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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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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Who Should Write Settlement Agreements? The Courts?

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Today’s Ruminations is triggered by a court decision that may not have reached the “correct” result. If that suspicion is correct, then why do we promulgate its holding? There’s a simple answer. Had more talent been employed in negotiating the agreement dissected by the court, there would have been no court involvement. There would also be a different blog posting today.

The facts appear to be somewhat simple. They might be simpler had the court shown more of the actual agreement in its written decision. Instead, it gave us its characterization. Normally, when courts do so, they do it in a way that tilts the “story” to support its decision. So, we’ll assume that the characterization is the strongest the court could write to support the outcome. Enough with the mystery – here’s the story.

A fitness center leased space. The lease was subsequently amended, at which time the tenant’s owner signed a personal guaranty. The document was denominated as a limited guaranty, but the only “limitation” was its dollar amount cap. Otherwise, it appears to have been what we call a “come heck or high water” obligation. [Some would give it a different, but similar nickname.] The guaranty expressly said that the guarantor’s liability was “co-extensive with that of” the tenant. [Read more…]

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Did They Guaranty The Lease For Its Extended Term?

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We’ve written about guaranties before, most directly in postings that can be seen by clicking: HERE and HERE. Today, we drill down to the enforceability of a lease guaranty after the lease has been modified, but without notice to or knowledge of the guarantor. Today’s Ruminating is informed by a January, 2018 unpublished opinion from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. [Readable by clicking: HERE.]

A church’s lease was guaranteed by its Pastor, his wife, and six other church members. The church defaulted and its landlord sued for the remaining rent under a three-year extension properly signed by the Pastor on behalf of the church, but without the knowledge of the six church members. In fact, they didn’t even have a hint that the lease had been extended despite each being some form of “leader” in the church, though those roles appeared to be substantially ceremonial. Their only financial connection to the church was their obligation to tithe to it. The lower court described them as “commercially” unsophisticated.

The lease extension was by way of amendment. The lease did not have an extension option. The additional three-year term was related to a rent reduction sought by the Pastor and agreed-to by the landlord. The church performed until it didn’t with eight months to go in the lease’s term. At that time, by agreement with its landlord, the church vacated its premises. [Read more…]

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For Want Of A Parenthesis A King’s Ransom Could Have Been Lost

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What is every document writer’s nightmare (or at least one of their nightmares)? How about a mere “typo”? “Typo,” short for “typographical error,” is (as all readers already know), “an error (as of spelling) in typed or typeset material.” Count both the “open” and “close” parentheses in the following recital from a 17-1/2 million dollar loan guaranty:

WHEREAS, NNN Cypresswood Drive, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 1, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 3, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 4, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 5, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 6, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 7, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 9, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 10, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 11, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 12, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 13, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 14, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 17, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 18, LLC, NNN Cypresswood Drive 19, LLC, and NNN Cypresswood Drive 20, LLC, each a Delaware limited liability company (as defined in the Security Instrument), the “Borrower”), have obtained a loan (the “Loan”) in the principal amount of Seventeen Million Five Hundred Thousand and No/100 Dollars ($17,500,000.00) from ….

The counts don’t match. Most likely you think there is a missing parentheses. Why aren’t you thinking that there is an extra one? [Read more…]

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Guarantors, Take Notice!

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Last week, we explored some of the “why” behind those oh, so many words in today’s lease guaranties. Today, we’ll switch gears and cover some risk-related issues, nuts and bolts, so to speak.

[To see last week’s posting, click HERE. For some earlier postings, click HERE, and HERE, and HERE, and HERE.]

Last week, we wrote about the reasons why actions taken by a landlord with respect to the tenant or the lease could injure the lease’s guarantor. We didn’t give any examples, but most are obvious. They would include modifying a lease in a way that increases the guarantied obligations. Other actions or inactions that a landlord could take are those that weaken the financial strength of the tenant. Those could include post-lease agreements that allow the landlord to keep the deposit or even to allow a rent deferral. We realize that it isn’t obvious how allowing a rent deferral can weaken a tenant financially. To understand how, we need to look through the eyes of a guarantor. Last week, we discussed the tri-partite relationship between the landlord, the tenant, and the guarantor, explaining how the tenant is really obligated to both the landlord and the guarantor, Basically, if the guarantor steps up to “cover” the tenant’s obligations to the landlord, it has the right to seek reimbursement (legally, “contribution”) from the tenant. So, if the reason a tenant got a rent deferral is because it was “sinking,” to the guarantor that means that the tenant’s ability to make the reimbursement is sinking as well. The landlord, on the other hand, is somewhat indifferent if the tenant drowns. After all, it is getting part of the rent along the way and it still has a guarantor to cover the loss. [Read more…]

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How To Lose Your Lease Guaranty

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As a business matter, a lease guaranty is almost always intended to be enforceable “come heck or high water,” no “ifs, ands or buts.” In a particular situation, that might not turn out to be the case, but that’s what people expect. But saying “no ifs, ands or buts,” doesn’t mean that any particular guaranty covers all circumstances for all of time. They are defined by their scope and can be limited by amount or time. We’ve written about limitations before and we’ll try not to cover that ground today. If any reader is interested, those earlier blog postings can be seen by clicking: HERE and HERE.

Today, we’re going to raise some kinds of things that could let a guarantor off the hook, in which case it wouldn’t matter how “tight” the guaranty was written. Regardless of whether space permitted, we couldn’t list every set of circumstances that could cause that result, even if we were good enough to know them all. So, we’ll just lay out some principles. Hopefully they will sensitize readers such that they will be able to look at any situation and know whether there is a possibility that the guaranty will turn out to be nothing more than a used piece of paper. [Read more…]

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What’s In A Name? That Which We Call A Tenant…

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We titled today’s posting with apologies to Shakespeare, who wrote for this line for Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet.” Ruminations has wanted to explore this issue for quite some time, but hasn’t found a “handle” to latch onto until now. What issue, you ask? It should be obvious, ABC, so to speak, that when you look at a lease (or any other agreement), you should be able to know who the landlord and tenant are. Amazingly, that isn’t always the case. Allow us to continue.

But, before we begin, we’ll explain that when the problem arises, we’ve only seen it concern the identity of the tenant, not the landlord. That’s never been discomforting because lack of care or lack of knowledge is more common when the lease involves a small space and, in most of those cases, the form used comes from the landlord and the landlord knows its own name even if it isn’t already built into the form itself. [Read more…]

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