Legal Memorandum: Validity of a Sign Lease in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law is a sign lease considered valid or effective if it does not contain a legal description of the property leased?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Sign lease; Legal description; Billboard; Statute of frauds
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 37 N.W. 451; 38 Minn. 322; 253 N.W.2d 133; 312 Minn. 499
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 513.05
Date: 01/01/2015

To comply with the statute of frauds governing leases, Minn. Stat. § 513.05 provides there must be a writing which contains, among other elements, “an adequate description of the land.”  Greer v. Kooiker, 312 Minn. 499, 505, 253 N.W.2d 133, 138 (1977).  The purpose of the statute is “‘to provide reasonable safeguards to insure honest dealing and [not] to make a fetish of literal statutory compliance or a fetish of requiring a perfect written contract.'”  Id.

A full and proper legal description is not required.  See Split Rock Dev. Co. v. Hoey Outdoor Adver., 2004 Minn. App. Lexis 1314 (Minn. Ct. App. Nov. 23, 2004).  Rather, as stated in Split Rock, a case in which a party challenged the validity of a sign lease on the ground that there was no legal description:

[A] description may satisfy the statute of frauds if it describes land closely enough so that there is no question about which property is involved.  For example, lack of a city, state, or county was not fatal where the court was able to identify the land in question because the instrument referred to land owned by the vendor in “township 49, range 15.”  Quinn v. Champagne, 38 Minn. 322, 323, 37 N.W. 451, 452 (1888).  In Doyle, 243 Minn. at 108-11, 66 N.W.2d at 761-62, the court concluded that although the written memorandum itself failed to identify the land, the parties had sketched the dimensions of the […]


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