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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Part 2: Are You Buying A Shopping Center? If So, Look Here:

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A few weeks ago, in response to a constant, but small, stream of requests for suggested language,” we posted a set of possible representations and warranties and a set on conditions precedent a buyer might want to consider for inclusion in a purchase agreement to acquire a leased property. We got a number of “thank you” messages following our doing so. Now, since Ruminations is not immune to adulation, we thought we’d put a lid on the topic by sharing another set of provisions a buyer might want to see in that same purchase agreement. If this pleases you, then savor today’s because it is unlikely that we’ll be taking Ruminations on this kind of detour very soon again. As always, if any reader has any suggested language to share with the many, many other readers who suffer through our postings each week, please add your contribution as a comment to today’s posting. [Read more…]

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Abandonment, Vacancy, Default – How Are These Related?

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JDoes a tenant have a duty to occupy the leased space? No, not unless the lease requires it to do so. So, what should a lease say in that regard? We begin by contrasting two terms, vacate and abandon.

What does it mean to “abandon” leased premises? To abandon the leased space is for a tenant to relinquish its right or interest in the space with the intention of never claiming it again.  Normally that requires an understanding of the tenant’s subjective intent, a very difficult “state of mind.”  In some cases, however, that state of mind can be determined, such as when an entity tenant vacates the leased premises and is dissolved.  Mere passage of time during a cessation of active use does not constitute abandonment.  Although length of time is a factor to be considered, it is not the sole factor.  Some discontinued uses are more readily revivable than others, and the passage of time must be considered in conjunction with all circumstances, including those that caused the cessation, the nature and quality of efforts being made to resume the use, and any other objective manifestations supporting or negating the owner’s expressed intent to continue the use.  Further, just because a tenant ceases using particular leased premises does not mean that it doesn’t intend to find a subtenant for those premises.  Thus, if a tenant is otherwise performing its obligations under its lease, a landlord under a lease lacking a definition for “abandonment,” applicable to the particular circumstances, is without the ability to terminate the Lease or recapture the space. [Read more…]

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The Times They Are A Changin

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A major supermarket, once the largest retailer in the United States, closed in bankruptcy after 156 years in existence. People much smarter and knowledgeable that we are could better explain the cause of its demise and, in hindsight, could explain how they knew, years and years earlier, it would happen. Ruminations can only offer that the facts and circumstances changed, but the company (meaning its people in charge) did not. But, this blog isn’t about history other than to use it as a platform upon which to stand when engaging in another fool’s errand – forecasting the future.

The reason this now-gone supermarket comes to mind is “Uber.” We’ll get to that, but for now, please suffer along with us. [Read more…]

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Groceries And Other Definitions Revisited

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Groceries, sandwiches, ice cream, supermarkets, restaurants, department stores, variety stores – oh, the words we use, what do they mean? Today, we revisit one of our most-read blog postings because a federal appeals court revisited the underlying case (again). We’re “talking” about the Winn-Dixie case. Our “take” on that underlying case can be read by clicking: HERE. Ruminations urges readers to refresh their memories now by re-reading our earlier blog posting

Winn-Dixie, a supermarket chain, won a court decision in Florida where the lower court ruled that “groceries” included soup, aluminum foil, and similar items. As a result, it ruled that dozens of “dollar” type stores run by three retailers were in violation of a provision in the supermarket’s lease prohibiting others from selling groceries. Basically, the federal court that first heard the lawsuit looked at an earlier state court ruling, and (kind of properly) treated it as binding on itself, the federal court. [Read more…]

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Exclusive Use Clauses And Antitrust Concerns

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It’s been a thousand or more leases since Ruminations did any serious thinking about the intersection of exclusive use restrictions, radius clauses, and their respective lawfulness. This isn’t a current topic of discussion in leasing circles, though it certainly was 40 to 50 years ago. Yes, there is comfort in knowing that, with the passage of time, we aren’t seeing the “anti-trust” or “unfair methods of competition” armies marching into the shopping center arena. That is, possibly, until now.

Readers can research the law on their own. It isn’t worth wasting electrons on hyper-technical legal background. Suffice it to write that there is a Federal Trade Commission Act barring “unfair methods of competition in commerce … .” The lessening of competition is a danger also addressed in the Robinson-Patman Act, the Sherman Act, and the Clayton Antitrust Act. Further, some states have their own anti-competition or antitrust laws. [Read more…]

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Blame Amazon!

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Beaujeb Blame Amazon! That’s not a new approach. William Shakespeare wrote it in Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” [With apologies to genuine literary critics, all of whom should disagree with our misappropriation of the Roman nobleman, Cassius’s intent in his choice of those words.]

We have a hypothesis about gasoline stations. Our thinking has long been that no one wants to go to them; they go because, if they don’t, they can’t do what they really want to do – drive a car. Even if we are wrong when it comes to everyone else in the world, we know that’s how we feel. So, the number one reason we have for wanting an electric car is that we won’t be spending time getting gas. “Refueling” a car (with electricity) at home while we sleep seems pretty appealing.

Retail stores aren’t very different. If the only reason customers come to your shopping center is because they “have to,” then anything that comes along that will eliminate the trip will replace that trip. [Read more…]

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Additional Rent Is No Rent At All

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We are aware that in New Jersey, if a lease doesn’t denominate a particular tenant’s financial obligation as some version of “rent,” then the landlord can’t get the tenant evicted for non-payment of that item. The reason we are aware of this is because we’ve seen case law that denies a landlord such relief. While the landlord can sue to collect such charges, for example, common area charges, it can’t evict the tenant if the lease doesn’t say that such charges are “rent” or “additional rent.” It doesn’t matter that Ruminations thinks that’s just plain silly. That’s the way it works even if everyone other than the court knows that such items are part of a tenant’s rent.

Nonetheless, since courts, not Ruminations, get to issue eviction documents, almost all New Jersey leases recite something like: “All monies required by this Lease to be paid by Tenant to Landlord constitute ‘Additional Rent’ and the failure to pay Additional Rent will have the same consequences as failure to pay Basic Rent.” Still, some New Jersey leases don’t say anything like that but, fortunately, almost all tenants actually pay their rent (and additional rent). So, you don’t see a lot of court decisions about the issue. [Read more…]

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