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Residential Leases on Individual Indian and Tribal Lands

The Division of Real Estate Services coordinates the process of approving residential leases on American Indian and Alaska Native lands.

You may need to obtain a lease to develop housing projects on trust or restricted land owned by an individual Indian or Tribe.

Residential leases on trust or restricted land must be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agency with jurisdiction over the land to be leased. Residential leases may be for single-family residences or public housing projects and may be on developed or undeveloped land.

BIA regulations for residential leases are contained in 25 CFR 162(C).

Residential Lease Package Requirements

Lessors and lessees should contact the BIA agency with jurisdiction over the land to be leased for more information about what documents are required for lease approval. Most residential lease packages will include the documents below:

  • Copy of the lease, including duration of the lease, rental price, and payment schedule.
  • Tribal authorization, if the lease is on Tribal land.
  • Valuation of the lease.
  • Statement from the appropriate Tribal authority that the lease complies with Tribal law.
  • Reports, surveys, or assessments to show that the lease complies with Federal and Tribal land use requirements.
  • Preliminary site plan identifying the proposed location of residential development, roads, and utilities.
  • Legal description of the land.
  • For restricted land, additional documentation is necessary to satisfy the factors stated in 25 U.S.C. 415.

If the lessee is not an individual, but is a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, joint venture, or other legal entity (except a tribal entity), the lessee must submit organization documents, certificates, and filing records to show that the entity may legally execute the lease, that the lease may be enforced against the entity, and that the entity is in good standing.

Unlike other types of leases on Indian land, the BIA does not require a lease bond or insurance to approve residential leases.

Submission and Approval

After submitting a residential lease package, the BIA will respond in writing within 30 business days.

If the lease is approved, the lease will be recorded by the BIA with the Land, Titles and Records Office with jurisdiction over the leased land.

If the lease is not approved, the BIA will identify what documents are missing or the reasons for disapproval. Timelines and requirements for appeal will also be included in the BIA’s decision letter.

Leasehold Mortgages

Housing projects on leased trust or restricted land may be financed through private lender mortgages. While the BIA does not act as an underwriter, mortgages on leased trust or restricted land must be approved by the BIA.

For more information, please see the BIA’s page for Mortgages on Trust Land.

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