Knowledge Is Power. Get Some.

Print

There is a story about a brilliant legal scholar who, after penning an outstanding legal analysis, would turn it over to his students for review and editing. He was asked why he would have young students do the editing instead of doing the work himself. After all, what could they know that he didn’t? How could they, even collectively, know better than he could know? He had a simple response: his students, at that moment, were engaged in the process of learning the very subject matter in the paper. Because their learning was “active,” they were more knowledgeable at that moment. The information was fresh in their minds. [Read more…]

Print

Co-Tenancy Rights – Use Them Or Lose Them

Print

It’s been a while since we wrote about rules of contract construction or about the consequences of dilatory behavior. Now, we’ve just seen a September court decision from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota that gives us a good opportunity to cover both. As a bonus, it deals with a lease’s continuing co-tenancy provision.

The co-tenancy provision was pretty typical. In principle, to be an “Anchor Tenant” meant almost any “large, well-known national or regional retail store.” A co-tenancy failure was where certain identified space at the shopping center lacked such an Anchor Store for 120 days. Absent such an Anchor Store for that period, and if certain other conditions existed, the tenant with the continuing co-tenancy right could begin to pay “Alternative Rent” equal to the lesser of the lease’s stated rent or 3% of its gross sales. None of that was at issue at the Minnesota shopping center. The landlord agreed that the tenant’s co-tenancy right had been triggered and that it would be entitled to pay Alternative Rent, but for one issue. It claimed the tenant waited too long to exercise its right to the reduced rent. It wasn’t because an Anchor Tenant was found for the empty space. It was because the now-gone Anchor Tenant had vacated at the end of July 2016 and the claiming tenant, after paying full rent for 30 months, made a $250,000 retroactive claim in January 2019 for excess rent paid. [Read more…]

Print

Two Lease Guarantees Gone Awry

Print

We wanted to a “hit and run” this week based on what we think is a peculiar and wrong court decision about language in a personal guaranty. Then, we came across a second court decision concerning a guaranty, though with no other connection to the “peculiar” one. Given that electrons are plentiful and essentially free, we’ve chosen to tell readers about the later-discovered one first.

The story begins with a 15-year lease that was assigned by the named tenant to a successor only five months after the lease terms started. In connection with that assignment, a guaranty was given to the landlord, one in which the guarantor guaranteed:

[T]he payment and performance by the [a]ssignee of all its obligations under the [l]ease and all of the obligations of the [t]enant as defined under the [l]ease effective as of the date hereof.

The awkwardness of that text is immaterial to what then happened. About 2-1/2 years later, the lease was further assigned. In connection with this second assignment, the guarantor, in a writing dated about a month later, “confirmed that its guarantee would remain in effect despite [this] assignment….” Then, about eight years after that, the shares of the then tenant were acquired by yet another “tenant,” actually the same one, but with a new shareholder. The parent company of the new shareholder guaranteed the tenant’s lease obligations, the landlord waived its right to cancel the lease by reason of the shareholder change, and, importantly, the landlord received another letter from the original, lease-signing tenant. That letter confirmed the ongoing validity of the original guaranty, using the following language: [Read more…]

Print

Zero-Based Thinking And Our Leases

Print

Recently, a 7- year old asked us a couple of questions. The first was: “How old will you have to be to drive a self-driving car?” The second was: “Will you need a driver’s license.” Our immediate, gut thought was that one won’t really “drive” such a car. You’d be a passenger. We’re not thinking about transitional vehicles; we’re thinking about fully-functional ones without driver controls. Then, upon reflection, all of this taking place before we uttered a response, we “knew” that states will set a “driving” age and require a license. Even after we get to control-less vehicles, those requirements, already in place, will exist for at least many years. [Read more…]

Print

Don’t Believe What I Told You Clauses

Print

Here’s a story with a few different lessons. One aspect of it won’t be of great utility to our readers, so we’ll get it out of the way right now. The tenant in this story appeared to sign a lease without counsel and without fully reading it. We don’t think that aspect casts any shade on the lessons we’ll be covering, but keep the tenant’s approach in mind as you read the rest of today’s blog posting.

The owner of a successful chain of quick-service, ethnic restaurants developed a new concept – a mall restaurant that would sell gourmet hot dogs. W.C. Fields might have called those “Gourmet Tube Steaks,” but that’s for another industry’s blogs. He honed in on a large mall, one that only had three remaining spaces in what appeared to be its food court (though the court never explicitly identified it as such). One of the existing tenants in that food court was a well-known, national, premium hamburger quick-service restaurant. No, it wasn’t the one with the golden arches. Although that hamburger restaurant sold hot dogs, they were only a sideline. So, this was of no concern to the owner’s gourmet hot dog plans. [Read more…]

Print

You Can’t Be A Rogue Tenant If You Haven’t Gone Rogue (Yet)

Print

Imagine you leased a large space at a shopping center for your sports bar and restaurant. In that lease, you negotiated for the right to be the only “sports themed restaurant/bar larger than 5,000 square feet” at the shopping center. About four years later, a new, 7,000 square foot tenant signs a lease “for the purposes of operating [] indoor golf simulators, to include the sale of golf-related apparel, a ‘fast casual’ restaurant, and a bar.” You might be a little on edge until you see that the new tenant’s lease included just what you had bargained for. It included that this golf-related tenant “may not, among other restrictions, use its premises for ‘a sports themed restaurant/bar larger than 5,000 square feet.’”

So far, so good. [Read more…]

Print

Exculpation Lost On Assignment?

Print

We’ve written about “exculpatory” clauses before. The on-line version of Black’s Law Dictionary explains such clauses as follows: “An agreed-to condition (1) preventing blame or liability on one party due to the improper behavior of the other party; (2) preventing liability on one party due to not meeting all of the contractual performance expectations.”

In past blog postings, we’ve pronounced such clauses as overwhelmingly common in leases and almost always included to protect landlord-parties. We’ve suggested tenant-oriented versions. And, we’ve suggested tenant-protective modifications to this ubiquitous landlord-tilted lease provision. If interested, click HERE to read our thoughts.

We thought we had shot our load (an expression more acceptable than its more unsavory version, one that originated with early rifles) – until about a month ago when we saw a decision out of a California Court of Appeals, one that can be seen by clicking: HERE. The facts may be unusual, but the lesson is unsettling. Ruminations may not agree with the outcome, but denial, in this case, seems to be a big river in Egypt and not an effective legal strategy. [Read more…]

Print

Cross A State Line And Co-Tenancy Failure Remedies Can Become Valid/Invalid

Print

In early 2015, we characterized a California court’s decision in a co-tenancy clause case as: “[A] California appellate court has found a typical lease provision to be an unenforceable penalty.”  There, a tenant’s lease gave it the right to take a rent reduction and, after a period of time (if the landlord did not replace the lost co-tenant), it could terminate the lease. The California court allowed the tenant’s lease termination but made the tenant pay full rent during what was supposed to be the reduced rent period. Basically, it agreed with the landlord by holding that the substantial loss from the lower rent constituted an unenforceable penalty. For those interested in our description of that case and implied criticism as well, click HERE to step back to February 2015. [Read more…]

Print