Legal Definition of Waste
A spoil or destruction houses, gardens, trees, or other corporeal hereditaments, to the disherison of him that hath the reversion in fee simple or fee tail.5 min read
What Is Waste?
A spoil or destruction houses, gardens, trees, or other corporeal hereditaments, to the disherison of him that hath the remainder or reversion in fee simple or fee tail.
The doctrine of waste is somewhat different in this country from what it is in England. It is adapted to our circumstances. Waste is either voluntary or permissive.
What Is Voluntary Waste?
Voluntary waste. A voluntary waste is an act of commission, as tearing down a house. This kind of waste is committed in houses, in timber, and in land. It is committed in houses by removing wainscots, floors, benches, furnaces, window-glass, windows, doors, shelves, and other things once fixed to the freehold, although they may have been erected by the lessee himself, unless they were erected for the purposes of trade. And this kind of waste may take place not only in pulling down houses, or parts of them, but also in changing their forms; as, if the tenant pull down a house and erect a new one in the place, whether it be larger or smaller than the first or convert a parlor into a stable; or a grist-mill into a fulling-mill or turn two rooms into one.
The building of a house where there was none before is said to be a waste and taking it down after it is built, is a waste. It is a general rule that when a lessee has annexed anything to the freehold during the term, and afterwards takes it away, it is waste. This principle is established in the French law.
But at a very early period several exceptions were attempted to be made to this rule, which were at last effectually engrafted upon it in favor of trade, and of those vessels and utensils, which are immediately subservient to the purposes of trade.
This relaxation of the old rule has taken place between two descriptions of persons; that is, between the landlord and tenant, and between the tenant for life or tenant in tail and the remainder-man or reversioner.
As between the landlord and tenant it is now the law, that if the lessee annex any chattel to the house for the purpose of his trade, he may disunite it during the continuance of his interest, But this relation extends only to erections for the purposes of trade.
It has been decided that a tenant for years may remove cider-mills, ornamental marble chimney pieces, wainscots fixed only by screws, and such like. A tenant of a farm cannot remove buildings which he has erected for the purposes of husbandry, and the better enjoyment of the profits of the land, though he thereby leaves the premises the same as when he entered.
When Can Voluntary Waste Be Committed?
Voluntary waste may be committed on timber, and in the country from which we have borrowed our laws, the law is very strict. In Pennsylvania, however, and many of the other states, the law has applied itself to our situation, and those acts which in England would amount to waste, are not so accounted here.
Where wild and uncultivated land, wholly covered with wood and timber, is leased, the lessee may fell a part pf the wood and timber, so as to fit the land for cultivation, without being liable to waste, but he cannot cut down the whole so as permanently to injure the inheritance. And to what extent the wood and timber on such land may be cut down without waste, is a question of fact for the jury under the direction of the court. The tenant may cut down trees for the reparation of the houses, fences, hedges, stiles, gates, and the like and for mixing and repairing all instruments of husbandry, as ploughs, carts, harrows, rakes, forks, etc. The tenant may, when he is unrestrained by the terms of his lease, out down timber, if there be not enough dead timber. Where the tenant, by the conditions of his lease, is entitled to cut down timber, he is restrained nevertheless from cutting down ornamental trees, or those planted for shelter or to exclude objects from sight.