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I have worked in the construction industry in the UK and in Australia and have increasingly heard the term "demise" being used to mean "within the boundary of" in both countries. For example:

We are seeking construction drawings for the structure within the demise of the room/building/project/site

OR

those services do not belong to the demise of the room/building/project/site

Definitions I've found of demise don't really fit this usage, which seems to be more closely related to the word "demesne".

While I try not to be a prescriptivist, I do find it slightly jarring because I've never associated this word with this meaning. Any thoughts on the origin of this usage?

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    Well, I learned something today too: In property law, ”demised premises” generally refer to premises transferred by lease as opposed to premises not leased and still retained by the landlord.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 7, 2021 at 14:23
  • Yes; research needs to be shown. I wasn't aware of this sense, and therefore can't comment on its distribution (exactly how it is properly used in various sentences). But the first example sentence here still looks like a wrong choice of word. Jul 7, 2021 at 14:42
  • West's Encyclopedia of American Law sets out the formal meaning, then says 'demise is sometimes used synonymously with "lease" or "let."' Which is a different jurisdiction, but suggests the word has a wider meaning than the traditional/formal one.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 7, 2021 at 15:45
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    demise may have that meaning, but one would not use it like this: within the demise of the room/building/project/site. To mean: let or lease. Why do people only consider words out of context? I just do not get it.
    – Lambie
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:00
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    In the law of landlord and tenant you say within his demise to mean within the boundaries of the land demised (i.e. leased) to him. Someone has heard that and not twigged that it refers specifically to the boundaries of leased land.
    – rchivers
    Jul 7, 2021 at 17:37

2 Answers 2

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Demise in this context is commercial real estate legal jargon for a lease or an area that is leased. Like lease, it appears that demise is also used as a verb and a participle adjective.

Here’s some wording from The fundamentals of commercial leasing:

The first issue to be determined in any lease is what is being demised. The demise is the area of the building or facility designated for the exclusive use of the tenant... Licensed areas may also be included in the lease alongside the demised areas... While “demising” the whole or part of a property gives the tenant exclusive possession, landlords usually reserve the right to enter the premises for various purposes...
Source: The Free Library — The fundamentals of commercial leasing.

The British National Corpus returns results for the demise from Drafting business leases by Kim Lewison (1985-1994). (Click to expand examples and see items 43 to 66. Also see BNC results for demised.)

Here are a few excerpts showing usage:

45: If the draftsman wishes to create a lease for a period that can not be made certain at the time of the demise the only way is to express it as being granted for a fixed term subject to a power to break at the expiry of the period.

50: It is, however, established that the demise of one floor of a building extends at least as far as the underside of the joists supporting the floor above it... The ordinary expectation is that the tenant will be entitled to occupy all that space between the floor of his demise and the underside of the floor above... So the demise of a flat or a particular floor of a building will include a roof space accessible only from that flat where there is no reservation to the landlord... However, a demise of a “suite of rooms” on the top floor of a building will not include the common roof...

54: Where the demise includes the whole of a building (or the top floor) the draftsman may therefore wish to consider whether the airspace above the building should be excluded from the demise.

61: The draftsman should therefore consider whether the landlord should have the right to enter the demise for other purposes...

I’m not so sure your examples are being used in the way that you think they are — that is, to mean “within the boundary of” and unrelated to property leasing; I can easily imagine these to fall in line with the definitions of lease or an area that is leased:

We are seeking construction drawings for the structure within the demise of the site. —> We are seeking construction drawings for the structure within the leased area of the site.

Those services do not belong to the demise of the building. —> Those utilities are not included in the lease [or leased area] of the building.

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  • There's no particular connection with commercial leasing - you'd have found the same thing if you'd looked in general landlord and tenant books.
    – rchivers
    Jul 8, 2021 at 3:21
  • @rchivers: I did look, and I didn’t find. I put in then took out then put back in commercial. What books did you look in? Jul 8, 2021 at 3:43
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    Apologies - shouldn't have assumed you hadn't looked, but surprised you didn't find. The go-to work is Woodfall on L&T but it's not going to be accessible for free. The judgment at bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2011/B1.html relates to two London flats and uses the word any number of times. The leaseholders are companies but the leases are residential. There's an older example at bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Exch/1843/J55.html, where the leaseholders are individuals. Also bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/LC/2014/74.html. There will be loads - it's standard terminology.
    – rchivers
    Jul 8, 2021 at 4:15
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OED has:

  1. a. Law. Conveyance or transfer of an estate by will or lease.

    1509–10 Act 1 Hen. VIII c. 18 §2 All Dymyses, Leses, releses..made..by her or to her.

  2. Transference or devolution of sovereignty, as by the death or deposition of the sovereign; usually in demise of the crown.

  3. Transferred to the death or decease which occasions the demise of an estate, etc.; hence, popularly, = Decease, death.

While the found use of demise seems to be closer to "demesne" than sense 1 here, it's possible that sense 1 has been extended to the demised property itself in a somewhat similar way to the word now meaning "death" via sense 3.

The OED entry was last updated in 2019 and doesn't seem to have caught up with this jargon: it may be a very recent coinage.

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  • The legal sense may arguably fit the second of the OP's examples, but it doesn't well fit the first, which seems to be about the physical rather than legal characteristics of the room etc.
    – jsw29
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:12
  • I don't think you've read my answer.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:17
  • Are you assuming that the first example appears in some context that says that the room/building/project/site has been leased or otherwise transferred? This might perhaps work for building, but it is not not an obvious assumption to make for project.
    – jsw29
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:26
  • Depends what project means. The American use of that word in "housing project" seems to differ from the BrE usage.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:29
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    Indeed, but given that the OP refers to the UK and Australia, it is reasonable to assume that the housing project sense was not intended. Project in the sense that word ordinarily has in the contexts of construction work is not obviously related to leases and suchlike; the construction drawings are going to be the same regardless of whether and how the result of the construction is going to be leased.
    – jsw29
    Jul 7, 2021 at 18:22

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