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What is the difference between a lease and a license?

They may sound like the same thing, and you may have heard the terms used interchangeably. However, a lease and a license are two separate legal concepts that offer different rights and duties.

A lease is an agreement between a landlord and a tenant that gives the tenant an exclusive interest in a property. A license is permission from the owner to a licensee to do something on the owner's property. As with all things law related, the distinction is never so simple.

To determine the difference between a license and a lease, we look at:

The minute we fork over that lump sum at the beginning of our lease, we're worried (or we should be) about how to get a security deposit returned from a landlord.

Landlords are already keeping track of the kinds of costs they can deduct from your deposit, so you should equally as diligent about getting all, or most, of your security deposit back.

Here are a few tips you may want to keep in mind:

It's becoming a more common question: Do landlords need to give Spanish-speaking tenants Spanish-language rental documents?

As the nation's population has grown more diverse, so have our legal interactions, especially between landlords and tenants. Considering the legal requirements to comply with state contract law, tenant rights, and fair housing statutes, there may be cases where landlords must supply tenants with residential lease documents in Spanish.

If this applies to you, FindLaw's collection of legal forms in Spanish, available for purchase here (scroll down to "Formularios en Español"), may speak to your needs. Here are three Spanish-language forms that landlords may find particularly useful:

Legal How-To: Paying Off Someone Else's Mortgage

When it comes to giving a gift that might truly last a lifetime, paying off someone else's mortgage might be the ultimate present.

Video of a young tech entrepreneur paying off his parents' mortgage for Christmas last week has gone viral, The Sacramento Bee reports. Joe Riquelme, founder of the smartphone app Videoshop, posted the video to YouTube, where it has since racked up over 7 million views.

How can those considering paying off someone else's mortgage next Christmas (or any time before then) do the same? Here's a general overview of what you need to know:

Don't dump trash in the Grand Canyon. That's the message that you might learn from a rafter who was just ordered to pay close to $2,500 for dumping trash in the Colorado River.

In a press release by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona, federal prosecutors announced that Nels Nicholas Niemi, 75, was ordered to pay fines and court costs after being found guilty of "dumping refuse into the Colorado River." Niemi was leading a group down a 12-day rafting trip through Grand Canyon National Park when the violation occurred.

Why is this Grand Canyon dumping case so special?

When your neighbor gets on your last nerve, you may be able to turn to your homeowners' association (HOA) for help.

HOAs are set up to enforce certain standards for their members under the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that legally bind each member. And that includes your aggravating neighbor.

So here's a general overview of how to legally enforce your HOA's rules against your neighbor:

There are a number of kinds of service professionals you can invite on to your property to do work: landscapers, roofers, exterminators, etc. But what happens when those workers are injured on your property?

Property owners do have certain responsibilities towards those who are allowed on their land, but this does not give workers freedom to be negligent or reckless.

So when is a property owner liable for workers injured on his or her property?

Legal How-To: Build a Fence Around Your Property

A fence around your property can serve a range of purposes: marking your property line, keeping trespassers out, and/or providing privacy for your family.

However, a fence can also be the source of a potential dispute with your neighbors. With that in mind, making sure that your fence does not violate property laws or local restrictions can help prevent potential legal problems down the road.

How do you go about making sure your fence is in compliance with the law? Here's what you can do:

Nothing ruins a festive holiday season like an ice-cold apartment with no working heater. While there's not a whole lot that the law requires from your landlord as far as amenities are concerned, adequate heating during cold weather is one of them.

Getting your landlord to fix the heat might be as simple as asking him or her, but just in case, here's a quick legal guide:

Legal for an HOA to Restrict Holiday Decorations?

For many homeowners, November means it's time to start putting up holiday decorations both inside and outside their homes.

But owners of houses or condos that are members of a homeowners association might want to think twice before decking the outside of their hall with boughs of holly. HOA rules may limit, or in some circumstances prohibit certain kinds of holiday decorations.

Is it legal for an HOA to limit a member's ability to decorate his or her home for the holidays?