Let’s Rush The Lease Out Otherwise The Tenant (Or Landlord) Will Walk

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How long should it take to prepare the first draft of a lease that needs to include several (or more) “custom” business terms? We’re asking about those leases that need some thought, not the kind that can be prepared using a document assembly program. And, certainly not the kind that, in the future, will be “written” through the use of artificial intelligence (AI). [Yes, we are firmly in the school of belief holding that, not very long from now, machines will be preparing most first drafts, many subsequent drafts, and to many who depend on lease drafting to pay their bills, more final leases than you can now imagine. We even think that dueling AI systems will be writing a lot of leases and other agreements, unaided by humans, within as soon as five years.]

But, for now, when almost all leases are “handcrafted,” how long should the first version take? Obviously, it depends! But, we can all guess that those waiting for the lease think the time needed is a lot less than does the lease preparer. Brokers, often and especially, “think” “not very long, perhaps by later today or tomorrow.” Experienced owners and tenants trust those to whom the project is assigned. But, all of that sidesteps the question. [Read more…]

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Rectifying Sloppy Agreements

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A 25-page court decision out of the Supreme Court of British Columbia has triggered today’s blog posting. The decision describes a convoluted, time-extended, back-and-forth negotiation over a set of interrelated, broker-prepared offers to buy and sell. In that marketplace, such documents signed by the offering party and “accepted” by the other one become “contracts of sale and purchase.” The back and forth with these documents began in early February, After a number of handwritten changes and the addition of a couple of pages, they were finally “accepted” in late July.

There were a few issues with the wording of the three separate “contracts,” one for each of the three properties being sold. We will focus on two of those “issues,” but will describe all those we think the court described.

One of the main issues had to do with the way the buyer’s name was shown. It appeared in multiple places in each contract. The actual buyer’s name included the word “Investment,” but the broker who first prepared the documents wrote “Development.” Fortunately, for the sake of sanity, the buyer noticed these errors and made corrections, but just not thoroughly enough. By way of example, the name printed above the buyer’s signature line in one of the contracts read “Development” when it should have read “Investment.” Both companies actually existed and they, in fact, were related entities. [Read more…]

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What Is The Lifespan Of A Lease After The Stated Term Ends?

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What are the rules between a tenant and its landlord after a lease expires? In today’s blog posting, we aren’t exactly thinking about a “holdover” tenancy. In the context of this question, we’ll leave that for another day. [For those who haven’t yet read what we wrote in our November 2012 posting: “Why So Much Confusion About Holdover Tenants?,” it can be seen by clicking here: HERE. For other Ruminations about holdover tenancies, you can click: HERE or HERE.]

It is common to see a lease recite something like the following: “If the Tenant remains in possession after this lease ends, the continuing tenancy will be from month to month.” At least, that’s how the lease we learned about in a California appellate decision (of January 10, 2019) just read by us. [It, Smyth v. Berman, can be seen by clicking: HERE.]  On its face, it would seem that those quoted words are equivalent to a lease extension just as would be the case if the tenant had an extension (or, poorly named, renewal) option. Well, is it the same? [Read more…]

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It Might Be Negligence To Leave Out The Word Negligence (Unless It Isn’t)

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Are there “magic words” or are there not? Once again, we feel compelled to warn readers that “we need to know what we are doing.” A lot of people in this “business” of ours cross over jurisdictional lines whether rightly or not. There is a lot of material out there about the ethics of doing so. That’s a reasonable concern to have, but there is a far less discussed, but more serious, problem. It is called malpractice. That term is not limited to attorneys. It isn’t even limited to professionals. It is hard enough to know the law in a single jurisdiction. Know the “law” in every jurisdiction (e.g., state) is, frankly speaking, impossible.

If we are going to “practice” in the real estate world, we need to practice well, not malpractice. “Mal” is a “combing form,” one that is added to words. It comes from the French “mal,” and that came from the Latin “male” which meant “badly.” [We sure hope the word is pronounced differently than is the gender.] The bottom line, however, is that “malpractice” is practicing in a faulty or improper or inadequate manner. No reader of this blog wants to come within a million miles of anything “mal” in her or his practice. So, we need to know that we don’t know the law everyplace. One example is how various jurisdictions view liability waivers. Today, we write only about one aspect of that question – whether to effectively be released from one’s own negligence, a waiver must expressly say that “negligence” is being waived or whether waiving “all” claims for damage really means “all,” including those claims arising out of negligence. [Read more…]

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Hindsight Isn’t Always 20/20

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Guilty! Ruminations and its author have done this, though we’ve long been conscious of its flaws. What is “this”? It is that we’ve criticized documents prepared by others when we “weren’t there.” Before we proceed with today’s rant, a small clarification is in order. There will be no apology for our pointing out unnecessarily vague or ambiguous language. In fact, we think there is a place for intentional ambiguity and remain firmly behind the thoughts we expressed seven years ago in a piece titled: The Artful Use of Intentional Ambiguity in Document Drafting. It can be seen by clicking: HERE. What we are pleading guilty to is to the crime of criticizing others based on business terms that have included or omitted from their documents. Often, that’s the wrong thing to do. Let the ones among us, those who have not done this, throw the first stone.

Experience and intellect qualify us to analyze a lease or purchase agreement or loan document or whatever. Those qualify us to question why some things have been included and others omitted. We are not alone. Many, many readers (and non-readers) of Ruminations are similarly or even better qualified. But, having the ability to do so doesn’t mean we should be doing so. Why do we feel that way? [Read more…]

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How Good Is A Lease Guaranty After The Original Term Expires?

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It’s a funny thing about this business. After all is said and done, you still need to know the “law.” And, by “law,” we aren’t thinking about the “law in general.” Instead, we are thinking about the “law” in the place where it matters. Almost always, that’s the state where the property in question is located. In today’s world, it’s not possible to know everything, everywhere. But, what is possible is to know the “questions.” There are some universal concepts. Not all of those concepts are universal, fixed rules such as the rule that if valid rent is unpaid, the tenant can’t stay. The most important universal concept is that the law is not the same throughout the more than 51 jurisdictions that make up the United States. In most cases, the law is similar, but the law is not the same. As with many “learned professions,” knowing the questions to ask is the hard part. That’s the real challenge we face. Finding answers is easy. Said another way, if you want to have your agreements, such as leases and guaranties, mean what you have said, then you have to be aware of the way the law differs jurisdiction to jurisdiction. [Read more…]

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Is “Display” A Verb Or A Noun; More About Exclusives

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If exclusive use rights are so important to some tenants and if landlords almost always resist granting such rights, why is it that, when agreement (compromise) is reached, the parties keep making the same mistakes? We’ve written before about the generality of “exclusives” and also about some specific approaches. For the benefit of new readers and to remind others, Ruminations holds that the presence or absence of an exclusive use right (and the scope of that right) is purely a function of bargaining power. Basically, how much does each party want the lease? That having been said, here are more of our thoughts.

To the extent that an exclusive use right is justifiable, tenants should be entitled to protection for their primary business, not for items of tertiary importance. A pizzeria sells pizza. If a pizzeria couldn’t sell pizza, then it isn’t one. Selling pizza is its “primary” use. So, to the extent that the presence of a second pizzeria at a particular property would seriously cannibalize sales at the first one, it is entirely appropriate for a landlord to be barred from allowing that second one. But, a tenant that holds itself out to be a pizzeria shouldn’t be entitled to keep others (such as a health food store) from selling frozen pizzas or to keep others from selling “Italian-style” sandwiches. If a pizzeria can’t co-exist with a sandwich shop, then it is a sandwich shop, not a pizzeria. Of course, defining a tenant’s primary business may not be as easy as looking at the tenant’s name, but we all get the idea (provided we are willing to step out of our uniforms – landlord or tenant – and look at the entire picture). [Read more…]

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I Surrender! Here’s Your Property Back: As-Is. Sue Me

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We are no fan of a particular type of “surrender” clause commonly found in leases, the “style” that calls for a tenant to “leave the property in as good condition as when it moved in, save normal wear and tear.” These clauses come in a variety of flavors, none of which Ruminations will offer today. In 2014, we shared some thoughts on this same topic in a posting that can be seen by clicking: HERE. We’ve also said (too) much about “wear and tear.” For those Ruminations of ours, search the blog site for (what else?) “wear and tear.” For the most part, our earlier writings have focused on the downside to tenants of this type of lease clause. Today, we’ll introduce a court decision that illustrates a giant shortcoming of the “same or better” condition requirement, one that should make landlords leery. Even readers who take a different approach to the condition of the leased property when its tenant departs will be interested in what the same court had to say about a property’s “move-in” condition and the implication for provisions dealing with the “move-out” condition. [Read more…]

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