Rights Without Remedies: Moratoriums And Real Estate

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If blog postings, law firm memorandums, newspaper articles, televised pundits, and the like were effective medications for COVID-19 infections, this crisis would be over. Without even asking readers, we know that all of you are inundated with reliable [and less than reliable] information and guidance about this virus and how to deal with it. Unfortunately, more and more, it seems like we’re hearing Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith and Don Reno performing “Feudin’ Banjos” on their seminal 1955 recording. We don’t play the banjo. Therefore, we won’t be joining the COVID-19 legal advice band today.

 

One thing, however, bothers us more than the many others. We’ve seen a lot of words speculating on what “laws” were needed. Some opinions have been sage. Many have been uninformed. What bothers us is that much of what we are reading ignores or blurs the difference between “rights” and “remedies.” Almost all lawyers know the following; many of our other readers may not. One way to explain what is going on is to use an example that comes right out of our current news. An increasing number of jurisdictions are legislating (or administratively imposing) rent relief for (usually only residential) tenants. [Read more…]

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The COVID-19 Crisis Is Now Over – What Is Next For Retail Real Estate?

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If you are like we are, you’ve been receiving dozens of COVID-19 emails or other messages each DAY. On the “law” side, they discuss and dissect the legal rights and remedies implicated by the current crisis – force majeure, impossibility, impracticality, material adverse changes (effects), foreclosure moratoriums, and on and on. On the “business” side, they opine on holding off the payment under mortgages or leases, or the applicability of insurance coverage, and on and on. The now 94-year old Newton Minow, when last to speak on a panel, is reported to have said something like: “By this time, everything to be said has already been said, but not everyone has had a chance to say it. Now is my turn.” That’s the feeling we are getting about the nearly 200 messages we are receiving weekly.

Some “advice” is well thought out; some is authoritative; some is important; some is trivial; some are well-meaning but dangerous. To us, the common factor is that all (that we have seen) are backward-looking. What about tomorrow? In the words of Bishop T. D. Jakes, “Never make a permanent decision based on a temporary storm. No matter how raging the billows are today, remind yourself: ‘This too shall pass!’” [Read more…]

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Today, Hubris And Existentialism, Not “The Missing Comma”

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Hubris (hu·​bris), n. [Gr. Hybris].wanton insolence or arrogance resulting from excessive pride or from passion. That’s what it would be if we were to present today’s blog posting as if our subject matter was important in the current situation. It is also what all of us, unknowingly for sure, have demonstrated in thinking that our agreements could cover every possibility. If any reader had a COVAD-19 provision in their documents before January, we invite you to share it with the rest of us.

Countries have shut down walk-in commerce. In the states and Canada, stores, large and small, are closing “temporarily.” Restaurants, the “saviors” in today’s shop-on-line world, are closing “temporarily.” Hours are being cut back. Rents won’t be paid. Some, mainly marginal, tenants won’t be coming back. Some (pretextually) will use their co-tenancy right to “skinny down” their portfolios. We’ll all fight about the meaning of “force majeure.” We’ll be picking through our leases, open purchase agreements, and loan documents (including loan commitments) in an effort to “get out.” [Read more…]

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Insurance Proceeds: Use Them Or Lose Them

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When it comes to some property insurance proceeds, the tag line is: “Use it or lose it.” Most agreements such as leases and mortgages, even poorly written ones, call for one party or the other (or both) to carry property insurance for “replacement cost.” [By the way, “full replacement cost” isn’t one barleycorn larger than plain, old “replacement cost.” A full quart of milk takes up no more space than a lowly quart of milk. And, it isn’t “replacement value,” it is “replacement cost.”] But, “replacement cost” doesn’t mean that the insurer goes out and writes a check for what is determined to be the damaged property’s replacement cost, even if the property is totally destroyed. The insured only gets paid for the cost of what is actually repaired. Note that we’ve just written “repaired,” not “replaced,” even though the coverage is called “replacement” cost. That’s because “replacement cost” is a limit, not the amount that is going to be written on the check. [Read more…]

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It’s A Rule: A Good Rant Is Cathartic

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Can you make a list of the institutions or people who employ “Make ‘em up as you go along” rules? To get the thinking process going, try bank tellers or low-level government employees. E.g.: Teller: “You need to include your middle name in the signature used to endorse that check. It’s a bank rule.” You: “But, that wouldn’t be my signature. I don’t sign my name that way. That’s my rule.” Who wins?

Someplace in the annals of U.S. Supreme Court decisions is a statement to the effect that long after the need for a law has expired, we find a new justification to enforce that law. We know it’s in there, and when we find the actual quote and the Justice who said that, we’ll post our (re)discovery.

So, now we’ll rant. Why do some, perhaps most, commercial lenders employ so many documents? Don’t any of the old ones (the documents, not the lenders) ever die gracefully? We have a notion, completely unsupported by any facts, that the industry suppliers of “stock” loan documents all engage in the following marketing process. They produce a grid listing themselves and three or four competitors across its top. Then, along the side, they list the 20 or so forms in their own offering with a check mark in their own column matching each such form. Their competitors’ columns are populated with a combination of green check marks and red X’s. This, of course, proves that the chart producer has the “best” loan document generating program.

Well, that doesn’t sit well with the X- ladened column holders. So, they add all of the “missing” forms to their own packages, and, for good measure, add a few the others don’t have. This infuriates each of the others, who then declare: “I’ll match that and raise you one form.” You get the idea.

Now, that’s only a start. For example, one of the documents is a “Corporate Consent to Loan” form. It is pre-printed (today, “pre-printed” means computer generated), and is on the loan document checklist. It doesn’t matter that the borrower is a proprietorship or a limited liability company. The bank “officer” MUST get this form executed. Of course, the officer (or closing agent) has no idea what is going on other than, “It’s a rule.”

Now, Ruminations knows this really doesn’t happen. NOT! (There’s our pop culture reference for today).

There are less obvious “checklist” items for which the reason for existence is known only to archeologists. Does a lender really need a copy of the canceled check for an insurance policy paid for eight months earlier even if it has a certificate saying the policy is still in effect? Doesn’t one subsume the other? Oh, yeah, each of us could make up a reason, one that starts with: “But, suppose …” We’d prefer to hear: “Oh, yeah, we don’t really need it.” [Except, it’s on the checklist and we really do need it because: (a) it’s on the checklist; (b) that’s the rule; (c) suppose we get audited: (d) no one else ever objected; (e) for as long as I’ve been here …; (f) etc.]

Isn’t there a rule that rants don’t have to be orderly and organized? So, here’s a related one. Ask, “Why do you need this?” and get this answer: “Because that’s our rule.”

While we are on a tear, is there a rule that once a new form is created, it can neither ever be eliminated nor integrated into another document? There must be.

At a time when a corporate filer was no longer required to stamp or emboss its seal on its federal tax return, the form still had a place for those filers who still wanted to show off their seal. Today, one will still find lenders (and others) who insist upon the placement of a physical seal on documents that don’t otherwise require one. [The word “seal” alone does the job in the limited circumstances where a “seal” has a legal implication.]

Apparently, it is easier (safer) to add than to delete. Do form documents ever get any shorter? Almost always – no. Kudos to those enterprises that periodically step back and revisit theirs, few as those enterprises may be in number.

Well, Ruminations is a rule breaker. Rants are required to be long and rambling. Today, we just rambled but have kept it short (for Ruminations, that is). We only wanted to light some kindling for our readers to benefit from as they throw their own wood on the fire. Join us in today’s rant theme by posting a comment.

Our last thought for today is that making up rules as you go along isn’t all bad. Take “Calvinball” for example. What is that? Click: HERE or HERE to find out.

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Personal Or General Misfortunes

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We’ve stolen our title from an article (or possibly it is a blog piece) dealing with the same concept but in a completely different field of endeavor. It wasn’t even about anything objective. But, its title and subject matter got us thinking about just what its author was discussing: that is “who should bear the risk?” We wrote about this a long time ago and, at the time, thought we had written a definitive piece on the subject. Now, we know we had not. Neither will be today’s posting. [For those intent on visiting the past, here’s a link to our 2013 rambling: LINK.]

Who deserves to lose when uncontrollable events present such an opportunity? We think few would argue that a tenant whose business goes south at all or most of its locations shouldn’t blame itself and should not blame any particular landlord. Similarly, if the neighborhood turns for the worst, and rental values fall, individual tenants are blameless when it comes to the landlord’s investment loss. But those examples aren’t entirely correct. [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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Can A Tenant Walk Out And Lawfully Stop Paying Rent When It Tires Of The Space?

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A restaurant’s lease permitted leasehold mortgages with the following proviso:

Tenant shall have the right … to encumber Tenant’s leasehold interest under this Lease … through a Mortgage (`Leasehold Mortgage’) with an institutional lender…. Landlord agrees that in the event the Leasehold Mortgagee succeeds to Tenant’s interest under this Lease (in which event it shall assume all of Tenant’s obligations under this Lease), Landlord shall, at the time of such succession, recognize such mortgagee, trustee or lender as the then Tenant under this Lease upon the same terms and conditions contained in this Lease and for the then unexpired portion of the Term.

Any such leasehold lender had the right under the lease to take over the tenant-borrower’s leasehold interest through a foreclosure. [Read more…]

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