What Do You Mean When You Write: “Subject To”?

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The augurs of ancient Rome prognosticated by inspecting the entrails of birds. Similarly, courts divine meaning by interpreting the detritus of our documents. When we don’t leave a clear message behind, those who follow get to tell us what the words we used meant. Sometimes they are right; sometimes not.

Ruminations now rushes in where fools fear to tread. We’re going to extract some lessons from a Supreme Court of Texas decision about mineral rights and royalties. Bless those who labor in that world. If we get something wrong in this world of oil and gas and other things extracted, we’re sure to hear from those whose world we are about to invade.

When a married couple purchased a certain 55-acre property, their seller “reserved” a 1/4 mineral interest (actually an NPRI – a non-participating royalty interest) in the property. That means the original owner would continue to get 1/4 of the benefits from all oil, gas, and minerals extracted from beneath the property.

Property ownership involves what is likened to a “bundle of sticks.” That means there are many rights embodied within the concept of ownership. These rights can be separated and different owners can own different rights in the same property. So, in the “mineral rights” concept, one party can own the property’s surface and another can own the subsurface portion. Similarly, one can own all of a property’s land right down to the earth’s core, excluding the minerals in that “dirt,” and those can be owned by another. Just like a “total” property can have multiple owners, so can those minerals. So, here, the married couple had a 3/4 interest in the property’s minerals and their seller kept a 1/4 interest. So far, so good. [Read more…]

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Where Can I Sue You?

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Is your forum selection provision mandatory or permissive? What’s a forum selection provision? That’s the one your agreement says where you can file suit to enforce your agreement. What is often confused with a forum selection provision? That would be a choice of law provision. That’s where the parties agree as to which state’s law will apply to their agreement. Once you are properly in any state’s courts, those courts can apply whatever law you’ve agreed should be used. It doesn’t have to be the law of that state. [Yes, there are exceptions, but that’s the overriding principle.]

This isn’t going to be a treatise over whether a court will accept jurisdiction over an out-of-state dispute. One reason is that it varies from state to state. Some states don’t want to get involved, but others “almost” solicit the business. For example, New York’s General Obligations Law (GOL) says that, with certain commercially irrelevant exceptions: [Read more…]

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Bye Bye LIBOR (And Friends)

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Yes, many readers may have heard whispers (or stage whispers) about the demise of LIBOR. Well, it goes on life support on December 31, 2021 and that might also be the date of its death. That’s when the banks that provide its underlying data will no longer be obligated to do so. Who cares? Those who set borrowing interest rates certainly do. Those who have loan documents based on some spread over a LIBOR rate where those documents didn’t consider a back-up rate if LIBOR ever went away care even more. [Read more…]

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Price; Quality; Time – Pick Two

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It is Labor Day weekend (and the start of Labor Day week). Ruminations has tried to present short blog postings on such weekends. Frankly, we’ve not been successful. Today’s posting is yet another attempt. So, with 30 words already behind us, here we go.

In the management field of study, there is something called the “Project Management Triangle.” We’re not sure when we first heard the term or discovered the concept it describes. So, when we went to research some “history,” we discovered it isn’t really an obscure secret in other fields of endeavor. Based on long experience though, our industry doesn’t yet seem to have discovered the concept. The “Project Management Triangle” has a number of other names: “Triple Constraint,” “Project Triangle,” and “Iron Triangle.” [“Iron Triangle” is also used to describe an aspect of Washington politics, and we leave the reader to explore that form of its use on her or his own.] [Read more…]

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Notwithstanding Anything To The Contrary Contained Herein

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When a carpenter or other craftsperson needs to make “that final adjustment,” she or he reaches into the toolbox and out may come a shim. We’ve all seen shims used, but not everyone knows they have a name. Those wedges, washers, and thin strips of material used to align parts or make them fit are called “shims.” We who draft agreements of every type also use shims. Reluctant as Ruminations is to use the word “all” and mean “all,” today’s use seems accurate. Who among us hasn’t slipped in at least one “notwithstanding anything to the contrary” into every agreement longer than several pages? That’s using a shim because it makes the parts of the agreement “fit” together.

Basically, this shim is used in two circumstances. The first is where, after reading what we’ve written, we realize that our crafted provision isn’t exactly right. We realize that there are one or more circumstances that don’t fit what we’ve written. We realize that what we’ve written needs adjustment. We’ve got to carve out some exceptions. So, instead of rewriting the provisions to make them say what they should say, we append a list of those things we realize don’t fit – but not of those things we didn’t realize don’t fit. [Read more…]

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Let’s Learn Our Trade – Warning: A Rant

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Imagine you are the computer user of the century. There is nothing about using a computer you don’t know. [So you think.] Your friends call you day and night asking, “How do I do this; how do I do that?” Coding? – No problem. Formatting to produce a publishable book using Microsoft Word? – No problem. Manipulating data to prove or disprove human involvement in climate change, if there is such a thing? – No problem.

Then, one day, boxes from all over the world show up at your door. There are no notes, no letters, and no instructions to tell you what you’ve got. But, one of the boxes has something that looks very much like a computer case. With that clue and looking at the generality of some of the other things that were in the other boxes, your best guess, a good one, is that these are the parts for a computer. You’ve looked inside a lot of computers before. After all, your friends have had you play with some connectors; you’ve replaced a hard drive or two, even a solid state one. But, can you assemble the parts to make a working computer? Do you really, really understand how to assemble a computer? Will your proficiency in using a computer, even playing with its cables and poking around inside the case be enough for you to put all of those parts together? [Read more…]

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What’s In A Name: Gross And Net Leases

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Gross vs. Net Leases. Rent is the dominant continuing connection between a landlord and a tenant.  Almost always, all expenses arising out of real estate development are paid by tenants – taxes, insurance, maintenance and other operating costs, environmental costs, and the rest.  These costs may already be included in the initial rent.  In such a case, unless the lease is for a very short term, the tenant will thereafter separately pay the amounts by which taxes, insurance premium, and maintenance costs increase over the “base year” cost of those items.  The base year is almost always the first year of the lease term.  So, it doesn’t matter if the initial rent has already taken into account the then current taxes, insurance premiums, and maintenance costs or whether it doesn’t.  When they are included, the rent is higher and the tenant only pays subsequent cost increases – that’s called a “gross” rent lease.  When the rent doesn’t included these initial “pass-through” expenses, the tenant will pay, as “additional rent,” its entire share of the cost for taxes, insurance, and maintenance over and above the seemingly lower rent.  Leases employing this latter approach are frequently referred to as some form of “net” lease – “triple net” (NNN), “absolute net” or “net.”  Unfortunately for the inexperienced practitioner, those terms (and similar ones like them) mean little because, from their “nickname” alone, they cannot tell who is responsible for paying the costs to fix the building’s structure or flooring or items of similar character.  As a result, it is imperative that anyone preparing a lease find out “who pays for what.” [Read more…]

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We Reap What We Sow – Let’s Read What We Write

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We’re sure that, at one time, there were no written leases. It may have been that no one could conceive that putting the arrangement in writing would be desirable. More likely, it was that writing had not yet been invented. Jump ahead – handwritten, typed, and pre-printed leases came into being. And, then, the greatest invention of all – the word-processed form.

We imagine that when you wrote out a lease by hand, you already had negotiated the “deal” and all you were doing was to write it down. Our imagination isn’t good enough to have any sense as to how that felt, but it seems that some advantages of that process have been lost. Today, we’ll only touch on one of those – the scribe (or the one dictating the text) had to know the whole deal and then, to write it out, had to hear or read the deal in its entirety. The typed lease was probably a step away because, and we are guessing, the draftsperson might mark changes on prior, similar leases so as to reflect the new “deal.” Yet, there was no “search” or “search and replace” function – the editor-negotiator had to read the lease or, at least goodly parts of the lease. [Read more…]

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