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AIR RIGHTS DEVELOPMENT – Chicago, Illinois

WHY DEVELOP AIR RIGHTS?

Prime commercial land is limited. Prices per square foot can be astronomical. Demand for efficiency to maximize return on investment is growing. No wonder developers and property owners are looking to the sky, with varying degrees of success, to capture all the value they can from each urban parcel. Air rights development may be the solution you are looking for.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-chicago-skyline-image2898031Owners and developers, and people in general, are conditioned to think of potential development sites as flat surfaces with essentially two dimensions: north/south and east/west. They see only the surface of the land, and envision the building they will construct for the particular purpose they have in mind; a bank, a drugstore, a restaurant, a strip mall, a parking garage, an office building. If the parcel is larger than they need, they may envision subdividing the parcel to make two or more lots. In most cases, however, they think primarily in terms of land coverage for the type of building they need. They visualize only the two dimensional space depicted on their Site Plan or Plat of Survey.

 

In 30 out of 50 states, including Illinois and all other Mid-Western states, the “Rectangular Survey System” is in effect. The Rectangular Survey System was adopted in 1785 to meet the needs of the Federal Government as it faced the challenge of dividing vast areas of undeveloped land lying west of the original 13 colonies. The system, developed under the direction of Thomas Jefferson, essentially divides the United States into rectangles, measured in relation to lines known as Meridians and Base Lines.

 

Development lots are instinctively viewed as the two-dimensional surface of land visually representing a potential development parcel. Descriptions of a parcel typically refer to “a parcel of land X feet by Y feet” located in relation to an intersection or other identifiable landmark.

 

Once a parcel is “developed”, or designated for development, by construction of improvements on the land, it is natural to think of the parcel as being unavailable for further development (unless the existing improvements are to be demolished).

 

Classic examples of this are single story commercial buildings at prime commercial locations, a multi-deck parking garage or mid-rise building in a downtown development area, railroad tracks or spurs cutting across valuable urban land and, in some cases, roadways and alleys.

 

Each of these situations represent, potentially, under-utilization of valuable real estate. Finding a way to develop the “air” above these existing or planned improvements maximizes the economic utility of these parcels and can be like creating “money from thin air.”

 

The practice of finding ways to utilize the “space above” is often referred to as “air rights development”. Air rights development requires thinking in three dimensions, and requires serious design consideration and legal planning but, when land values are at a premium and zoning permits, the economic return may be dramatic.

 

Though often overlooked, virtually all of Chicago’s downtown business district is a “city in the air“. People tend to think of streets and street level entrances to buildings in the downtown Chicago “loop” as being at “ground level”. This is simply not the case. Most of what is thought of in the Chicago Loop as being at “ground level” is located 12 to 22 feet above the earth’s surface. This explains the vast network of “lower” streets and passageways in downtown Chicago, such as “Lower Wacker Drive”, “Lower Dearborn Street”, “Lower State Street”, etc. which most people seldom traverse. It also explains why, in 1992, the Chicago Loop business district was virtually shut down by “the Great Loop Flood of ’92”, but few people got wet or even saw any water as office and retail buildings were closed and workers were sent home because of “flooding”.

 

The point of these observations is to reveal that “development of air rights” is not new. It is also not “. . . some exotic legal manipulation of doubtful efficacy dreamed up by big city lawyers for use only in big cities”. Development of so-called “air rights” is little more than efficient use of a limited resource when use becomes economically feasible and beneficial.

 

WHAT ARE “AIR RIGHTS”?

“Air rights” are part of the “bundle of rights” constituting fee simple title to real estate. The term “air rights” generally refers to the right of the owner of fee simple title of a parcel of land to use the space above the land. If this right did not exist, it would not be possible to (more…)

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COMMERCIAL LANDLORD-TENANT: Duty to Repair – Illinois Law

When something breaks in a commercial space, who is obligated to make the repair?

 

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

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

Catherine Cooke Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

Catherine Cooke
Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

Absent a covenant in a lease obligating the landlord to make repairs, a landlord generally has no obligation to repair the leased premises, unless the landlord has actual knowledge of a defect at the time of entering into the lease and fraudulently conceals it. Baxter v. Illinois Police Federation, 63 Ill.App.3d 819, 380 N.E.2d 832, 835, 20 Ill.Dec. 623 (1st Dist. 1978); Elizondo v. Perez, 42 Ill.App.3d 313, 356 N.E.2d 112, 113, 1 Ill.Dec. 112 (1st Dist. 1976).

 

 

It is clear, however, that when a lease provides express covenants assigning responsibilities between landlord and tenant for repair and maintenance of leased property, those covenants will supersede any implied or common-law covenants and shall determine the responsibilities and liability of the respective parties. McGann v. Murray, 75 Ill.App.3d 697, 393 N.E.2d 1339, 1342, 31 Ill.Dec. 32 (3d Dist. 1979); Hardy v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 131 Ill.App.2d 1038, 267 N.E.2d 748, 751 (5th Dist. 1971). An express covenant to repair will not be enlarged by construction. Kaufman v. Shoe Corporation of America, 24 Ill.App.2d 431, 164 N.E.2d 617, 620 (3d Dist. 1960). The ordinary meaning of the word “repair” is to fix, mend, or put together that which is torn or broken. It involves the idea of something preexisting that has been affected by decay. Sandelman v. Buckeye Realty, Inc., 216 Ill.App.3d 226, 576 N.E.2d 1038, 1040, 160 Ill.Dec. 84 (1st Dist. 1991).

 

A general covenant of a tenant to keep the premises in repair merely binds the tenant to make only ordinary repairs reasonably required to keep the premises in good condition. Quincy Mall, Inc. v. Kerasotes Showplace Theatres, LLC, 388 Ill.App.3d 820, 903 N.E.2d 887, 230, 328 Ill.Dec. 227 (4th Dist. 2009); Sandelman, supra, 576 N.E.2d at 1040. It does not make the tenant responsible for making structural repairs. Kaufman, supra, 164 N.E.2d at 620; Expert Corp. v LaSalle National Bank, 145 Ill.App.3d 665, 496 N.E.2d 3, 5, 99 Ill.Dec. 657 (1st Dist. 1986); Mandelke v. International House of Pancakes, Inc., 131 Ill.App.3d 1076, 477 N.E.2d 9, 12, 87 Ill.Dec. 408 (1st Dist. 1985).

 

Alterations or additions of a structural or substantial nature that are made necessary by extraordinary or unforeseen future events not within the contemplation of the parties at the time of lease execution are ordinarily the responsibility of the landlord. Expert Corp., supra, 496 N.E.2d at 5. Likewise, renewals or replacements that would last a lifetime rather than maintain the condition of the premises are extraordinary repairs outside the scope of a tenant’s obligations under a general covenant of repair. Sandelman, supra, 576 N.E.2d at 1040; Schultz Bros. v. Osram Sylvania Products, Inc., No. 10 C 2995, 2011 WL 4585237 at *3 (N.D.Ill. Sept. 30, 2011). When a deficiency is so substantial and unforeseen that it would be unreasonable to expect the tenant to make repairs that basically benefit not the tenant but the landlord, those repairs may be deemed structural. Baxter, supra, 380 N.E.2d at 835.

 

In order to shift to the tenant the responsibility to make structural or extraordinary repairs to the leased premises, a lease must (more…)

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Keys to Closing A Commercial Real Estate Transaction

Commercial Real Estate Closings

Anyone who thinks closing a commercial real estate transaction is a clean, easy, stress-free undertaking has never closed a commercial real estate transaction. Expect the unexpected, and be prepared to deal with it.

Harp Author Photo PID 732110I’ve been closing commercial real estate transactions for over 35 years. I grew up in the commercial real estate business.

My father was a “land guy”. He assembled land, put in infrastructure and sold it for a profit. His mantra: “Buy by the acre, sell by the square foot.”  From an early age, he drilled into my head the need to “be a deal maker; not a deal breaker.” This was always coupled with the admonition: “If the deal doesn’t close, no one is happy.” His theory was that attorneys sometimes “kill tough deals” simply because they don’t want to be blamed if something goes wrong.

A key point to understand is that commercial real estate Closings do not “just happen”; they are made to happen. There is a time-proven method for successfully Closing commercial real estate transactions. That method requires adherence to the four KEYS TO CLOSING outlined below: (more…)

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DUE DILIGENCE CHECKLISTS for Commercial Real Estate Transactions

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

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

 2016 Update:

Are you planning to purchase, finance, develop or redevelop any of the following types of commercial real estate in the USA?

  • Shopping Center
  • Office building
  • Large Multifamily/Apartments/Condominium Project
  • Sports and/or Entertainment Venue
  • Mixed-Use Commercial-Residential-Office
  • Parking Lot/Parking Garage
  • Retail Store
  • Lifestyle or Enclosed Mall
  • Restaurant/Banquet Facility
  • Intermodal logistics/distribution facility
  • Medical Building
  • Gas Station
  • Manufacturing facility
  • Pharmacy
  • Special Use facility
  • Air Rights parcel
  • Subterranean parcel
  • Infrastructure improvements
  • Other commercial (non-single family, non-farm) property

RSP_LogoHD (3)A KEY element of successfully investing in commercial real estate is performing an adequate Due Diligence Investigation prior to becoming legally bound to acquire or finance the property.  Conducting a Due Diligence Investigation is important not just to enable you to walk away from the transaction, if necessary, but even more importantly to enable you to discover obstacles and opportunities presented by the property that can be addressed prior to closing, to enable the transaction to proceed in a manner most beneficial to your overall objective. An adequate Due Diligence Investigation will assure awareness of all material facts relevant to the intended use or disposition of the property after closing. This is a critical point. The ultimate objective is not just to get to Closing – but rather to confirm that the property can be used or developed as intended after Closing.

The following checklists – while not all-inclusive – will help you conduct a focused and meaningful Due Diligence Investigation. (more…)

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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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Commercial Landlord-Tenant Issues – PART 1 – Getting it Right

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

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

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

Catherine Cooke
 Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.

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 current edition, IICLE asked R. Kymn Harp and Catherine Cooke of Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd., Chicago, Illinois, 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, Tenant’s Duties, Rights and Remedies appearing in the 2015 Edition of IICLE Commercial Landlord-Tenant Practice. 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.

How Commercial Lease Issues Commonly Arise – Getting it Right

Commercial real estate leases, like virtually all documents and agreements relating to commercial real estate transactions and interests, are, to a very large extent, consistent only in their variety. In commercial real estate practice, there are few, if any, “standard form” documents or agreements. To be sure, there are provisions in commercial real estate leases that any experienced practitioner would expect to see, and there are some generally applicable legal concepts that apply, but the variety of issues that may arise — and the language used in each commercial lease — will directly and materially impact the “duties, rights, and remedies” of a tenant under any commercial lease.

The best answer to most questions about what are the rights, duties, and remedies of a tenant under a commercial real estate lease is “It depends.” What does it depend on? It depends primarily on what the parties to the lease — the landlord and tenant — intended, as (presumably) reflected by the express terms and conditions of the lease. However, two common challenges frequently exist, and they apply equally to commercial tenants and commercial landlords. They are (a) poorly written lease provisions that do not clearly and definitively set forth the intention of the landlord and tenant in a way that cannot reasonably be misunderstood and (b) inclusion of perceived “standard boilerplate” provisions in a lease without fully understanding their legal or practical affect on the leased premises, the parties, and the greater project of which the leased premises may be a part. When the intent of the parties is not abundantly clear, a court may find the answer implied by the facts and circumstances.

GENERAL LEASE PRINCIPLES AND RULES OF CONSTRUCTION

A “lease” is generally described as a contract for exclusive possession of land and improvements for a term of years or other duration, usually for a specified rent or other compensation. Urban Investment & Development Co. v. Maurice L. Rothschild & Co., 25 Ill.App.3d 546, 323 N.E.2d 588, 592 (1st Dist. 1975); Feeley v. Michigan Avenue National Bank, 141 Ill.App.3d 187, 490 N.E.2d 15, 18, 141 Ill.Dec. 187 (1st Dist. 1986).

In determining the duties, rights, and remedies of a tenant under a commercial lease in Illinois, the general rules of contract construction will apply. Walgreen Co. v. American National Bank & Trust Company of Chicago, 4 Ill.App.3d 549, 281 N.E.2d 462, 465 (1st Dist. 1972); Feeley, supra, 490 N.E.2d at 18; Chicago Title & Trust Co. v. Southland Corp., 111 Ill.App.3d 67, 443 N.E.2d 294, 297, 66 Ill.Dec. 611 (1st Dist. 1982). Interpretation of a lease is a question of law when the terms are plain and unambiguous. Madigan Bros. v. Melrose Shopping Center Co., 123 Ill.App.3d 851, 463 N.E.2d 824, 828, 79 Ill.Dec. 270 (1st Dist. 1984).

“An ambiguous contract is one capable of being understood in more senses than one; an agreement obscure in meaning, through indefiniteness of expression, or having a double meaning.” Advertising Checking Bureau, Inc. v. Canal-Randolph Associates, 101 Ill.App.3d 140, 427 N.E.2d 1039, 1042, 56 Ill.Dec. 634 (1st Dist. 1991), quoting First National Bank of Chicago v. Victor Comptometer Corp., 123 Ill.App.2d 335, 260 N.E.2d 99, 102 (1st Dist. 1970). However, the mere fact that the parties to a lease “dispute” the meaning of a lease provision and assign conflicting interpretations does not render the provision “ambiguous.” McGann v. Murry, 75 Ill.App.3d 697, 393 N.E.2d 1339, 1342 – 1343, 31 Ill.Dec. 32 (3d Dist. 1979); St. George Chicago, Inc. v. George J. Murges & Associates, Ltd., 296 Ill.App.3d 285, 695 N.E.2d 503, 506 – 507, 230 Ill.Dec. 1013 (1st Dist. 1998); Ford v. Dovenmuehle Mortgage, Inc., 273 Ill.App.3d 240, 651 N.E.2d 751, 745 – 755, 209 Ill.Dec. 573 (1st Dist. 1995). Whether ambiguity exists is a question of law for the court. Advertising Checking Bureau, supra, 427 N.E.2d at 1042; Pioneer Trust & Savings Bank v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 91 Ill.App.3d 573, 414 N.E.2d 1152, 1154, 47 Ill.Dec. 36 (1st Dist. 1980).

It is well-settled in Illinois that, when construing a written lease, the court must give words their commonly accepted meaning and must construe every part with reference to all other portions of the lease “so that every part may stand, if possible, and no part of it, either in words or sentences, shall be regarded as superfluous or void if it can be prevented.” Kokenes v. Cities Service Oil Co., 24 Ill.App.3d 483, 321 N.E.2d 338, 340 (1st Dist. 1974), quoting Szulerecki v. Oppenheimer, 283 Ill. 525, 119 N.E. 643, 646 (1918). See also Southland, supra, 443 N.E.2d at 297.

In construing a lease, the instrument is to be considered as a whole and the primary object is to derive the intent of the parties. However, a contract must be enforced as written, and when the terms of a lease are clear and unambiguous, they will be given their natural and ordinary meaning. Gerardi v. Vaal, 169 Ill.App.3d 818, 523 N.E.2d 1327, 1331, 120 Ill.Dec. 416 (3d Dist. 1988).

The foregoing sounds pretty straightforward, but unless attorneys and their clients draft leases with a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between particularly drafted provisions and every other part of the lease — including so-called “standard boilerplate” provisions — they may find themselves surprised by what they have “agreed to.”

PRACTICE POINTER

 Drafting a commercial real estate lease is similar to drafting any other commercial document, except that the meaning and intent of contractual lease provisions are colored by an extensive body of underlying real property law that has developed over the centuries.

A commercial real estate lease should say what the parties mean and mean what it says. Words have meaning; phrases have meaning; each provision has meaning. The interplay of words, phrases, and all provisions in a lease will help determine the meaning of each other word, phrase, or provision. See Kokenes, supra, 321 N.E.2d at 340; Szulerecki, supra, 119 N.E. at 646.

PRACTICE POINTER

 Be sure the words and phrases you use mean what your client believes they mean before proceeding.

 If there are provisions of a commercial real estate lease you do not fully understand — including provisions you believe are “standard boilerplate” provisions — you need to learn what they mean and how they affect other parts of the lease, and your client’s rights, duties and remedies, before advising your client to proceed.

The following discussion highlights some areas in which the rights, duties, and remedies of the commercial real estate tenant (and, by mirror image, the landlord) appear not to have been what one or the other party thought they were. (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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Value Investing vs. Momentum Investing

As the commercial real estate market begins to pick up steam, beware the urge to follow a “momentum” investment strategy rather that a “value” investment strategy.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-skeleton-keys-image28661257Momentum investing relies on market increases to generate a return on investment. It is the “rising tide floats all boats” investment model. It is the investment model of which all “bubbles” are made.

As momentum investing accelerates, investment fundamentals tend to get lost. Instead of evaluating cash on cash returns using discounted cash flows that underlie “value” investing, a casino mentality takes hold – whereby investors can justify acquiring assets generating even a negative cash return, with the notion that rising prices will yield a profit. As the saying goes: “Any fool can make a profit in a rising market – and many fools do”. The challenge, of course, comes when a market hits a plateau or, worse yet, the market declines.

As a general proposition, value investing is significantly more prudent. If a project is cash flowing, and generating a positive return on investment, today and for the foreseeable future – which is a fundamental precept of a value investment strategy – the potential added return of any increase in value in the underlying asset caused by the “rising tide” effect is icing on the cake. Choose your cake with care.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. But, employing an “exception” is wisely done only after sober reflection of the particular circumstance to determine that in that particular case the exception is warranted. When an exception is regularly employed, it is no longer an exception – but, rather, becomes the rule itself.

As in all markets, there will be winners and there will be losers. It makes sense in the coming commercial real estate revival to position yourself and your company as a winner. You may not get another chance.

Exercise all appropriate due diligence. Use readily available and appropriate asset protection strategies. Invest with intentional regard to reliably building wealth though a well conceived value investing strategy – not a roulette table strategy that, over time, is virtually certain to fail.

If this recent economic debacle has taught us anything, it has taught that bad things can happen to good people who lose sight of the fundamentals. Good deals – even great deals – can be made if reliable commercial real estate investment fundamentals are employed.

As a wise mentor once told me: “You have a good brain – use it.”

Good luck.

R. Kymn Harp
Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd.
Chicago, IL
www.rsplaw.com
JOIN MY THOUGHTBOARD: www.Harp-OnThis.com

REPORTING FROM THE FIELD. . .

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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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LENDING BLIND – SIX YEARS AFTER LEHMAN’S COLLAPSE

Commercial Real Estate Lending:  What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!

If there is anything commercial real estate lenders have learned during the collapse of the commercial real estate market over the past five or so years, it would be the danger of “lending blind”.  Commercial real estate lending without fully understanding the project is a prescription for disaster. An original version of this article was first published in 2005.  It is eerie how prophetic the warning signs were. Surely lenders have learned. . . . (more…)

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