Co-Tenancy Rights – Use Them Or Lose Them

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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…]

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Zero-Based Thinking And Our Leases

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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…]

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Don’t Believe What I Told You Clauses

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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…]

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Landlords Can Be Liable For A Tenant’s Sale Of Counterfeit Goods

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Should a landlord be concerned about trademark or copyright law? Perhaps, not overly concerned (considering how many other challenges they face), but the answer is: “Yes.” Simply stated, a landlord can be liable to legitimate product suppliers if a tenant is selling counterfeit goods. Is it as simple as that? Well, no – but that’s the law, and there are court decisions that have cost some landlords “big bucks.”

The “problem” is mostly at flea market or swap shop projects, but there is no legal principle that would exempt “legitimate” shopping centers if a tenant is selling counterfeit goods. What we find interesting is that the only places we’ve seen a lease provision directly addressing this issue are at “super-max” centers where the probability of a tenant deliberately selling such goods is pretty low.

We’ll begin with some background. Everyone knows that trademarks are protected by law. To get all of us on the same page, here is how the United States Patent and Trademark Office explains a trademark: [Read more…]

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How Do I Lose An Exclusive Use Right? Let Me Count The Ways

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If you operate a liquor store at a shopping center, would you like to be the only one there? Of course, you would. It isn’t like a dress shop where other stores would have different styles and price points and those other dress shops will bring you business as well. But, when it comes to wine and liquor, everybody carries the same core items. Some will skew their wine offerings in one direction; others may have a different wine focus. But, when it comes to wine and liquor, all merchants have the same merchandise available to them and all can sell whatever everyone else sells.

So, it will come as no surprise that a large-scale liquor store at a shopping center negotiated and was granted some exclusive use protection. This is exactly what its lease provided: [Read more…]

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Go Ahead, Just Slap On Some Extra Words!

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Is it masochistic to want to read court decisions? Given that most of society frowns upon masochists, it’s probably good that very few of us who create transaction documents actually read any such decisions. [That’s sarcasm.] It seems to us that what we do is engage in some “on the job training,” but mostly we rely on the wisdom of our ancestors – those who wrote the documents we use as templates. If today’s blog posting were a sermon then, fortunately, we’d be preaching to the choir. You, our readers, by being such and, almost certainly, by your reading of more erudite materials than these postings, are, unfortunately, the exception in our chosen field. Today, Ruminations salutes you.

We’re not sure why we felt compelled to express those thoughts today. Perhaps it is because we were thinking about the mix of topics in our blog postings and why we use court decisions as to the central focus for about two-thirds of those postings. Our conclusion was that we learn more from mistakes than successes. In general, it is often difficult to find a mistake, and in our own work, very much more so. [That’s not necessarily because our own work, and we’re talking “collectively,” couldn’t be “better.” It’s just that we don’t see errors in it where others do.] Almost all court decisions point out mistakes people have made. Reading such decisions is how we learn. [Read more…]

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Parking Clauses, Parking Clauses, Everywhere, But Not An Answer To Be Found

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Seek and ye shall find isn’t always true. An example will be today’s blog posting. We’ll raise some issues but offer no solutions. Today is audience participation day. If so inclined to publically offer some thoughts, the comment feature at the bottom will be your ultimate destination.

We’ve been in a number of parking lots lately – schools, churches, public, airports, shopping centers, and more. Many have been far emptier than we’re remembering and we’ve been seeing changes. We have been seeing the tell-tale logos of “Transportation Network Companies,” a/k/a Uber, Lyft, Taxify, etc. We’ve been doing the slaloms around motorized scooters from some of those providers and many others, mostly with four-letter names. A number of times already, we’ve expressed our sense that these and other non-owned transportation alternatives will reduce the need for shopping center parking. So, we’re not going to say those things again. If you are interested in those thoughts, use the Ruminations’ search feature. [Read more…]

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Exclusive Use Rights: Common Language Knowledge May Not Work

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We doubt that our next paragraph, let alone the rest of today’s blog posting, will make much sense to readers who haven’t seen last week’s posting. So, if that means you, we suggest you click: HERE.

After receiving a number of “off-line” comments from readers, we took a look at the various types of rice in our pantry and found the following: Carnaroli, Jasmin, Wild Rice, Arborio, California Sushi, Basmati Light Brown, Brown Jasmin, Extra Long Grain Rice, Brown Rice, and a Rice Blend (something that offers the look of much more expensive Wild Rice, but, with some white rice in the blend, is not as expensive). Who knew? Yes, to the eye some of these types clearly are “white”; some are not; some are “different minds will differ.” Thus, an expert organoleptically examining our pantry’s selection, would call some versions “white” and call others “brown.” But, when these, other than Long Grain White Rice and the straightforward Brown Rice, were offered for sale, the merchants wanted them to be seen as something other than “white” or “brown” rice. Those two boring descriptions imply “commodity” rice. Carnaroli Rice, which by the way we highly recommend over Arborio rice, for preparing risotto, costs the consumer more even though its production costs might not support that “bump.” [Read more…]

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