May 26, 2023


In this comprehensive article, you will learn about the various types of leases, their characteristics, and components that make up a lease agreement. The article also discusses the roles and responsibilities of lessors and lessees, as well as the criteria for determining lease classifications and their impact on accounting treatments.

Furthermore, you will gain valuable insight into the advantages and disadvantages of leasing for both lessors and lessees. The article also provides an overview of the lease negotiation process and essential commercial lease negotiation tips. Additionally, it covers accounting standards for leases, including IAS 17, IFRS 16, and US GAAP, along with their respective treatment and disclosure requirements.

Lastly, you will explore lease termination and renewal processes, their reasons, and the implications on accounting treatments.

What Are Leases?

A lease is a contractual agreement between two parties, where one party (the lessor) grants temporary possession and use of an asset to another party (the lessee) in exchange for a series of periodic payments. Leases can involve various types of assets, including real estate, vehicles, equipment, and machinery.

In essence, a lease enables the lessee to access and use an asset without having to purchase it outright, while the lessor retains ownership and the right to collect lease payments.

Types of Leases

Leases can be categorized into different types based on their terms and conditions. The primary types of leases are the operating lease, capital lease, and finance lease.

Operating Lease

An operating lease is a short-term lease arrangement in which the lessee gains temporary use of an asset without assuming ownership or responsibility for the asset’s maintenance and depreciation. Operating leases are commonly used for assets with a short useful life, such as office equipment, vehicles, and machinery. The lessor retains ownership of the asset, and at the end of the lease term, the lessee has the option to return the asset, renew the lease, or purchase the asset at its fair market value.

Operating leases are considered off-balance-sheet financing since they do not require the lessee to record the asset and associated liability on its balance sheet. Instead, lease payments are treated as an operating expense and are recognized on the income statement.

Capital Lease

A capital lease, also known as a finance lease, is a long-term lease arrangement in which the lessee assumes most of the risks and rewards of asset ownership. Under a capital lease, the lessee is responsible for the asset’s maintenance, insurance, taxes, and bears the risk of its depreciation. At the end of the lease term, the lessee may have the option to purchase the asset at a bargain price or transfer ownership of the asset back to the lessor.

Capital leases are considered on-balance-sheet financing since they require the lessee to record the leased asset as an owned asset and the associated lease obligation as a liability on its balance sheet. Lease payments are recognized as a combination of interest expense and a reduction of the lease liability, with the interest portion recognized on the income statement.

Finance Lease

A finance lease is a type of lease that is similar to a capital lease but with a few differences. Finance leases are structured to transfer substantially all the risks and rewards of ownership to the lessee without formally transferring the legal title of the asset. Under a finance lease, the lessee is responsible for maintaining the asset, paying any taxes or insurance, and bearing the risk of depreciation.

Like a capital lease, a finance lease is considered on-balance-sheet financing, and the lessee must record the leased asset and the associated lease liability on its balance sheet. Lease payments are also recognized as a combination of interest expense and a reduction of the lease liability.

Characteristics of a Lease

Key characteristics of a lease include the lease term, lease payments, and the residual value of the leased asset. The lease term is the duration for which the lessee has the right to use the asset, and it is determined by the lease agreement. Lease payments are the periodic amounts paid by the lessee to the lessor for the use of the asset.

Residual value refers to the estimated worth of the asset at the end of the lease term, which can be significant in determining the lessee’s buyout option or depreciation expense in case of capital and finance leases.

Components of a Lease Agreement

A lease agreement is a legal contract between the lessor and the lessee that outlines the terms and conditions of the lease. Key components of a lease agreement include a description of the leased asset, lease term, lease payments, responsibilities of the lessee and lessor, insurance and maintenance requirements, renewal and purchase options, and any penalties or termination clauses.

A well-drafted lease agreement ensures that both parties clearly understand their rights and obligations, minimizing the potential for disputes and misunderstandings.

Roles in a Lease

A lease is a legal contract between two parties that outlines the terms and conditions for the rental of a property. In a lease, one party (the lessor) allows another party (the lessee) to use their property for a specified period in exchange for payment. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of both parties is essential for maintaining a healthy landlord-tenant relationship.


Lessors, also known as landlords or property owners, are the individuals or entities that grant the lease to the lessee. Lessors typically own residential or commercial properties that they rent out to lessees.

Characteristics of Lessors

  • Lessors can be individuals, partnerships, corporations, or other legal entities.
  • They must have the legal right to lease the property in question.
  • Lessors are responsible for providing a habitable property that is free from health and safety hazards.
  • They must be able to manage properties efficiently and in compliance with state and local laws.

Responsibilities of Lessors

  • Providing a clean and habitable property: It is the lessor’s responsibility to ensure that the property is clean, safe, and free from any health and safety hazards.
  • Maintenance and repairs: The lessor is generally responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the property, including the common areas and any items they provide, such as appliances or furniture. However, the lease may specify certain maintenance tasks the lessee is responsible for.
  • Collecting rent: The lessor must provide the lessee with clear payment terms and methods for rent payment.
  • Respecting the lessee’s privacy: Lessors must give proper notice before entering the property for inspections or repairs, except in emergency situations.
  • Addressing complaints: Lessors are responsible for addressing any issues or complaints from the lessee, such as noise disturbances or maintenance concerns.
  • Complying with local laws: Lessors are responsible for ensuring their properties and practices comply with local and state laws, including fair housing regulations, health and safety codes, and eviction procedures.


A lessee, also known as a tenant or renter, is the individual or entity that enters into a lease agreement with the lessor to rent and occupy a property for a specified period.

Characteristics of Lessees

  • Lessees can be individuals or entities, such as businesses or corporations.
  • They must have the financial capacity to pay rent and adhere to the terms of the lease.
  • Lessees agree to occupy and use the property in a manner consistent with the lease and applicable laws.
  • They are responsible for maintaining the property and notifying the lessor of any necessary repairs or issues.

Responsibilities of Lessees

  • Paying rent: Lessees are responsible for paying rent to the lessor as outlined in the lease agreement.
  • Maintaining the property: Lessees are responsible for keeping the property clean and in good condition. This includes any maintenance tasks specified in the lease and adhering to any rules and regulations set by the lessor.
  • Reporting issues: Lessees must notify the lessor of any maintenance issues, property damage, or potential health and safety hazards.
  • Respecting neighbors and community rules: Lessees must adhere to the rules set forth by the lessor and respect the rights and privacy of their neighbors.
  • Abiding by the terms of the lease: Lessees must follow all terms and conditions of the lease agreement, including restrictions on use of the property, alterations, or subleasing. Failure to comply with the lease terms may result in termination of the lease and possible eviction.
  • Providing proper notice: Lessees must provide the lessor with proper notice if they wish to terminate the lease early, as specified in the lease agreement.

By understanding and adhering to the roles and responsibilities of both lessors and lessees, a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship can be maintained, ensuring a successful leasing experience for both parties.

Determining Lease Classification

Lease classification is essential for both the lessee and lessor in accounting treatment because it affects the financial statement presentation, taxation, financial ratios, and other business decisions. The three major types of leases are operating leases, capital leases, and finance leases. This article will discuss the criteria to determine each type of lease classification and their impact on accounting treatment.

Criteria for Classification as an Operating Lease

An operating lease is a type of lease where the lessee only rents the asset for a short-term period, which is typically less than the economic life of the asset. The leased asset remains owned by the lessor, and the lessee only recognizes the lease payments as an expense on their income statement. The following are the criteria for classifying a lease as an operating lease:

  1. The lease term is significantly less than the economic life of the leased asset.
  2. The present value of the lease payments is less than the fair value of the asset.
  3. The lease agreement does not contain a bargain purchase option, making it unlikely that the leased asset will be acquired by the lessee at the end of the lease term.
  4. The leased asset experiences significant residual value fluctuations at the end of the lease term, which are borne by the lessor.
  5. The leased asset returns to the lessor at the end of the lease term and can be leased to other parties.

Criteria for Classification as a Capital Lease

A capital lease, also known as a finance lease under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), is a type of lease in which the lessee acquires a significant portion of the risks and benefits of owning the asset. This type of lease is typically used in long-term agreements where the lessee expects to use the asset for a significant portion of its economic life. The following criteria must be met for a lease to be classified as a capital lease under U.S. GAAP:

  1. The lease term is equal to or greater than 75% of the asset’s useful life.
  2. The present value of the lease payments is equal to or greater than 90% of the asset’s fair value.
  3. The lease agreement contains a bargain purchase option, allowing the lessee to purchase the asset at a significantly lower price than its fair market value at the end of the lease term.
  4. Ownership of the leased asset automatically transfers to the lessee at the end of the lease term.

Criteria for Classification as a Finance Lease

Under IFRS, a finance lease is similar to a capital lease under US GAAP. In a finance lease, the lessee is considered the owner of the asset for accounting purposes, and the lease is effectively a financing arrangement. The following criteria must be met for a lease to be classified as a finance lease under IFRS:

  1. Substantially all the risks and rewards incidental to ownership of the asset are transferred to the lessee.
  2. The lease term is for the majority of the asset’s economic life.
  3. The present value of the minimum lease payments amounts to substantially all of the asset’s fair value.
  4. The leased assets are of a specialized nature and can only be used by the lessee without significant modifications.

Impact of Lease Classification on Accounting Treatment

The classification of leases has significant implications for the accounting treatment of leased assets and lease payments. For operating leases, the lessee only reports lease payments as rental expenses on their income statement and does not recognize the leased asset and lease liability on its balance sheet. As a result, operating leases may make a company’s balance sheet appear more favorable when compared to capital or finance leases.

In contrast, for capital or finance leases, the lessee recognizes the leased asset and lease liability on their balance sheet, and they record the asset depreciation and interest expense on their income statement. This treatment results in higher reported assets and liabilities on the balance sheet, and potentially a more transparent representation of the company’s financial position.

For the lessor, the accounting treatment also differs based on lease classification. In an operating lease, the lessor maintains the asset on their balance sheet and recognizes lease income over the lease term. In a capital lease or finance lease, the lessor derecognizes the asset and recognizes the net investment in the lease on their balance sheet, resulting in different presentations of assets and revenue recognition patterns.

Overall, the proper classification of leases is essential, as it affects financial statement presentation, compliance with accounting standards, taxation, and various financial metrics used in decision-making.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Leasing

For the Lessor (Leasing Company)


  1. Steady cash flow: One of the major advantages for a lessor is a steady and predictable source of income. Lease agreements usually require lessees to make fixed monthly payments over an agreed-upon time period, providing the lessor with a consistent cash flow.

  2. Tax benefits: Lessors can benefit from various tax advantages. For example, in some jurisdictions, lease payments are considered a tax-deductible business expense, enabling the lessor to reduce the amount of tax they owe.

  3. Retained ownership: A significant advantage for the lessor is that they retain ownership of the asset while leasing it out. This means that the lessor assumes less risk as the asset remains under their control and retains its value for potential resale at the end of the lease term.

  4. Asset management: Leasing allows the lessor to monitor the condition and usage of their assets, ensuring they are properly maintained and managed. This can help minimize the depreciation of the leased asset and increase its resale value.

  5. Opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling: By leasing equipment, the lessor can offer add-on services such as maintenance, upgrading, or warranty extensions. This can generate additional revenue and strengthen the relationship with the lessee.


  1. Administrative and management costs: Leasing can involve significant management and administrative costs for the lessor, including marketing efforts, credit analysis, and legal expenses related to lease agreements.

  2. Risk of non-payment: As with any lending arrangement, there is a risk that the lessee may default on their lease payments. This can negatively impact the lessor’s cash flow and requires extra effort in debt collection.

  3. Depreciation: Leased assets may lose their value over time as they are used and exposed to wear and tear. This can make it challenging for the lessor to resell the asset and recover its initial cost.

  4. Obsolete assets: If the leased asset becomes obsolete or outdated during the lease term, it may not hold any value at the end of the lease period. This can result in financial losses for the lessor.

  5. Limitations on accessibility: In certain leasing arrangements, the lessor may face restrictions on accessing or utilizing the leased asset.

For the Lessee (Business or Individual)


  1. Preservation of working capital: Leasing allows a lessee to acquire assets without a large upfront payment, conserving working capital for other critical business needs.

  2. Predictable expenses: Lease payments are usually fixed and predictable, enabling the lessee to manage and budget their cash flow more effectively.

  3. Tax benefits: In some cases, lease payments may be fully tax-deductible as a business expense, lowering the overall cost of the lease.

  4. Flexibility and scalability: Leasing provides the flexibility to upgrade or replace equipment as needed or scale operations up or down depending on the lessee’s requirements.

  5. Access to high-quality assets: Leasing can enable lessees to access high-quality or state-of-the-art assets that may otherwise be unaffordable or impractical for immediate purchase.


  1. Higher overall cost: Leasing may result in a higher overall cost, as lease payments often exceed the original cost of the asset over the lease term. This is particularly true if the lessee chooses to purchase the asset at the end of the lease.

  2. No ownership: Unlike purchasing an asset, leasing does not offer the lessee any ownership. This means that the lessee may not capture potential gains from asset appreciation or be able to sell the asset for a profit.

  3. Contractual limitations: Lease agreements may impose restrictions on lessees, such as usage limitations, maintenance requirements, and penalties for breaking or ending the lease early.

  4. Limited customization: Leasing may limit the lessee’s ability to customize the asset to their specific needs, as modifications may not be allowed under the lease agreement or may be limited by the lessor.

  5. Credit score impact: As with any lending arrangement, leasing can impact a lessee’s credit score. Lessees must ensure they make timely lease payments and comply with the lease agreement to avoid negative impacts on their credit rating.Lease Negotiation Process

    Lease Proposal Process

The lease proposal process is an initial step in the commercial lease negotiation process. It starts with the tenant identifying a suitable commercial property for their business. Once the tenant identifies a property, they submit a lease proposal to the landlord. The lease proposal typically contains information about rent, lease term, deposit, renovations, and other lease provisions that the tenant desires. The lease proposal serves as the starting point for negotiations between the tenant and the landlord.

After the landlord receives the lease proposal, they may either accept, reject, or counter the proposal. If the landlord counters the proposal, it means they are open to further negotiation but require modifications to specific provisions in the original lease proposal.

The tenant should carefully review the counter-proposal and determine if they are willing to accept the changes or if they wish to negotiate further. This back and forth process may continue until both parties reach a lease agreement that satisfies both the tenant and the landlord.

Commercial Lease Negotiation Tips

A successful lease negotiation can save a tenant money and create a lease that protects their interests. Some tips for commercial lease negotiation include:

  1. Understand the market: Investigate the current market rents and incentives for comparable properties in the area to ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

  2. Engage professionals: Consider involving a commercial real estate broker or attorney, who can provide valuable advice and guidance throughout the negotiation process.

  3. Be prepared to walk away: If the landlord is unwilling to negotiate reasonable lease terms or if the space isn’t the right fit for your business, be prepared to walk away from the deal.

  4. Focus on more than just rent: Negotiate other lease provisions, such as tenant improvements, maintenance and repair responsibilities, and lease renewal options.

  5. Document everything: Ensure all lease negotiations and agreements are properly documented to avoid misunderstandings or disputes down the road.

Common Lease Clauses and Terms

Commercial lease agreements contain several clauses and terms that specify the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord:

  1. Rent: This clause outlines the monthly rent, rent escalation, and any penalties for late payment.

  2. Lease term: This specifies the length of the lease, including the start and end dates.

  3. Security Deposit: This term establishes the amount of the deposit required, as well as circumstances under which it can be withheld or refunded.

  4. Maintenance and Repairs: This clause details the responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant regarding maintenance and repair of the property.

  5. Tenant improvements: This describes any improvements that the tenant may make to the property, as well as the landlord’s obligations for providing a space ready for occupancy.

  6. Termination: This provision outlines the conditions under which the lease can be terminated, such as a breach of contract or bankruptcy.

  7. Subleasing and Assignment: This clause determines the tenant’s ability to sublease or assign their interest in the lease to another party.

  8. Renewal Options: This term grants the tenant the option to renew the lease under specified terms and conditions.

Accounting for Leases

Accounting Standards for Leases

Accounting standards for leases aim to provide guidelines for businesses to accurately record, report, and disclose their lease transactions. Some of the most common lease accounting standards include International Accounting Standards (IAS) 17, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 16, and US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) Lease Accounting.

IAS 17 is an older accounting standard, which has been replaced by IFRS 16 for organizations following the International Financial Reporting Standards. Under IAS 17, leases were classified as either operating leases or finance leases, with different accounting treatments for each.

IFRS 16, effective from January 1, 2019, introduced a unified lease accounting model requiring lessees to recognize nearly all leases on their balance sheets as lease liabilities and right-of-use assets.

US GAAP Lease Accounting, which follows the standards provided by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), classifies leases as either operating or capital (similar to finance leases in IAS 17). The FASB issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2016-02, which changed the lease accounting rules to include the recognition of lease liabilities and right-of-use assets for operating leases as well.

Recording of Lease Transactions

Lease transactions can be recorded differently depending on their classification:

  1. Operating Lease Accounting: Under an operating lease, the lessee only records rent expenses and does not capitalize the leased asset. Operating leases are typically shorter-term and involve a smaller portion of the asset’s useful life.

  2. Capital Lease Accounting: Capital leases, also known as finance leases under IFRS 16, require the lessee to recognize the leased asset and a lease liability on their balance sheet. Capital leases are longer-term and involve a more significant portion of the asset’s useful life.

  3. Finance Lease Accounting: Finance leases under IFRS 16 have a similar accounting treatment to capital leases under US GAAP. The lessee must recognize a right-of-use asset and a lease liability on their balance sheet.

Lease Disclosures

Proper disclosure of leases is crucial for users of financial statements to assess the company’s liabilities and financial position. Lease disclosures typically include:

  1. A description of the company’s leasing arrangements, including the terms and conditions of the leases.

  2. The total lease expense for the period for operating leases and the allocation of lease payments between interest expense and the reduction of lease liabilities for finance leases.

  3. The future minimum lease payments required under non-cancellable operating leases, categorized by the periods in which the payments are due.

  4. The carrying amounts of right-of-use assets and lease liabilities, as well as any restrictions or covenants related to leases.

By following these lease accounting and disclosure requirements, companies can ensure accurate reporting of their lease transactions and enhance transparency for the users of financial statements.

Lease Termination and Renewal

Lease termination and renewal are crucial aspects of lease management that both lessees and lessors need to account for. Proper handling of these processes ensures a smooth transition, complies with the legal requirements, and allows for restructuring to suit the current business needs. This article will provide a comprehensive understanding of the reasons for lease termination, the lease termination process, the lease renewal process, and the implications of lease termination and renewal on accounting treatments.

Reasons for Lease Termination

Lease termination can occur for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons include:

  1. Expiration of the lease term: Leases typically end when the lease term expires, and the parties have not agreed on a renewal.

  2. Mutual agreement: The lessee and lessor may mutually agree to terminate the lease early. This can happen for various reasons, such as changes in the economic climate or business needs.

  3. Default by the lessee: If the lessee violates any terms and conditions of the lease, they may be in default, and the lessor has the right to terminate the lease. Examples of violations include non-payment of rent, not maintaining the property, or using the property for illegal activities.

  4. Sale of property: The lessor may decide to sell the property, either with or without the lessee’s consent, depending on the lease terms.

  5. Eminent domain: The government can take over private property for public use, which would result in lease termination.

Lease Termination Process

When a lease is to be terminated, both parties must follow specific steps to ensure a smooth transition. These steps include:

  1. Reviewing the lease agreement: The terms and conditions governing termination should be thoroughly reviewed, including any notice requirements and timelines.

  2. Providing proper notice: The party initiating the termination must provide written notice to the other party, often within a specified timeframe. The lease agreement typically outlines the required notice period.

  3. Resolving outstanding issues: Before the termination, the lessee should handle any maintenance, repairs, or rent payments required under the lease agreement. Similarly, the lessor should ensure payment of any deposits owed to the lessee.

  4. Peaceful handover of possession: On the termination date, the lessee must vacate the premises and return any keys or access cards. The property must be in the agreed-upon condition upon return, as specified in the lease agreement.

Lease Renewal Process

When a lease term is about to expire, the lessee and lessor may decide to renew the lease. The lease renewal process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Reviewing the lease agreement: Both parties should review the terms governing the lease renewal, such as any deadlines for providing notice of either party’s intent to renew.

  2. Negotiation of terms: The lessee and lessor may renegotiate the lease terms, such as the rental rate, lease term, and maintenance responsibilities.

  3. Providing notice of intent to renew: The party wishing to renew the lease must provide written notice to the other party within the timeframe specified in the lease agreement.

  4. Executing a lease renewal agreement: Once the parties agree on the new terms, they should execute a written lease renewal agreement to document their agreement.

Implications of Lease Termination and Renewal on Accounting Treatments

Lease termination and renewal can have significant impacts on a company’s financial statements and accounting treatments, particularly under the new lease accounting standards (IFRS 16 and ASC 842). Some potential implications include:

  1. Recognition of a gain or loss: Lease termination may result in a gain or loss for both parties. For the lessee, this could include recognizing a gain or loss on the derecognition of the right-of-use asset and lease liability. For the lessor, termination might result in the recognition of a gain or loss on the sale of property or lease receivables.

  2. Adjustments to right-of-use assets and lease liabilities: When a lease is renewed, the lessee must reassess the right-of-use asset and lease liability to reflect the new lease term, cash flows, and discount rates.

  3. Changes in lease classification: A renewal may change the lease classification (e.g., from operating to finance lease or vice versa) if the new lease terms meet the criteria for a different classification under the respective accounting standards.

  4. Alterations in depreciation and interest expense: The renewal of a lease may change the lessee’s depreciation and interest expense due to the changes in the lease term, right-of-use asset, and lease liability.

Both lessees and lessors should carefully consider the implications of lease termination and renewal on their financial reporting and accounting treatments. Proper planning and management of these processes ensure compliance with legal requirements while enabling effective decision-making for both parties.

Leases FAQs

1. What is the primary purpose of a lease agreement?

A lease agreement plays a crucial role in defining the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved, namely the landlord and tenant. The document outlines essential terms such as rental amount, duration, payment schedules, and clauses on property maintenance, thereby ensuring a clear understanding and conflict-free relationship between the parties.

2. How long is a typical lease term?

The duration of a lease term tends to vary depending on the agreement between a landlord and tenant. Common lease terms include month-to-month, 6 months, and 12 months. However, some leases may last longer, such as commercial or industrial agreements lasting for several years.

3. What are the consequences of breaches in a lease agreement?

Breaches in a lease agreement can lead to various consequences, depending on the severity of the violation. Possible outcomes may include imposing fines or penalties per the agreement’s terms and, in significant cases, eviction or legal proceedings to enforce the agreement’s conditions and seek compensation for damages.

4. What is the difference between a lease and a sublease?

A lease is a binding agreement between a landlord (property owner) and a tenant (renter). In contrast, a sublease is an agreement between a tenant and a third party, where the tenant (sublessor) rents out part or all the leased property to the third party (sublessee). Subleases usually require the landlord’s consent and still hold the original tenant responsible for honoring the terms of the primary lease.

5. How are lease renewal and lease termination handled?

Lease renewal typically occurs when the initial lease term ends, and both the landlord and tenant agree to continue the rental arrangement. Renewals can happen automatically or through a new agreement, specifying any changes in terms. Lease termination occurs when either party decides to end the rental relationship, requiring proper notice and compliance with the termination provisions outlined in the lease.

6. What rights and responsibilities do landlords and tenants have under a lease agreement?

Landlords generally have the responsibility to maintain the property and ensure its habitability, while tenants maintain cleanliness and pay rent as agreed. Both landlords and tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment of the property. Parties must comply with the specific terms of their lease agreement, and any local, state, or federal laws that govern residential or commercial rental properties.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

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