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A 'legal lease' is a Lease that is recognized by law, rather than by equity. Since 1925, there has been only one sort of legal lease, the term of years absolute. To be recognized as legal, the lease must
- be made by deed, unless it is of less than three years' duration, and
- be for a term fixed in advance, possibly recurring, and
- (if for longer than 7 years) registered with its own registered title, and
- fulfil the general criteria for recognition as a lease, rather than a licence (see lease or licence).
An agreement that satisfies the criteria to be recognized as a lease, but not the formality requirements to be a legal lease, may be recognized by the courts as an equitable lease. The obligations on the landlord and tenant are the same, but the protection of third-party interests against sale of the land is different.