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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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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Who Should Pay To Replace the HVAC, Landlord Or Tenant?

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Should a tenant be required to pay for the replacement of pieces of the real property within or serving its leased premises? We don’t know. That’s because it isn’t a legal matter. It isn’t a moral matter. It isn’t a matter of logic. It isn’t a matter of fairness. It is part of the economics of the deal, one whose answer will be determined by the negotiating process.

At the end of the day, the issue isn’t about the “money,” it is about the risk – the uncertainty. Why does Ruminations dare to say it isn’t about the money when virtually every reader has already thought: “Are you out of your mind”? That’s because the “market” needs to make a profit one way or another. To assure there is a real estate market, the aggregate tenant rent at a property needs to be sufficient to generate that profit. In the aggregate, the industry will either generate acceptable investment returns or property values will drop to a point where an investment in property will “again” generate an appropriate return. [Read more…]

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Beware Of Boilerplate: Sword Or Shield?

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There is no shortage of commentary and reference material covering the drafting and negotiating of a real property lease. As a result, it is tempting to try to cover more ground or to go further than others have gone when analyzing a lease’s provisions. Ruminations will make a deliberate effort not to succumb to that temptation.

The scope of today’s posting is to look at four “boilerplate” clauses in a typical lease. If we get a positive response, we may cover a few more clauses over time.

What, really, is “boilerplate”? The word’s common meaning is a provision that is ordinary, common, and by implication generally acceptable. In reality, there are very few, if any, such clauses in a form lease. They may be ordinary and common, but they aren’t necessarily generally acceptable – especially to a tenant. No bias is intended today. Nonetheless, it is impossible to be entirely balanced as between a landlord’s concerns and a tenant’s concerns. After all, pre-printed forms are designed for sale to landlords, not tenants, and most leases begin on landlord-generated forms. [Read more…]

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Why We Can’t Write Damage/Destruction Clauses That Work

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No lease can be written that will answer every post-damage question that will arise. The “law” (whatever that is) provides some gap fillers, but not many. That’s because much of the case law concerns itself with answering epistemological questions – that is, “analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to truth, belief, and justification.” Courts try to divine: “what would the parties have agreed-upon had they known this post-damage question would arise.”

The biggest single factor in determining how things will turn out after a fire, flood, explosion or some other damage-causing event is: do the landlord and tenant still love each other? Do they want to cooperate and get back in business together, or do they want to divorce. If they want to get the property restored as quickly as can happen so that the tenant’s cash register starts ringing and rent checks begin to flow again, they will make that happen and things will work out. If they each want to end the tenancy, they’ll make that happen pretty easily – the issue might be money, and if that is the case, believe it or not, money issues are the easiest to work out. Basically, if a landlord and its tenant share the same post-damage goal, they’ll work it out. [Read more…]

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Out With The Old Perfectly Good Lease, In With …

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Well, another holiday weekend has rolled around. When that happens, we try to stay away from technical or detailed topics and just Ruminate about things that trouble us. We try to throw out some easily digestible thoughts and await the bounce-back. Today’s posting meets those criteria, but after hacking out today’s blog posting, we were haunted by two old quotations. Both are almost certainly wrongly attributed to Samuel Clemens a/k/a Mark Twain. But, that doesn’t make them any less disturbing.

The first is: “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” The other is: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

Guilty on both counts.

Here’s the puzzle, one that wasn’t a puzzle when we were younger. Isn’t ignorance beautiful? Imagine this situation. There’s a shopping center lease executed in 1976, 40 years ago, and it has run out of extension options (then probably called “renewal” options). The lease has worked well. In fact, over the 40 years, no one ever dragged it out to look anything up other than to see what had to be done to exercise one of those extension options. [Read more…]

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Open For One Day? Why Bother?

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Last week, we put forth the view that tenants with limited bargaining power will have little choice but to accept a continuous operation obligation (assuming they really want to be at the property). We offered some suggestions that could protect a tenant, otherwise acting in good faith, from uninvited consequences that could result from an unintentional violation of such an obligation. Is there anything left to write on the subject? [That was a rhetorical question.]

Warning: Today’s blog posting will wander a bit. Hopefully, by its end, it will “all add up.”

Tenants with significant bargaining power almost never sign a lease with a continuous operation obligation. Are there exceptions? Sure. The most common is where, in effect, a shopping center developer “gives” land at the project to an anchor tenant to build its own store. The understanding is that this “gift” is being made with the belief that a shopping center with one or more solid anchors will attract smaller tenants, and those smaller tenants are the “real” tenants whose rent goes to the developer. The anchor stores understand that bargain and agree to operate, BUT (usually) only for a given number of years, say 20 or 25. This won’t be a persuasive explanation, but we think readers will get the idea: the anchor tenant will have spent its own money to build a 150,000 to 250,000 square foot store at a cost of $15 million or more. How likely is it that such a tenant will close that store and write down the cost of its construction? [Read more…]

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Continuous Operation: 24-7 Or Bust

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Two words that strike the heart of man: Continuous Operation. Well, not all men’s hearts are at risk. Big strong ones can get away with stating, at the outset: “No, we won’t go there.” Weaker, but not weak ones, can offer a compromise, such as the one day trick pony. Sadly for the rest, the weakest, most vulnerable ones, they acquiesce.

To be fair, landlords don’t insist that a tenant be open and operating its business “during normal business hours,” for no good reason. There are a lot of good ones, and not just ones that directly benefit a landlord, such as optimizing percentage rent recovery from the burdened tenant. Business begets more business. Shopping centers that are “buzzing” with activity, ones that look like the place to be and be seen, draw customers; customers draw tenants and robust demand for leased space means higher rents (plus higher percentage rent recovery). [Read more…]

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