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An improper use or abuse of property by a landowner who holds less than the fee ownership, such as a tenant, life tenant, mortgagor, or vendee. Waste thus impairs the value of the land or the interest of the one holding the title or the reversion (for example, the lessor).

The term waste includes ameliorating waste, which is the unauthorized alteration by the occupant of improvements on the land—even though such changes in fact increase the value of the property. Although the tenant is usually not liable for ameliorating waste (because it increases the worth of the future interest), the owner of the future interest does not have to pay for the improvement.

Waste could occur through failure to pay property taxes, insurance, or mortgage payments, as well as by making material changes to the original use of the property, such as converting from residential to heavy industrial. In essence, any act on the land that substantially impairs the security value of the real estate is considered waste. Other examples of affirmative or voluntary waste are cutting timber, removing minerals, or destroying buildings.
Dearborn Real Estate Education
This "Word of the day" is excerpted from The Language of Real Estate, 6th Edition by John Reilly (published by Dearborn Real Estate Education, 2006 copyright). To purchase the complete book, with over 2800 key terms and definitions, or to browse through Dearborn's hundreds of other professional real estate titles, including Real Estate Technology Guide by Klein, Barnett, Reilly, click here.