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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Chickens, Eggs, And Waivers of Claims

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When a tenant’s property is ruined by rain coming through the roof of its leased space, what caused the damage? Was it the water or was it the landlord’s failure to repair the roof? That’s today’s issue to Ruminate about.

Right after a tenant moved into its space, it noticed the presence of water after what was called, “inclement weather.” We might have called it “rain.” So, it notified its landlord. Without delay, the landlord dispatched someone to investigate. His conclusion was the water was coming from an air conditioning unit. The tenant immediately called an independent HVAC repair company. Its conclusion was that the roof was leaking and the air conditioning unit was fine. The landlord did not make any roof repairs.

After that, each time it rained, water came into the space. After one rainstorm, only four months after the tenant moved in, so much water came in that there was damage to equipment, furniture, interior walls, and to over one million dollars (at retail) of inventory. At that time, the tenant again put its landlord on notice of the leaking roof, the damage caused, and the failure of the landlord to make repairs. The landlord had the roof inspected again. This time, its foreman determined that the water intrusion was the result of the building’s improperly constructed exterior and by something wrong with its downspout. Apparently, the landlord still did nothing, not even in response to repeated notices subsequently sent by its tenant every time water came into the space. A lawsuit followed. [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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Does The Broker Get Paid? Efficient Producing Cause And The Facts

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Last week, we set the background for understanding what it means for a broker to be the “efficient producing cause” behind a lease or sale. The background was in the form of a story from a 2012 unpublished New Jersey court decision. The long version can be seen by clicking: HERE. For those who missed last week’s blog posting, here is a precis.

An individual property owner and a real estate broker executed a commission agreement. Then the owner transferred the property to a newly formed limited liability company. A drugstore lease, requiring the owner to construct the store, was signed. The drug store’s parent company guaranteed the lease. Construction (likely “non-construction”) took years. The tenant hung on. To get the project moving, the property was transferred to a joint venture, with the new 75% owner taking over operational responsibility. Under the joint venture agreement, the new entity agreed to be responsible under the original brokerage agreement. Two days after the joint venture agreement was signed, the owner terminated the brokerage agreement. More than two years after that, the original drug store lease was terminated and a new lease was signed. The new lease was between the joint venture and the original tenant’s successor by merger. Again, the drug store parent company signed a guaranty. All of the documents signed by each of the original and new drug store were signed by the same person who signed the guaranties. The business terms of the new lease differed in rent amount and lease term from the original lease. The store opened. [Read more…]

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Brokers As Efficient Producing Causes

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It is very common, and Ruminations believes appropriate, for a real estate broker to bargain for a commission to be paid if a property is sold or leased even after its brokerage agreement expires. Basically, most brokerage agreements have some language providing for such payment if the broker had something to do with bringing forth the buyer or tenant. Those provisions have to deal with three major principles

One is “how does one know that the buyer or tenant was introduced to the property by the broker during the term of the agreement?” Another is “what does ‘introduced’ mean in this context?” The last is, “how long after a brokerage agreement expires will this protection for the broker continue?”

As to the “how does one know” question, we think the broker should furnish a list of the prospects introduced to the property. And, “prospects” should include affiliates of whatever person or entity had been introduced. The broker should be preparing its list throughout the term of the brokerage agreement and should deliver the final list at the end of the agreement’s term or within a day or two later. As to what is meant by “affiliate,” we think any normal definition would be fine so long as it captures real affiliates, not just people with the same first name. [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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The Invisible Hand Behind A Lease (It’s Economics)

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How is rent determined? Is it just tossed-out by one party or the other (most often the landlord) and then hashed out without reference to outside sources of information? A long time ago, market information may have been difficult to obtain. Today, that’s not the case. Those who choose to ignore market information negotiate in the dark. But, competitive rent rate information is not all that can or should go into negotiations.

If any reader is expecting Ruminations to now present a formula or algorithm that will eliminate rent negotiation, that reader gives us too much credit. We do think that the day will come when rent negotiations will be done between “machines,” but we neither see “when” that will happen or “how” that will work. Today, in what we hope will be a relatively short blog posting (for Ruminations), our goal is to toss out a theory of how rent is set while recognizing that no one will agree with us because we’ll be positing a theory involving “invisible” factors.

“Market rent” is a real thing. It may be difficult to ascertain precisely, but it is a number that reflects actual rents in the marketplace. Yes, defining the “marketplace” is an art and, yes, adjusting each lease in the market data bank to a “standard” is an art, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t such a thing as “market rent.” When one party or the other throws out a rental figure to start a leasing discussion, it is done with some sense of the market rent for the available space. The negotiations that follow, i.e., where they go from the starting figure, do so based on each party’s own sense of market rent and, even if both agree on the “market rent,” there still remains the duel between how much the tenant really wants “that” space and how much the landlord wants to lease “that” space. [Read more…]

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How To Cap The Very Wrong Lease Payment Obligation

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Here’s a question for commercial leasing mavens (that’s informal for: an expert or connoisseur). Have you ever seen (or contemplated) where a tenant wants to have a cap on its monthly estimated payments for its share of operating expenses, but doesn’t want a cap on its actual annual share of those expenses? If the question isn’t clear, it soon will become so.

Normally, we would give some background before presenting any lease clauses but, today, the clauses in question are the background. They come from a January 4, 2018 Court of Appeal of Louisiana decision, one that can be read by clicking: HERE[Read more…]

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