Agricultural Economics Department


Date of this Version



Cornhusker Economics (January 2012)


Published by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Department of Agricultural Economics. Copyright © [2012] Board of Regents, University of Nebraska.


Many farm leases, especially those between family members, are not written but are verbal "handshake" agreements. Because nothing is in writing, the parties may have different recollections of their agreement, making lease disputes more difficult to resolve. The most common legal issue associated with verbal farm leases is how a lease may legally be terminated. For unwritten leases, six months advance notice must be given to legally terminate the lease. In contrast, the termination of a written lease is determined by the terms of the written lease. If nothing is specified, a written lease terminates automatically on the last day of the lease with no automatic renewal.

Rising crop prices have led many landowners to seek higher cash rents. Many Nebraska leases are unwritten, which means that notice of termination must be given at least six months in advance, usually by September 1. If the landowner cannot terminate the lease, the landowner cannot require the tenant to accept a higher rent in order to avoid immediate lease termination. However, prudent tenants would renegotiate the lease with the landowner in order to keep the lease longer. If a tenant refuses to renegotiate the rent, the tenant could end up ultimately losing the lease.