Affirmative waste, also referred to as voluntary waste, refers to overt and willful acts of destruction performed by a tenant or life tenant that lead to the drop in value of a piece of property by harming the property or depleting natural resources available on the property.
As a general rule, tenants have a duty not to commit affirmative waste on the property where they reside, meaning they cannot deplete the land of its natural resources. Nonetheless, not all use of land depletes it, and some uses like routinely harvesting crops on a farm do not qualify as affirmative waste.
Furthermore, a prior use exception exists to this general rule stating that if prior to the tenant residing there, the land was used in a manner that allowed for the exploitation of the natural resources on the land, then the current tenant is allowed to continue to deplete the resources.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]