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A PASSION FOR (REAL ESTATE) BUSINESS

Lawyers are like most other business professionals. We want your business and we want your referrals – we just don’t always know the best way to ask for either.

 

Take me for example. I’ve been handling commercial real estate transactions and business deals for nearly 40 years. I’ve loved (almost) every day of it, and I look forward to many more (knock on wood). My clients appreciate my insights and value the guidance I provide. Other attorneys respect what I do, and brokers and CPAs like working with me because I strive for practical solutions to efficiently and effectively get the job done. I pay close attention to learn my clients’ business objectives, then work diligently and negotiate hard to get my clients what they expect – when they expect it. That’s what lawyers do. Or at least what all lawyers should do. For any client hiring a lawyer, what else is there?  Achieving client objectives and getting the deal closed on time is why lawyers exist. Deals fail, for sure, but we can never be the reason they fail. Deals that fail are a waste of everyone’s time and money. Getting the deal done, if it can be done, is our value proposition.

 

Deals are my lifeblood – my passion. They’re why I wake up every morning and get out of bed. I love this stuff. I can’t explain exactly why that is – it just is.  Why do musicians practice their instruments and play? Why do scratch golfers golf? Why do competitive skiers ski?  It’s our passion. We don’t know exactly why – it comes from within. And we always need more.

 

Commercial real estate deals always come first for me, but in every commercial real estate project is a business. They go hand in hand. My preference for a good real estate deal over a good business deal is a matter of only slight degree. There’s not really a number one and a number two. It’s more like #1 and #1A.

 

So what’s the problem?

 

The problem is, a lot of people don’t know I’m available to represent them. I write books and articles on commercial real estate. I give seminars on how to structure and close business and real estate transactions. I publish a commercial real estate and business blog.  People think I’m busy, or that I only handle huge deals. The truth is, I am busy – but never too busy to handle another deal, large or small. In the words of the late, great Lucille Ball: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” We all loved Lucy!

 

The most shocking question I get from prospective clients is: “Would you (I) be willing to handle my (their) next business or commercial real estate deal?”  Are they kidding? My answer is always an emphatic “yes”! It’s my passion. It’s my love.  It’s what I live for.

 

To be sure, I’m a business professional, and I charge for what I do, but if you have a commercial real estate deal or business deal, and need representation, I’m in. Never be shy about calling me. We’ll work out the economics. The range of deals I handle is extraordinarily diverse. For a taste, look at my blog Harp-OnThis.com, or check out my latest book, Illinois Commercial Real Estate on Amazon.com or in your local public library. I love this stuff. I need this stuff. Of course I want to represent you. When can we get started?

 

So back to my initial point:  I do want your business and your business referrals. Like many other business professionals, I just don’t know the best way to go about asking for it. What do you suggest?

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THE CLIENT CONUNDRUM

A mistake lawyers make is treating all clients the same. It’s a mistake shared by other professions as well. They’re not all the same. The issues clients face, and the solutions they deserve, are as varied as life itself.

 

R. Kymn Harp
Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

With the rise of technology and the commoditization of legal services, nuance can be lost. Precise solutions to particular problems may be neglected while cookie-cutter boilerplate is offered as a cheap substitute. Not that all boilerplate and technology is bad – they can provide huge benefits when applied correctly. But just as a mass-produced size 9 leather dress shoe may be ideal for some, it is of little comfort or use to an athlete with a size 10 foot.

 

Automation is a cost-saver, no doubt. But is it a reasonable substitute for thoughtful analysis and tailor-made solutions to client specific problems?

 

There may be areas of life where commoditized legal services represent a reasonable tradeoff. Perhaps consumers engaged in everyday transactions are adequately-served by inexpensive one-size fits all solutions. Even a consumer buying a home – often touted as the largest single transaction most consumers will make in their lifetime – may be well-served by inexpensive boilerplate solutions on most occasions. In the world of consumer transactions and consumer finance, there is a protective overlay of consumer protection laws and oversight that will often fill in the gaps left by a one-size fits all approach.

 

But what about most commercial transactions? Buying or starting a business? Investing in commercial or industrial real estate? Raising capital from third parties? Entering into a partnership agreement or limited liability company operating agreement for a commercial venture where someone else is in control, and uses or controls your money – or where you use or control someone else’s money? Are these circumstances where one-size solutions and documentation make sense?

 

How do you protect yourself if something goes wrong? Experience shows something can always go wrong. And when things go wrong in a commercial transaction, expensive lawsuits often follow.

 

Business people consider themselves to be intelligent, reasonable beings. When they invest in a business or real estate project they expect it will succeed. If they thought otherwise, they would not make the investment. That would be foolish, and they know for certain that they’re not foolish. If it fails, they conclude it had be someone’s fault – but it certainly wasn’t theirs.  They must have been duped. Information must have been withheld. They must have been lied to or cheated.  The other party must at least be incompetent if not downright crooked.

 

You may laugh, but that’s often how it happens. You may be one hundred percent competent and above-board. You may have understood and discussed the risks to the point where you are certain that your partners or investors understand the risks as well – but if you’re the promoter of the failed business or investment, or you’re in charge of making management decisions – you should expect to find yourself staring down the business end of a double-barreled lawsuit claiming the loss is your fault – even if you lost money as well, and even if nothing you did or could have done resulted in the loss. Changing economic circumstances, business and lifestyle trends, and other factors far beyond your control may be the reason for the loss, but you will be blamed. How do to protect yourself?

 

Suppose you’re on the other side. What if you’re the investor or partner asked to invest? What do you look for? What do you require? How do you protect yourself?

 

Clients are not all the same. Commercial transactions are not all the same. The risks and benefits of each investment and business venture are not all the same. The solutions and documentation of each transaction cannot, therefore, be all the same.

 

If clients are engaged in serious business, serious attention is required. Both the attorney and the client need to understand this. Once a deal goes bad, it’s too late to go back and redo what should have been done at the outset.

 

Will doing it right up front cost more?

 

Probably.

 

Will it be worth it if things go poorly?

 

You bet.

 

Should clients buy a size 9 shoe for their size 10 foot?

 

Thanks for listening. . .

Kymn

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COMMERCIAL LANDLORD-TENANT – Part 2 – The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment

R. Kymn Harp Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

R. Kymn Harp
Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

Catherine Cook Shareholder at Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

Catherine A. Cooke
 Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series of articles discussing the duties, rights and remedies of commercial real estate tenants in Illinois. Part 1, entitled “Getting It Right” discussed the importance of clarity in lease drafting, and the potential for unintended leasehold easements for parking, and other uses.

In March 2015, the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (“IICLE”) published its 2015 Edition practice handbook entitled: Commercial Landlord-Tenant Practice. To provide best-practice guidance to all Illinois attorneys, IICLE recruits experienced attorneys with relevant knowledge to write each handbook chapter. For the 2015 Edition, IICLE asked R. Kymn Harp and Catherine A. Cooke to write the chapter entitled Tenant’s Duties, Rights and Remedies. We were, of course, pleased to oblige. Although each of us represent commercial landlords at least as often as we represent commercial tenants, a clear understanding of the duties, rights and remedies of commercial real estate tenants is critical when representing either side of the commercial lease transaction.

The following is an excerpt (slightly edited) from our chapter in the 2015 Edition. We hope you find this excerpt, and the excerpts that will follow, informative and useful. Feel free to contact IICLE  directly to purchase the entire volume.

The COVENANT OF QUIET ENJOYMENT
What Is It? — General Principles

It has long been the law in Illinois that a covenant of quite enjoyment is implied in all lease agreements. Blue Cross Ass’n v. 666 N. Lake Shore Drive Associates, 100 Ill.App.3d 647, 427 N.E.2d 270, 273, 56 Ill.Dec. 290 (1st Dist. 1981); 64 East Walton, Inc. v. Chicago Title & Trust Co., 69 Ill.App.3d 635, 387 N.E.2d 751, 755, 25 Ill.Dec. 875 (1st Dist. 1979); Berrington v. Casey, 78 Ill. 317, 319 (1875); Wade v. Halligan, 16 Ill. 507, 511 (1855).

A covenant of quiet enjoyment “promises that the tenant shall enjoy the possession of the premises in peace and without disturbance.” [Emphasis in original.] Checkers, Simon & Rosner v. Lurie Co., No. 87 C 5405, 1987 WL 18930 at *3 (N.D.Ill. Oct. 20, 1987). This does not mean, however, that no breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment may be found in a leasehold without a finding that the lessor intended to deprive the lessee of possession. Blue Cross Ass’n, supra, 427 N.E.2d at 27. It simply means that a tenant must actually be in possession of the premises to claim a breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. If the tenant has already vacated the premises before the disturbance has commenced, no breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment occurs. Checkers, Simon & Rosner, supra, 1987 WL 18930 at *3.

RSP_LogoHD (3)An implied covenant of quiet enjoyment includes, “absent a lease clause to the contrary, the right to be free of the lessors’ intentional interference with full enjoyment and use of the leased premises.” Infinity Broadcasting Corporation of Illinois v. Prudential Insurance Company of America, No. 86 C 4207, 1987 WL 6624 at *5 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 9, 1987), aff’d, 869 F.2d 1073 (7th Cir. 1989), quoting American Dairy Queen Corp. v. Brown-Port Co., 621 F.2d 255, 258 (7th Cir. 1980).

If the landlord breaches the covenant of quiet enjoyment, the lessee may remain in possession and claim damages for breach of lease. In such case, the measure of damages is the difference between the rental value of the premises in light of the breached covenant of quiet enjoyment and the rent that the tenant agreed to pay under the lease, together with such special damages as may have been directly and necessarily incurred by the tenant in consequence of the landlord’s wrongful act. 64 East Walton, supra, 387 N.E.2d at 755.

Although Illinois cases defining the precise scope of a covenant of quiet enjoyment are rare, BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY, pp. 1248 – 1249 (6th ed. 1993) defines “quiet enjoyment” in connection with the landlord-tenant relationship as “the tenant’s right to freedom from serious interferences with his or her tenancy. Manzaro v. McCann, 401 Mass. 880, 519 N.E.2d 1337, 1341. (Ringing for more than one day of smoke alarms in an apartment building could be sufficient interference with the tenants’ quite enjoyment of leased premises to justify relief against the landlord.).”

HOW THE COVENANT OF QUIET ENJOYMENT MAY APPLY— CASE LAW

In Blue Cross Ass’n v. 666 N. Lake Shore Drive Associates, 100 Ill.App.3d 647, 427 N.E.2d 270, 273, 56 Ill.Dec. 290 (1st Dist. 1981), the First District Appellate Court discussed the covenant of quiet enjoyment in the lease as granting the tenant a right of quiet and peaceful possession and enjoyment of the whole premises and equated a breach of quiet enjoyment under a lease to a private nuisance. “A private nuisance in a leasehold situation is ‘an individual wrong arising from an unreasonable, unwarranted or unlawful use of one’s property producing such material annoyance, inconvenience, discomfort, or hurt that the law will presume a consequent damage.’ ” Id., quoting Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. v. LaSalle National Bank, 77 Ill.App.3d 478, 395 N.E.2d 1193, 1198, 32 Ill.Dec. 812 (1st Dist. 1979).

The tenant had entered into a five-year lease on August 22, 1978, with a five-year renewal option, for approximately 53,000 square feet of the (more…)

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Illinois LLCs – The Asset Protection Advantage

Illinois LLCs – The Asset Protection Advantage

A Technical Analysis

Among sophisticated investors and other high-asset/high-net worth individuals and businesses, the topic of “asset protection” is bound to arise. As many became painfully aware during the recent Great Recession, bad things can happen to good people. In my article Asset Protection – Lessons Learned, I discussed how properly structuring one’s holdings could have prevented, or at least mitigated, much of the financial devastation and anguish experienced by business owners, investors, real estate developers, doctors and others caught off-guard by the drastic economic collapse of 2007-2010.

RSP_LogoFull_2PMSOften, there is confusion about what the term asset protection really means. Some imagine a shadowy network of off-shore trusts and secret bank accounts in foreign lands set up by unscrupulous characters to cheat innocent creditors. This is simply not true. In this article I will not debate the claimed pros and cons of secret bank accounts and so-called off-shore asset protection trusts. I will say, however, that under most circumstances, they don’t work for U.S. citizens residing in the U.S.A.

Legitimate asset protection is nothing more or less than properly ordering one’s business and financial affairs in a way that does not unnecessarily expose all assets to claims of creditors.

The right of persons and businesses to limit their liability and exposure of their assets to claims of creditors is the well settled in the U.S.A. The United States of America, and each individual state, has a plethora of laws authorizing and recognizing the legitimacy of corporations and other limited liability entities as a means by which an investor can segregate assets and limit exposure to liability.

No person has a legal or moral obligation to structure his or her affairs in a way that makes it easy for a creditor of one business or professional enterprise to attach assets of the investor not committed to that enterprise. This protection may be impinged if the person or business engages in conduct tantamount to fraud, but actions explicitly authorized by applicable statute can hardly be characterized as being fraudulent. Fraud is an intentional tort requiring, among other elements, intentional breach of a duty owed to the person claimed to be harmed. If a statute expressly authorizes conduct, it implicitly, if not explicitly, negates any duty to act in a manner contrary to that authorized by the statute.

This article presents a technical analysis of certain asset protection attributes of an Illinois limited liability company expressly authorized by the Illinois Limited Liability Company Act, 805 ILCS 180/1-1 et seq (the “Illinois LLC Act”). The remarkably robust asset protection value of an Illinois limited liability company is measured by two key attributes:

1. The ability, expressly authorized by the Illinois LLC Act, to include in an LLC operating agreement provisions that protect the limited liability company and its business and assets from claims owed to others by members of the LLC – an attribute that creates a huge advantage vs. a corporation, as discussed in Part I, below; and

2. Enhanced protection of Members and Managers from liability for debts, contracts and torts incurred by the LLC, or resulting from acts or omissions of a Member or Manager while acting on behalf of the LLC, to an extent measurably greater than the protection afforded officers, directors and shareholders of a corporation.

Although one might reasonably expect that the order in which these key attributes are discussed would be reversed, the Part I discussion precedes the Part II discussion because the matters to be discussed in Part I are best considered at the outset, when the operating agreement is being drafted; while the matters discussed in Part II will most directly apply later, once a judgment creditor is seeking to enforce its judgment.

PART I: Key Statutory Provisions to Consider When Drafting the Operating Agreement

(more…)

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Asset Protection – Lessons Learned

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.

        The second best time is today.”

Chinese proverb

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-empty-safe-image27096841For over 35 years, I have represented commercial real estate investors, developers and business owners. Most of that time has been spent helping them acquire, finance, expand, develop, manage and grow their assets and businesses. For the past 5 to 6 years, as we have struggled through the Great Recession, a huge amount of my time has been spent helping clients keep their assets.

Growing up, I was steeped in the practical view that it is not so much what you acquire that counts, but, rather, what you keep. My parents and grandparents were not in the real estate business to make others wealthy. They were playing real life Monopoly®. They played to win. It was less about money for money’s sake than it was (more…)

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Information Providers – Can We Sue Them If They’re Wrong?

Of Course We Can Sue Them . . . But Can We Hold Them Liable?

No one knows everything. It’s a simple fact of life. Often, businesses turn to other businesses and professionals to obtain needed information. The range of commercial information providers assisting business owners and real estate investors, developers and lenders gather and analyse information is vast.

Diana H. Psarras Business & Trust Litigation, Shareholder -Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.
Diana H. Psarras
Business & Trust Litigation, Shareholder, Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

The question is: Do we have a legal right to rely on the information they provide? What if the information is wrong? What if we rely on that incorrect information and suffer a loss? Is the information provider liable?

It could be anything from hiring an appraiser to appraise a property to support a commercial loan; hiring a lab to analyze nutrition and caloric content of food products; or engaging a financial consultant to evaluate a company’s assets and liabilities as part of a business acquisition or merger; or seeking out a lending institution to provide information regarding the creditworthiness of a potential borrower. We might hire a structural engineer to evaluate the structural integrity of a building or bridge or other structure; or engage a surveyor to determine the scope and size of a parcel of land, or the location of easements and improvements located on the property, or the existence of rights of way to access the property; or we might retain a person or business holding itself out as a “due diligence” expert to investigate the essential facts necessary to enable us to determine whether to proceed with a particular transaction or project. The list of commercial information providers we rely upon to conduct our affairs is nearly endless.

Another simple fact of life is that people can and do make mistakes. They misinterpret information. Misstate the facts. Fail to discover and disclose all material information necessary to make information they have provided sufficient to enable informed action and decision-making.

What happens when your information provider gives you bad information and you suffer a loss as a result? Do you have any recourse? What if (more…)

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Keys Rules For Section 1031 Exchanges

This is the second installment of a three-part series on Section 1031 like-kind exchanges. Part 1 explained WHY you should consider use of a Section 1031 like-kind exchange when selling commercial or investment real property. Part 2 covers the key rules for HOW to implement a Section 1031 like-kind exchange. Part 3 will cover special issues applicable to a Section 1031 like-kind exchange when a Tenant-In-Common [TIC] interest is being acquired.

KEY RULES FOR SECTION 1031 EXCHANGES

U.S. Tax image [iStock]The following is an outline of key rules applicable to Section 1031 exchanges. Become familiar with these rules. Unless you intend to completely cash out of real estate investing, a Section 1031 exchange may work to your benefit. If you intend to keep investing in real estate or using real estate in your trade or business, a Section 1031 exchange will maximize the capital you have available to reinvest.

Key Elements of a Section 1031 Exchange*

What is Section 1031?

Section 1031 refers to Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.

What does it do?

Section 1031 permits a taxpayer (the Exchangor) to dispose of certain real estate and personal property and replace it with like-kind property without being required to pay taxes on the transaction.

What property qualifies?

To qualify for a Section 1031 exchange, the property being disposed of (the Relinquished Property) must have been (more…)

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Section 1031 Like-Kind Exchanges – Part 1 of 3

This is the first installment of a three-part series on Section 1031 like-kind exchanges. Part 1 explains WHY you should consider use of a Section 1031 like-kind exchange when selling commercial or investment real property. Part 2 covers the key rules for HOW to implement a Section 1031 like-kind exchange. Part 3 covers special issues applicable to a Section 1031 like-kind exchange when a Tenant-In-Common [TIC] interest is being acquired.

Why Consider a §1031 Like-Kind Exchange?

What if I told you that you could get a hefty 0% interest loan from the federal government to invest in commercial or industrial real estate? Would you be interested?

RSPBetter yet, what if that loan has no fixed monthly, quarterly, or annual repayment obligations and does not show up on your credit report or balance sheet as an outstanding liability?

Still better yet, what if the terms of the loan provide that it may never have to be repaid? Are you interested now?

In effect,* that’s what a Section 1031 like-kind exchange can do for you.

Here’s how:

Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code permits (more…)

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DUE DILIGENCE CHECKLISTS – for Commercial Real Estate Transactions

Are you planning to purchase, finance or develop any of the following types of Commercial or Industrial Real Estate?

  • • Shopping Center?
  • • Office Building?
  • • Large Multifamily residential?
  • • Parking Lot/Parking garage?
  • • Retail Store?
  • • Mixed-Use?
  • • Restaurant/Banquet property?
  • • Sports and Entertainment Venue?
  • • Intermodal Logistics Terminal?
  • • Medical Building?
  • • Gas Station?
  • • Distribution Center?
  • • Manufacturing facility?
  • • Pharmacy?
  • • Special Use facility ?
  • • Other?

RSP_LogoHD (3)A KEY element to successfully investing in commercial or industrial real estate is performing an adequate Due Diligence Investigation prior to becoming legally bound to acquire the property. An adequate Due Diligence Investigation will assure awareness of all material facts relevant to the intended use or disposition of the property after closing.

 The following checklists will help you conduct a focused and meaningful Due Diligence Investigation.

 BASIC DUE DILIGENCE CONCEPTS

 Caveat Emptor: Let the Buyer beware.

Consumer protection laws applicable to home purchases seldom apply to commercial real estate transactions. The rule that a Buyer must examine, judge, and test for himself, applies to the purchase of commercial real estate.

Due Diligence:

“Such a measure of prudence, activity, or assiduity, as is proper to be expected from, and ordinarily exercised by, a reasonable and prudent (person) under the particular circumstances; not measured by any absolute standard, but depending upon the relative facts of the special case.” Black’s Law Dictionary; West Publishing Company.

Contractual representations and warranties are NOT a substitute for Due Diligence. Breach of representations and warranties = Litigation, time and $$$$$.

The point of commercial real estate due diligence is to avoid transaction surprises and confirm the Property can be used as intended.

 WHAT DILIGENCE IS DUE?

The scope, intensity and focus of any Due Diligence Investigation of commercial or industrial real estate depends upon the objectives of the party for whom the investigation is conducted. These objectives may vary depending upon whether the investigation is conducted for the benefit of: (i) a Strategic Buyer (or long-term lessee); (ii) a Financial Buyer; (iii) a Developer; or (iv) a Lender.

If you are a Seller, understand that to close the transaction your Buyer and its Lender must address all issues material to their respective objectives – some of which require information only you, as Owner, can adequately provide.

GENERAL OBJECTIVES:

 (i) A “Strategic Buyer” (or long-term lessee) is acquiring the property for its own use and must verify that the property is suitable for that intended use.

 (ii) A “Financial Buyer” is acquiring the property for the expected return on investment generated by the property’s anticipated revenue stream, and must determine the amount, velocity and durability of the revenue stream. A sophisticated Financial Buyer will likely calculate its yield based upon discounted cash-flows rather than the much less precise capitalization rate (“Cap. Rate”), and will need adequate financial information to do so.

 (iii) A “Developer” is seeking to add value by changing the character or use of the property – usually with a short-term to intermediate-term exit strategy to dispose of the property; although, a Developer might plan to hold the property long term as a Financial Buyer after development or redevelopment. The Developer must focus on whether the planned change in character or use can be accomplished in a cost-effective manner.

 (iv) A “Lender” is seeking to establish two basic lending criteria:

 (1) “Ability to Repay” – The ability of the property to generate sufficient revenue to repay the loan on a timely basis; and

 (2) “Sufficiency of Collateral” – The objective disposal value of the collateral in the event of a loan default, to assure adequate funds to repay the loan, carrying costs and costs of collection in the event forced collection becomes necessary.

Questions and Answers signpostThe amount of diligent inquiry due to be expended (i.e. “Due Diligence”) to investigate any particular commercial or industrial real estate project is the amount of inquiry required to answer each of the following questions to the extent relevant to the objectives of the party conducting the investigation:

I. THE PROPERTY:

 1. Exactly what PROPERTY does Purchaser believe it is acquiring?

• Land?

• Building?

• Fixtures?

• Other Improvements?

• Other Rights?

• The entire fee title interest including all air rights and subterranean rights?

• All development rights?

 2. What is Purchaser’s planned use of the Property?

 3. Does the physical condition of the Property permit use as planned?

• Commercially adequate access to public streets and ways?

• Sufficient parking?

• Structural condition of improvements?

• Environmental contamination?

• Innocent Purchaser defense vs. exemption from liability

• All Appropriate Inquiry

 4. Is there any legal restriction to Purchaser’s use of the Property as planned?

• Zoning?

• Private land use controls?

• Americans with Disabilities Act?

• Availability of licenses?

• Liquor license?

• Entertainment license?

• Outdoor dining license?

• Drive through windows permitted?

• Other impediments?

 5. How much does Purchaser expect to pay for the property?

 6. Is there any condition on or within the Property that is likely to increase Purchaser’s effective cost to acquire or use the Property?

• Property owner’s assessments?

• Real estate tax in line with value?

• Special Assessment?

• Required user fees for necessary amenities?

• Drainage?

• Access?

• Parking?

• Other?

 7. Any encroachments onto the Property, or from the Property onto other lands?

 8. Are there any encumbrances on the Property that will not be cleared at Closing?

• Easements?

• Covenants Running with the Land?

• Liens or other financial servitudes?

• Leases?

9. If the Property is subject to any Leases, are there any:

• Security Deposits?

• Options to Extend Term?

• Options to Purchase?

• Rights of First Refusal?

• Rights of First Offer?

• Maintenance Obligations?

• Duty of Landlord to provide utilities?

• Real estate tax or CAM escrows?

• Delinquent rent?

• Pre-Paid rent?

• Tenant mix/use controls?

• Tenant exclusives?

• Tenant parking requirements?

• Automatic subordination of Lease to future mortgages?

• Other material Lease terms?

10. New Construction?

• Availability of construction permits?

• Soil conditions?

• Utilities?

• NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permit?

• Permit required if earth is disturbed on one acre or more of land.

• If applicable, Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is required.

II. THE SELLER:

1. Who is the Seller?

• Individual?

• Trust?

• Partnership?

• Corporation?

• Limited Liability Company?

• Other legally existing entity?

2. If other than natural person, does Seller validly exist and is Seller in good standing?

3. Does the Seller own the Property?

4. Does Seller have authority to convey the Property?

• Board of Director Approvals?

• Shareholder or Member approval?

• Other consents?

• If foreign individual or entity, are any special requirements applicable?

• Qualification to do business in jurisdiction of Property?

• Federal Tax Withholding?

• US Patriot Act compliance?

5. Who has authority to bind Seller?

6. Are sale proceeds sufficient to pay off all liens?

III. THE PURCHASER:

1. Who is the Purchaser?

2. What is the Purchaser/Grantee’s exact legal name?

3. If Purchaser/Grantee is an entity, has it been validly created and is it in good standing?

• Articles or Incorporation – Articles of Organization

• Certificate of Good Standing

4. Is Purchaser/Grantee authorized to own and operate the Property and, if applicable, finance acquisition of the Property?

• Board of Director Approvals?

• Shareholder or Member approval?

• If foreign individual or entity, are any special requirements applicable?

• Qualification to do business in jurisdiction of the Property?

• US Patriot Act compliance?

• Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering compliance?

5. Who is authorized to bind the Purchaser/Grantee?

IV. PURCHASER FINANCING:

A. BUSINESS TERMS OF THE LOAN:

1. What loan terms have the Borrower and its Lender agreed to?

• What is the amount of the loan?

• What is the interest rate?

• What are the repayment terms?

• What is the collateral?

• Commercial real estate only?

• Real estate and personal property together?

• First lien?

• A junior lien?

• Is it a single advance loan?

• A multiple advance loan?

• A construction loan?

• If it is a multiple advance loan, can the principal be re-borrowed once repaid prior to maturity of the loan; making it, in effect, a revolving line of credit?

• Are there reserve requirements?

• Interest reserves?

• Repair reserves?

• Real estate tax reserves?

• Insurance reserves?

• Environmental remediation reserves?

• Other reserves?

2. Are there requirements for Borrower to open business operating accounts with the Lender? If so, is the Borrower obligated to maintain minimum compensating balances?

3. Is the Borrower required to pledge business accounts as additional collateral?

4. Are there early repayment fees or yield maintenance requirements (each sometimes referred to as “pre-payment penalties”)?

5. Are there repayment blackout periods during which Borrower is not permitted to repay the loan?

6. Is a profit participation payment to Lender required upon disposition?

7. Is there a Loan Commitment fee or “good faith deposit” due upon Borrower’s acceptance of the Loan Commitment?

8. Is there a loan funding fee or loan brokerage fee or other loan fee due Lender or a loan broker at closing?

9. What are the Borrower’s expense reimbursement obligations to Lender? When are they due? What is the Borrower’s obligation to pay Lender’s expenses if the loan does not close?

B. DOCUMENTING THE COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE LOAN

Does Purchaser have all information necessary to comply with the Lender’s loan closing requirements?

Not all loan documentation requirements may be known at the outset of a transaction, although most commercial real estate loan documentation requirements are fairly typical. Some required information can be obtained only from the Seller. Production of that information to Purchaser for delivery to its lender must be required in the purchase contract.

As guidance to what a commercial real estate lender may require, the following sets forth a typical Closing Checklist for a loan secured by commercial real estate.

Commercial Real Estate Loan Closing Checklist

1. Promissory Note

2. Personal Guaranties (which may be full, partial, secured, unsecured, payment guaranties, collection guaranties or a variety of other types of guarantees as may be required by Lender)

3. Loan Agreement (often incorporated into the Promissory Note and/or Mortgage in lieu of being a separate document)

4. Mortgage (sometimes expanded to be a Mortgage, Security Agreement and Fixture Filing)

5. Assignment of Rents and Leases.

6. Security Agreement

7. Financing Statement (sometimes referred to as a “UCC-1”, or “Initial Filing”).

8. Evidence of Borrower’s Existence In Good Standing; including :

(a) Certified copy of organizational documents of borrowing entity (including Articles of Incorporation, if Borrower is a corporation; Articles of Organization and written Operating Agreement, if Borrower is a limited liability company; certified copy of trust agreement with all amendments, if Borrower is a land trust or other trust; etc.)

(b) Certificate of Good Standing (if a corporation or LLC) or Certificate of Existence (if a limited partnership) or Certificate of Qualification to Transact Business (if Borrower is an entity doing business in a State other than its State of formation)

9. Evidence of Borrower’s Authority to Borrow; including:

(a) Borrower’s Certificate

(b) Certified Resolutions

(c) Incumbency Certificate

10. Satisfactory Commitment for Title Insurance (which will typically require, for analysis by the Lender, copies of all documents of record appearing on Schedule B of the title commitment which are to remain after closing), with required commercial title insurance endorsements, often including:

(a) ALTA 3.1 Zoning Endorsement modified to include parking [although if the property is a multi-user property, such as a retail shopping center, an ALTA 3.0 Zoning Endorsement may be appropriate]

(b) ALTA Comprehensive Endorsement 1

(c) Location Endorsement (street address)

(d) Access Endorsement (vehicular access to public streets and ways)

(e) Contiguity Endorsement (the insured land comprises a single parcel with no gaps or gores)

(f) PIN Endorsement (insuring that the identified real estate tax permanent index numbers are the only applicable PIN numbers affecting the collateral and that they relate solely to the real property comprising the collateral)

(g) Usury Endorsement (insuring that the loan does not violate any prohibitions against excessive interest charges)

(h) other title insurance endorsements applicable to protect the intended use and value of the col- lateral, as may be determined upon review of the Commitment for Title Insurance and Survey or arising from the existence of special issues pertaining to the transaction or the Borrower.

11. Current ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey (3 sets), prepared in accordance with the 2011 (or current) Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys

12. Current Rent Roll

13. Certified copy of all Leases (4 sets – 1 each for Buyer, Buyer’s attorney, Title Company and Lender)

14. Lessee Estoppel Certificates

15. Lessee Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreements [sometimes referred to simply as “SNDAs”]

16. UCC, Judgment, Pending Litigation, Bankruptcy and Tax Lien Search Report

17. Appraisal -complying with Title XI of FIRREA (Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, as amended)

18. Environmental Site Assessment Report (sometimes referred to as Environmental Phase I and/or Phase 2 Audit Reports)

19. Environmental Indemnity Agreement (signed by Borrower and guarantors)

20. Site Improvements Inspection Report

21. Evidence of Hazard Insurance naming Lender as the Mortgagee/Lender Loss Payee; and Liability Insurance naming Lender as an “additional insured” (sometimes listed as simply “Acord 27 and Acord 25, respectively)

22. Legal Opinion of Borrower’s Attorney

23. Credit Underwriting documents, such as signed tax returns, property operating statements, etc. as may be specified by Lender

24. Compliance Agreement (sometimes also called an Errors and Omissions Agreement), whereby the Borrower agrees to correct, after closing, errors or omissions in loan documentation.

* * * * *

It is useful to become familiar with the Lender’s loan documentation requirements as early in the transaction as practical. The requirements will likely be set forth with some detail in the lender’s Loan Commitment – which is typically much more detailed than most loan commitments issued in residential transactions.

Conducting the Due Diligence Investigation in a commercial real estate transaction can be time consuming and expensive in all events.

If the loan requirements cannot be satisfied, it is better to make that determination during the contractual “due diligence period” – which typically provides for a so-called “free out” – rather than at a later date when the earnest money may be at risk of forfeiture or when other liability for failure to close may attach.

CONCLUSION

Conducting an effective Due Diligence Investigation in a commercial or industrial real estate transaction to discover all material facts and conditions affecting the Property and the transaction is of critical importance.

Unlike owner occupied residential real estate, when a house can nearly always be occupied as the purchaser’s home, commercial and industrial real estate acquired for business use or for investment is impacted by numerous factors that may limit its use and value.

The existence of these factors and their impact on a Purchaser’s ability to use the Property as intended can only be discovered through diligent and focused investigation and attention to detail.

Exercise Due Diligence.

If you need assistance, please ask for help.

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Land Patent Defense is Frivolous, Sanctionable, and a Class 4 Felony in Illinois

The law is clear.  The so-called “Land Patent” defense does NOT work.

This is not earth shattering news, but it is a reminder that defenses to mortgage foreclosure actions must be well grounded in fact and warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law. In simple terms – defenses must at least be legally plausible.

One of the more bizarre defenses raised by a small group of defendants who refer to themselves as “sovereign citizens” is a so-called “land patent” defense. It does not work – at least not in Illinois.

In a long, unusual, and fairly cumbersome opinion filed by the Illinois Appellate Court on September 23, 2013, in the case of Parkway Bank and Trust Company v. Victor Korzen and Tomas Zanzola, 2013 IL App (1st) 130380, the First District Appellate Court addressed “a number of tactics a small number of debtors use to both delay the ultimate resolution of cases against them and to use the legal system for improper purposes. Some people might classify those who engage in these tactics as “sovereign citizens”, but regardless of nomenclature, their methods are not only counterproductive, but detrimental to the efficient and fair administration of justice. A recent New York Times article noted the FBI has labeled the strategy as “paper terrorism”.

I am a strong proponent of raising every viable defense to a mortgage foreclosure when representing a defendant. There are many defects in mortgage loan files, and many more defects arising from faulty loan administration, defective securitization of syndicated loans, and breaches of public policy and black letter law by lenders. Some lenders have fraudulently manufactured and forged missing assignment documents and other documents to fill material document gaps. There are legitimate defenses that can be raised and valid lender liability claims that can be pursued in many circumstances if the situation warrants and the resources are available to mount a strong defense and counter-attack.

That said, not every so-called “defense” is legitimate, and some are just plain goofy.

Among the illegitimate “defenses” is the claimed “land patent” defense. It simply does not work. It is not well grounded in law, and there is no good faith argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law that courts in Illinois – or probably anywhere in the United States – are likely to recognize as having been pursued in “good faith”. As a consequence, if you raise the “land patent” defense in defense of an Illinois mortgage foreclosure action, you are going to lose, be sanctioned, and perhaps be prosecuted for committing a Class 4 Felony.

In this short post, I do not intend to give an in-depth description of the (faulty) theory behind the land patent defense, but I will direct your attention to paragraph 72 et seq. of the Parkway Bank v. Korzen case, referred to above. Read this case if you are thinking about using the land patent contrivance as a “defense”, particularly in an Illinois mortgage foreclosure action. It does not work.

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