly advantageous for tenants who aim to use the land for their business purposes but do not wish to initially outlay the heavy cost of purchasing the land outright.From the landlord’s perspective, a ground lease is a strategic method to maintain ownership of the land, and by the end of the lease agreement, any improvements made to it by the tenant, such as buildings or other structures, will revert back to the landlord. This agreement grants the landowner a reliable stream of income over a period of time, and they can further capitalize on the development when the lease ends. Ground leases serve as useful vehicles in long-term real estate investments and business operations, granting benefits to both parties involved.


1. Retail Spaces: A real-world example of a ground lease can be seen in retail businesses. Many fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks lease the land for their locations via ground leases. The company, rather than purchasing the lot, leases the ground from the landowner and builds their establishment on it. This strategy allows them to invest more money into operations rather than sinking it into real estate.2. Telecommunication Companies: Telecom companies frequently utilize ground leases for their cell towers. The landowner rents a small parcel of land to these companies who then construct and maintain a cell tower. The property owner earns consistent rent without having to manage or operate the cell tower installation. 3. Disney World: One of the most famous examples of a ground lease is that of Disney World in Florida, USA. Walt Disney Company did not purchase the land on which Disney World sits. Rather, they lease it from the governing body, an arrangement that allows them to retain more capital for other uses.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Ground Lease?

A Ground Lease is an agreement in which a tenant is permitted to develop a piece of property during the lease period, after which the property and all improvements are turned over to the property owner.

How does a Ground Lease work?

In a Ground Lease, the landowner leases the land to a tenant, who then constructs a building or makes improvements on it. The tenant pays rent to the landowner for the use of the land.

What are the advantages of a Ground Lease for a tenant?

The tenant doesn’t have to pay the large upfront cost of buying the land, allowing them to retain more capital for business operations.

What are the primary benefits for landowners in a Ground Lease?

The landowner can enjoy a steady income from the lease and the potential appreciation of the land, while still retaining ownership.

How long does a Ground Lease typically last?

Ground Leases are usually long-term leases, lasting between 50 to 99 years.

Can a Ground Lease be terminated early?

Depending on the terms of the lease agreement, a Ground Lease could potentially be terminated early. However, there would often be a significant penalty for the tenant to do so.

What happens when a Ground Lease expires?

When a Ground Lease expires, ownership of the land and all improvements made on it usually revert back to the landowner.

Is it possible to sell a Ground Lease?

Yes, tenants can often sell their lease, but the sale may be subject to approval from the landowner based on the original lease agreement.

What are the risks associated with a Ground Lease?

Risks can include regulatory changes affecting land use, disputes over land ownership, and market depreciation. The lease agreement should detail how these risks are managed.

What types of businesses typically use Ground Leases?

Ground Leases are commonly used by businesses that require expensive land locations for operations, including fast food restaurants, big box stores, and hotels.

Related Finance Terms

  • Subordinated Ground Lease
  • Unsubordinated Ground Lease
  • Leasehold Estate
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Landlord’s Lien

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