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Rent, compensation paid for the use of any kind of property, or, in the field of economics, the difference between the price obtained for the produce of a given area of land and the total cost of production. Theories of rent were worked out in detail by British economists in the 18th century. David Ricardo, Thomas Malthus, and others focused on the varying profits that could be obtained from land, depending on its productivity. Today in general usage rent means money paid for any of several different commodities, as described below.


Land rent was originally compensation to the owner of land for its use. In agricultural societies, a tenant could pay for the right to use land with the income earned from the produce. Industrialization brought about an extension of rent to residential and commercial uses. Rent is no longer paid for the land alone, but for buildings and other improvements as well.

Non-property estate rent is a fee paid for the temporary use of machines and commercial equipment or for certain consumer goods, such as cars, appliances, and furniture. This type of leasing for a specified period of time can save the user costs in comparison to the purchase price of the item.


The amount of rent for a property, the interval at which it is paid, and the length and conditions of tenancy are usually set forth in a written lease between the landlord and tenant. In the absence of such a lease, or when its terms are unreasonable or broken, rent law is applicable. The tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the premises, undisturbed by the landlord, is implied in the rent law, as is prompt payment of the rent, eviction for failure to pay rent, and compensation to the landlord for damages to the property caused by the tenant. Generally, the landlord needs to go to court to obtain redress if the conditions of the lease are not met.