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Posts tagged with: Illinois

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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Illinois Condominium Deconversion

RSP_LogoHD (3)Condominium deconversion is growing in popularity to enhance the value of busted condominium projects. It is not unusual for condominium projects that entered the market in the bubble years immediately before the Great Recession to have ended up as a “busted condo” project. This is a term commonly used to described condominium projects that failed when developers were unable to sell a substantial portion of the condominium units.

 

In many cases this resulted in development loans going into default and foreclosure, with bulk purchasers acquiring the developer’s units and renting them out as individual rental units.  Other times, the developers themselves were able to modify their development financing and continue to hold and rent the units themselves.

 

In either case, with residential apartment projects becoming a favored investment vehicle for some investors, finding a way to deconvert busted condo projects by terminating their status as “condominiums” and turning the whole project into a single-owner apartment project has come into favor.  This often results in a substantial increase in value to investors.

 

Section 16 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act 765 ILCS 605/16 provides the mechanism for removing a condominium project from the provisions of the act, a term colloquially referred to as “condominium deconversion”.

 

A principal challenge for condominium deconversion is that, by statute, condominium deconversion requires action by all the unit owners and the consent of the holders of all liens affecting any of the units.   765 ILCS 605/16.  In any sizable condominium project, this is a difficult hurdle to overcome.

 

Fortunately, for bulk-owners of a substantial percentage of condominium units, getting to 100% participation by all units owners is not as difficult as it may at first seem. Instead of trying to convince 100% of all unit owners to go along, or trying to purchase units from hold-out unit owners who may demand a substantial premium over the objective fair market value of their unit, there is another alternative. Bulk-owners of a substantial percentage of units may chose, instead, to undertake a two-step process to enable condominium deconversion in a much more efficient way.

 

Two-Step Process to Condominium Deconversion:

 

1.     The first step is to acquire a sufficient number of condominium units in the project to be able to implement the “forced-sale” provisions of Section 15 of the Condominium Property Act. 765 ILCS 605/15. Unless the condominium declaration or bylaws require a greater percentage (which they seldom do in residential condominium projects), this means acquiring or gaining control of only 75% of the condominium units. Since many bulk-owners already own a substantial percentage of units, and sometimes have access to additional units at bargain prices through short-sale purchases or otherwise, getting to the 75% ownership threshold may not be an insurmountable challenge.

 

Once a bulk-owner owns or controls 75% of the units (unless a greater number is required by the declaration or bylaws), the bulk-owner can vote at a meeting of unit owners called for such purpose, to sell the property as a whole.  Pursuant to Section 15, such action is binding on all unit owners, and it is thereafter the duty of all unit owners to execute and deliver such instruments and to perform all acts necessary to effect the sale; provided that a unit owner that did not vote to approve the sale has the right, for 20 days, to file a written objection. If this occurs, the objecting unit owner is still obligated to execute all documents and take all actions to effect the sale, but will be entitled to receive an amount equivalent to the value of the unit owner’s interest as determined by fair appraisal, less any unpaid assessments or charges due from such unit owner. 765 ILCS 605/15.

 

2.     Upon satisfaction of the 75% threshold for approval to convey the entire property, and conveyance of the entire property to a single identified buyer, that buyer alone – provided it has the consent of all lienholders (which, in theory should be only the buyer’s mortgagee), has the power to elect to remove the property from the provisions of the Illinois Condominium Property Act pursuant to Section 16 of Act. 765 ILCS 605/16 – a so-called condominium deconversion.

 

The forced sale provision in Section 15 of the Act establishes a mandatory legal duty for all unit owners to participate in the conveyance and execute all instruments and take all actions to accomplish the conveyance. Still, it may be reasonable to expect that some unit owners may resist – particularly if the unit is their home, and/or if the mortgage indebtedness encumbering the unit exceeds the fair market value of the unit.  In light of this practical risk, when proceeding with a condominium deconversion through forced sale, it makes sense to budget for litigation expenses, and – though not legally required – to establish a settlement reserve to fund settlement buyouts when doing so makes practical business sense.

 

Condominium deconversion and sale is growing in popularity as a substantial value-add proposition for many busted condominium projects.  It can be tricky at times, but in the right circumstance, sophisticated investors are finding the financial rewards worth the added effort.

 

Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance.

 

Thanks for listening!

Kymn

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ICSC RECon 2014 – SPOTLIGHT: MONEE, ILLINOIS

ICSC RECon 2014 is in full swing as the largest retail real estate convention in the world. Every year, retail owners, investors, developers, lenders and other commercial real estate professionals converge on Las Vegas, NV to network, discover, promote their projects, look for development opportunities and make new deals. This year is no exception. There are an estimated 33,000 real estate professionals in attendance for this action-packed three day convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-building-future-city-image20348789Once again this year, members of the International Council of Shopping Centers are recognizing and acknowledging the need for public-private partnerships with local communities to promote economic development. The extremely difficult economic conditions over the past several years have taken a toll on communities and developers alike. Now, more than ever, they need each other to facilitate mutually beneficial development.

To help local governments establish and promote much needed permanent, beneficial economic changes for their communities, ICSC in cooperation with other development groups and agencies continues to (more…)

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IN PRAISE OF REAL ESTATE DEVELOPERS – Let’s Do Lunch!

This article is being republished as a welcoming salutation to many of my long-lost Real Estate Developer friends.  You have been missed over the past several years. Call me.  Let’s do lunch!

RSP_LogoFull_2PMSDid I happen to mention I love Real Estate Developers? Not like I love my wife or my kids, or even my dog, but Real Estate Developers are definitely among my favorite people.

Think about it.

Real Estate Developers are like Gods. [Well, miniature gods, at least.] They create much of the physical world we inhabit. The homes and condominiums we live in. The grocery store and pharmacy down the street. The resorts and casinos and golf courses we enjoy for leisure. Restaurants. Shopping centers. Office buildings. Movie theaters. Truck terminals. Medical and surgical centers. Spas. Factories. Warehouses. Auditoriums. Parking garages. Hotels.

You name it; if its man-made, attached to dirt, and we can get inside it, a Real Estate Developer was probably involved. (more…)

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The “little known” Two-Year Rule for Employment Restrictive Covenants – Illinois

Employment Restrictive Covenants

The issue of enforceability of employment restrictive covenants comes up often in business, including the business of commercial real estate.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-confused-business-man-thinking-wich-way-to-go-image28551060A common scenario is as follows:  A person goes to work for a company and is required to sign a Noncompetition and Nonsolicitation Agreement. Typically, it will say something like “during the term of employment, and for a period of one year after termination of employment, the employee will not compete with or solicit any customer or vendor of the employer.”  Sometimes the Noncompetition/Nonsolicitation Agreement is required to be signed as a condition of being hired. Other times the employer will tell an employee who is already employed that signing the Noncompetition/Nonsolicitation Agreement is a condition to continued employment.

Are Employment Noncompetition/Nonsolicitation Agreements enforceable in Illinois?

As a general proposition, Noncompetition/Nonsolicitation Agreements are enforceable in Illinois, as long as they satisfy a three-pronged test:  They: (1) must be no greater in scope and duration than is required for the protection of a legitimate business interest  of the employer-promisee; (2) must not impose undue hardship on the employee-promisor, and (3) must not be injurious to the public.

In a decision filed December 1, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court shook up the Illinois employment bar by overruling an extensive line of cases that had narrowed the three-pronged test described above to a two-pronged test created by Appellate Court decision in 1973. In a case referred to as the Kolar decision, (Nationwide Advertising Service, Inc. v. Kolar, 14 Ill. Ap. 3d 522 (1973), the Kolar court held that an employment restrictive covenant was valid if there were (i) a near permanent customer relationship with the employer, and (ii) the employee had gained confidential information through its employment. The Illinois Supreme Court emphasized in its December 2011 opinion that the Kolar test is not valid. (Reliable Fire Equipment Company vs. Arredondo 2011 IL 111871). The Illinois Supreme Court, instead, reaffirmed the legitimate business interest test, and clarified that “whether a legitimate business interest exists is based on the totality of the facts and circumstances of the individual case. Factors to be considered in the analysis include, but are not limited to, the near-permanence of customer relationships, the employee’s acquisition of confidential information through his employment, and time and place restrictions. No factor carries any more weight than any other, but rather its importance will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the individual case.”

For the most part, the Illinois employer’s bar hailed the Arrendondo decision as a victory, believing it gave employers a broader basis for enforcing employment restrictive covenants.  Ironically, many attorney’s representing primarily employees were encouraged by the Arrendondo decision as well, believing it gives employees more room to challenge enforceability by challenging, factually, whether a “legitimate business interest” is at stake.

“Little Known” Two-Year Rule for Employment Restrictive Covenants – Illinois

While the foregoing is all well and good, a fundamental concept of law is that employment (more…)

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