Whose Deal Is It Anyway?

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Two stubborn mature men arguing with each other isolated on white background

Rules are made to be broken even if no one knows there was even a rule. In this case, it is Ruminations violating its own rule against two consecutive screech-blog postings. Over the last 300+ postings, we’ve “salted” Ruminations with observations about our own bad habits and those we’ve seen in our generally great real estate community. We’ve tried to space them about a month apart. Last week, we wrote about an all too common way that a minority, but a disturbing minority, of our colleagues try to put the “other” negotiator down. This week we address another one of our “bugs.” That’s a rule-breaker.

To make matters worse for us, we are breaking another one of our rules – the one that has kept us from singling out one subset of our community – this week, the lawyer subset (of which this writer is a very proud member). Our distress isn’t limited to this subset. Certainly we of that persuasion hold no monopoly on the tendency to be complained-about today. Yet, we in that profession certainly suffer more frequently from this affliction than do members of any other subset of the real estate community.

Alright already, what is it? It is thinking that we are the business people who are actually making the deal – forgetting that it is our client’s (or principal’s) deal. How do we do this? We do it by arguing pure business terms as if the money to be paid or received will be coming out of our own pockets. [Read more…]

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Just Because The Agreement Allows It Doesn’t Mean It Is Allowed

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First, Ruminations is not expanding its coverage to all that would be considered “contract law.” It’s just that leases, mortgages, and all of the other documents we encounter on a daily basis are just a subset  of the broader category of contracts, ones dealing with real property. Second, although we mostly write about memorializing agreements, from time to time we bring up the topic of how people act once their agreements are executed. Today is such a day.

So, today, Ruminations will be focusing on some post-contract behavior we read about in a January 20, 2017 decision from the Supreme Court of Delaware. For readers who don’t already know this, here’s a valuable piece of information. The Delaware Supreme Court is held in extremely high regard by courts of other states – it is “persuasive.” And, when it overrules the very highly regarded Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware, ears should perk up. [Read more…]

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How Much Insurance Coverage Does The Tenant Have For Damage To Its Leased Premises?

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There are general categories of “insurance.” One is “life and health.” The one we care about is property and casualty,” the industry shorthand for which is: “P&C.” For those of us in this business, the “P” means commercial property insurance. That makes the relevant insurance “commercial general property” insurance. Let’s use that name.

For our purposes, the “C” mainly means “liability” insurance, and that makes the relevant insurance “commercial general liability” coverage. That’s what “CGL” stands for. The “C” in this case stands for “Commercial,” not for any of those other words some of our colleagues insist on using despite your efforts to correct their error.

Most insureds, especially large insureds, will carry both a CGL policy and a commercial property insurance policy. In almost all, but not all, cases, each policy form will consist of the ones promulgated by the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) modified by multiple endorsement forms (also by the ISO), most of which limit (reduce) the promised coverage.

A meaningful number of small businesses, especially in industries with unique needs, will have “package” policies that combine the “P” and “C” in the same policy. For example, auto repair businesses are exposed to business-related risks associated with taking custody of property owned by others (i.e., property under their care, custody, and control). In addition, garage owners drive customer’s (expensive) cars and are expected to look to their own insurance, and not their customers’ insurance, in the case of an accident. “Package” or “Program” policies are not written on ISO forms. Each insurance company writes its own form, sometimes paralleling ISO language, but there is no guaranty of that. If you are at a small law firm, take a look to see if you have a combined policy. It might be labeled a “Businessowners Policy” or a “BOP.” [Read more…]

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You Snooze; You Lose; Maybe; Probably

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What is in the water that many, too many, landlords drink? What can they be thinking? The same can be said (though not as often) about tenants, and we will do so. What is in the water that many, too many, tenants drink? What can they be thinking?

The subject is asking for money rightfully owed to those drinkers. It might be for taxes or it might be for operating expenses, percentage rent, insurance premiums, reimbursable expenses or refunds for the payment of any one or more of those. It might even be for other things such as overdue rent. Yes, why do rightfully billable charges or rightful claims go unbilled or unclaimed until years later when someone wakes up, often, but not always, a successor landlord or tenant?.

[If you] SNOOZE, you [can] LOSE. “Do not spend your days gathering flowers by the wayside, lest night come upon you before you arrive at your journeys end, and then you will not reach it. [Isaac Watts].

If you haven’t experienced the situation or been asked about the following situation yet, it is just that you haven’t been at this real property leasing thing long enough: After “X” years (“X” often being 5 or more) of failing to bill a tenant for taxes or other monies genuinely owed, a landlord sends out a (BIG) bill. Both the tenant and its landlord turn to trusted advisors and ask: “How far back can the landlord go and still have the right to collect what is owed?” [Read more…]

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Let There Be No More Blog Postings Similar In Concept To Ruminations; We Have An Exclusive

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Many businesspeople reach agreement as to a principle expecting that someone else will express it in words that can be understood, in a common way, by others. So, when it is agreed that a landlord will not allow any “diner similar in concept to the tenant’s diner,” what were the landlord and tenant agreeing-upon? We would think that the tenant didn’t want competition in the form of having another restaurant that drew on the same kind of customer base. Of course, every restaurant competes with every other one, but the marketplace distinguishes between Michelin 3-star establishments and burger joints. That’s a key point whenever an exclusive use restriction is on the bargaining table.

So, was the tenant thinking that some diners would be acceptable and others would not be acceptable? If so, how does one slice and dice the category: diners? [Read more…]

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Parallel Construction, Consequential Damages, And Use Of A Dictionary

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Questions about damages and remedies are not simple to answer and, often, the answers are less than fully satisfying. The overriding framework is that business people don’t really focus on these “leave it to the lawyers” issues until a problem rears its head. Unlike many lease and other agreement issues that are worked out between cooperating parties, when one starts to look at a document or at the law to see “what are my rights, what can I do, how can I be made whole,” the relationship has already broken down. That’s when each side starts counting commas and looking for all of the “notwithstandings.”

Today, we’re going to look at an actual case, one decided at the end of October by a California appellate court. It can be seen by clicking HERE.

It involves the concept of “consequential damages, “exclusive remedies,” and “rent and other charges.” And, as will come as no surprise to regular readers, it teaches us something about using the right words. Oh, yes, it also describes a very familiar process, that process being where lawyers are hired to try to find a way to argue that the words in a lease or other agreement support a conclusion contrary what any objective observer would see as the plain intention of the parties. In the course of that process, the dispute we’ll be describing became the subject of four, count them, four separate appellate proceedings. [Read more…]

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You’ve Got To Know What Words Mean – Was Arbitration Mandatory?

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Arbitration (and other alternate dispute resolution methods) have their place in agreements such as leases. Another possible way to say that, and one that brings out a bit of nuance, is that arbitration is a specialized tool, not a Swiss Army knife.

Even its strongest advocates, those who would like to sidestep litigation entirely, recognize that there are things that courts can do and arbitrators can’t. One prime example is to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent. In most jurisdictions courts do that well and do it quickly. They have a direct relationship with the officials empowered to throw tenants out. Arbitrators would need to get judicial enforcement of what would be the equivalent of a warrant of removal. Courts have a summary disposition procedure for eviction cases. As a practical matter, the arbitration process doesn’t and won’t. [Read more…]

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When Does A Holdover (“Sufferance”) Tenancy Begin?

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The most popular Ruminations blog posting, by far, is the one dealing with holdover tenancies [It can be seen by clicking HERE.] We write, “holdover tenancies” only because that is how people speak about tenants who remain in the leased premises after their right to stay there has ended. Yes, they are some kind of “tenant,” but Ruminations sees them as trespassers, someone who is on another’s land without permission.

Today, we are going to work with a 2014 unpublished decision from the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Supreme Court. It can be seen by clicking HERE. The case covers a couple of interesting points beyond that of “holdover,” and we’ll try to discuss those as well. So, expect to read about oral leases and license agreements as well as about “holdover.” We’ll begin with this court’s comments about holdover tenancies, more accurately called “tenancies at sufferance.” Here they are: [Read more…]

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