Ground leases are fairly common but sometimes overlooked property interests. A succinct but adequate definition of a ground lease was articulated by Herbert Thorndike Tiffany (Tiffany on Real Property § 85.50 [3d ed.]) as follows:
[A]n arrangement in which the fee owner of real property leases to a leasehold tenant many or all of the rights of the beneficial ownership of such real property held by the fee owner. Typically, in a Ground Lease, the leasehold tenant will, for the term of the lease, maintain almost autonomous control over the real property leased, including the right to construct improvements, assign, sublease, and obtain leasehold mortgage financing.
Landlords often use ground leases to (i) retain ownership of the real property for heirs/estate planning purposes, (ii) avoid realizing capital gains if holding with low basis, (iii) create an income stream or (iv) create a financing tool for improvements. Tenants might find a ground lease attractive to (i) create a financing tool for a project and improvements, (ii) reduce financial barriers to entry in the project or (iii) obtain tax deductions for the payment of rent.