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Posts tagged with: real estate

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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Outside Investors and the Real Estate PPM – A Critical Step

RSP_LogoHD (3)It is not uncommon for commercial real estate investors to pool their funds for real estate investments. To obtain project financing, equity requirements remain relatively high. Loan to value ratios are in the 60% to 70% range in many circumstances. Even a modestly priced commercial project with a $5,000,000 price tag may require equity in the range of $1,500,000 to $2,000,000. The greater the price tag, the higher the equity requirement. A Real Estate PPM is an important tool when raising funds from outside investors for a real estate project.

TYPICAL INVESTMENT STRUCTURE

Private real estate investments are typically structured through a manager-managed limited liability company (LLC), with the project promoter or its affiliate named as the manager. Oftentimes, the business terms of the transaction will include a cumulative preferred return to equity investors, an attractive internal rate of return to equity investors until all capital is returned, and a waterfall that provides for a disproportionate percentage of distributable cash to be used toward repayment of the equity investment until it is repaid in full, followed by a permanent allocation of profits and losses based on percentage of ownership.

OUTSIDE INVESTORS – PROS AND CONS

The advantage to the promoter in raising capital from outside investors is that it places the promoter in a position to acquire and control more and larger real estate projects. A disadvantage to promoters is that they must give up a meaningful piece of project ownership and anticipated profits in return for using other people’s money.

 An advantage to outside investors is that they may realize high investment returns and certain tax advantages by participating in a real estate investment. A disadvantage is that they typically have little direct control over the project and must rely upon the knowledge, skill and efforts of the promoter to make money. Of course, if the outside investors don’t possess the knowledge and skill themselves, relying on an experienced real estate promoter may be their best bet for taking advantage of the opportunities real estate investment has to offer.

DUE DILIGENCE AND THE REAL ESTATE PPM

Whether investing in a stabilized real estate project, a project to be newly constructed, or a value-add project requiring redevelopment, renovation, or adaptive reuse, careful evaluation of the benefits and risks always require knowledgeable investigation using due diligence.

A good place for an outside investor to begin is by closely reading the investment PPM (private placement memorandum) which an outside investor should expect to receive from the promoter before making an investment. A well drafted Real Estate PPM will describe the project, the relevant history and experience of the promoter, sources of funds, uses of funds, material terms of the investment, including transfer restrictions, the exit strategy, and the identifiable risks of the investment and the project.

The Real Estate PPM, however, is only the beginning. A conscientious investor needs to go beyond the statements in the PPM to gain an understanding of the underlying real estate project itself, not unlike a conscientious lender would – but even more so, since the interest of an equity investor is subordinate to the interest of any secured lenders. If the prospective investor does not have the direct knowledge and expertise to evaluate and understand the underlying real estate project, it is highly advisable for the prospective investor to hire an advisor, attorney or consultant who has the skill-set to conduct the evaluation.

PPM – A DEFENSE DOCUMENT

Promoters sometimes resist preparing a fully developed PPM because they believe (naively) that it is an unnecessary burden and needless expense. Realistically, however, it is essential and its cost is a cost of raising money from outside investors.

Some promoters discount the value of a carefully prepared PPM because they think of it as a marketing brochure. With that belief, they conclude that their investors don’t need an expensive marketing brochure prepared by a lawyer. In truth, a PPM is not a marketing brochure. It is a critical defense document. Like insurance, it is only a waste of money if you never need it. Even the most well thought-out real estate project may not turn out as planned, or may not result in the impressive profits anticipated at the outset. In that case, believe it or not, there is a meaningful risk that the investors will sue – especially if they end up losing money.

Anytime a person is making a passive investment with the expectation that profits will be derived solely through the efforts of another, the investment is, by definition, an investment contract and, by extension, a security.  The party offering the security is required by law to make a whole host of disclosures to make sure the investor is fully informed of all material facts and risks. Failure to adequately describe the investment and disclose known and foreseeable risks exposes the promoter to serious potential liability under applicable securities laws and regulations.

When the investors sue, it will be for on a variety of theories, including breach of contract, fraud in the inducement, common law fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of applicable securities laws. The investors will allege that the promoter made all kinds of promises and told the investor all kinds of things regarding the project and the investment, which the promoter knew, or should have known, were false.  The investor will also claim the promoter concealed or failed to disclose facts and risks known to the promoter which, if disclosed, would have caused the investors to decline making the investment. Since securities laws provide investment rescission rights and impose near strict liability on a broad range of promoters and persons controlling the investment, the promoter and its principal advocates can be exposed to significant personal liability absent an effective and reliable defense.

A well-crafted PPM can be highly effective in providing a strong defense by spelling out, in writing, all the material details and assumptions of the project and the investment, and all known and foreseeable risks inherent in the project and the investment. It will also limit the right of the investors to rely upon only the matters expressed in the PPM, and will clarify the distinction between statements of fact, and forward looking projections which constitute matters of opinion or belief which cannot reasonably be relied upon. As such, the Real Estate PPM is a powerful defense tool that no real estate promoter seeking investment from outsiders should go without. If things go poorly, it will be the firewall between the investors’ loss and the personal liability of the promoter.

INVESTOR RELIANCE ON PPM

From the investors’ perspective, the PPM is a valuable tool as well. If meticulously crafted, it will disclose the material details of the project and the investment, and will point out risks the investor should consider, even if they are risks the investor is willing to accept.   The investor will have the right to rely upon the facts and details set forth in the PPM unless expressly qualified or limited. If the PPM misstates the facts or omits to disclose known or knowable risks, the PPM can serve as a powerful piece of evidence in a claim against the promoter. It is precisely this evidentiary risk that impels promoters to dot the i’s and cross the t’s to make sure the PPM is complete and accurate – which makes it a valuable source of information for the prospective investor.

PROJECT DUE DILIGENCE BY INVESTOR

Even with the inclusion of necessary facts and disclosures in the Real Estate PPM, a detailed analysis and discussion of certain real estate fundamentals underlying the project may not fall within the purview of the PPM. If the disclosed risks are carefully crafted with broad language, in may be up to the prospective investor, in the exercise of due diligence, to evaluate the underlying project to confirm the suitability of the property for its envisioned use.

Due diligence by the investor is always appropriate. If the prospective investor does not have the knowledge on its own to understand real estate fundamentals, it is incumbent upon the investor to engage a real estate professional who possesses the necessary knowledge.  Regardless of whether a failure to adequately disclose and address gaps in the underlying project fundamentals is sufficient to expose the promoter to liability, imposing liability on the promoter is not the object of the investment. The object of the investment is to put the investor’s money to work in a profitable venture that will yield a favorable return – not a lawsuit.

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Whether raising money from outside investors, or considering an investment in a real estate project as a passive outside investor, a well-crafted Real Estate PPM is a vital component and critical step. Ignore it at your own peril.

Thanks for listening,

Kymn

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NEW BOOK – Illinois Commercial Real Estate

I’m happy to announce that the website for my new book, Illinois Commercial Real Estate is now live.  Visit www.Illinois-CRE.com for a book excerpt.

illinois-commercial-real-estate-book-coverIllinois Commercial Real Estate, Due Diligence to Closing, with Checklists, is intended as a practical handbook for investors, developers, brokers, lenders, attorneys and others interested in commercial real estate projects in Illinois. This book zeros-in on commercial real estate due diligence, and walks the reader through the due diligence process, from conception to closing, with a focus on making sure the commercial real estate project functions as intended after closing.  Checklists are provided as an aid to commercial real estate professionals to assist on evaluation of the property and the transaction on the path toward successful closing. As people in the real estate industry understand, if the deal doesn’t close, it doesn’t count.

I’d like to extend Special Thanks to:

My clients, whose passion for creative commercial development I share;

My partners and staff at Robbins, Salomon and Patt, Ltd., who work with me tirelessly to earn our client’s business every day.

Catherine A. Cooke and Emily C. Kaminski, attorneys at Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd. who provided legal research, advice, counseling, and technical editing;

James M. Mainzer, tax partner at Robbins, Salomon & Patt, Ltd., for his insights and assistance on tax matters;

The editing staff at the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, for editing early versions of chapters 11, 12, 25, 27 and 28, which were first published in IICLE Practice Handbooks;

Dale V. Weaver, Illinois licensed surveyor, who was kind enough to convert my rough draft drawings into the diagrams included at chapter 25;

. . . and, of course, my friend and valuable resource, Linda Day Harrison, founder of theBrokerList, for her ongoing encouragement and support.

If you are buying, developing, financing, selling, leasing or otherwise dealing with commercial real estate in Illinois, I hope you will find Illinois Commercial Real Estate, Due Diligence to Closing, with Checklists to be a useful resource.

ENJOY!!!

R. Kymn Harp

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Due Diligence Basics – Commercial Real Estate

Due diligence is essential when investing in, developing or financing commercial real estate. You must know the right questions to ask, and where to find the answers. The object is not simply to get to closing, but to assure that the project will function as intended after closing.

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

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

Due diligence is a standard of conduct. It is the amount of diligent inquiry due under the circumstances of your particular transaction. It requires that you determine, confirm and answer “yes” to every question required to be answered in the affirmative, and that you determine, confirm and answer “no” to every question required to be answered in the negative, for your project to proceed to closing and function as intended after closing.

 

In commercial real estate transactions, there are two layers of due diligence:

  1. Transaction due diligence; and
  2. Property due diligence.

 

TRANSACTION DUE DILIGENCE

In any commercial transaction, transaction due diligence requires that we ask and know the answers to fundamental questions in seven particular areas of concern. These areas of concern include the six elements of every story-line, plus authority of the parties to act.  Transaction due diligence requires that you determine, confirm and know the answers to each of the following:

  1.  Who are the parties to the transaction?

a.  Seller

b. Buyer

c. Lender

d. Tenants

e. Other

2. What property is included?

a. Real estate

b. Personal property

c. Franchise agreements or rights

d. Other

3. Where is the property located?

4. Why is the property being acquired? – Intended use?

5. When must it Close? And other critical dates?

a. Due diligence period

b. Title delivery deadline

c. Survey delivery deadline

d. Financing deadlines

e. Section 1031 identification period and replacement property acquisition deadlines

f. Other critical dates

6. How will the transaction be structured?

a. Sale

b. Lease

c. Section 1031 exchange

d. Seller financing

e. Other transaction structure issues

7. By what authority are the parties acting?

a. Board approval, if necessary

b. Shareholder approval, if necessary

c. Governmental approvals, if necessary

d. Manager authority under LLC Operating Agreement

e. LLC member consent, if necessary

f. Landlord consent, if necessary

g. Lender consent, if necessary

h. Any other required consents or approvals or other sources of authority

When the “what” of Transaction Due Diligence is commercial or industrial real estate, the next step is to conduct an investigation of the property using all appropriate due diligence. Property due diligence is describes below.

PROPERTY DUE DILIGENCE

Property due diligence has four additional areas of concern. As discussed below, the four major areas of concern for property due diligence are market demand, access, use and finances. All of the questions concerning the property that need to be asked and answered when investing in, developing or financing commercial or industrial real estate fall within one or more of these four major areas of concern.

 

Property due diligence requires that you determine, confirm and know the answers to each of the following:

 

 1. Market Demand

a. How will the property be used?

b. Who are the intended users?

c. Is there a need – and more importantly, will there be a need at the time the project is completed?

2. Access

a. How will users get to the property?

b. Are there adequate traffic controls, stoplights, stop signs, etc.?

c. Adequate drives for customers and deliveries?

d. Sufficient roadway stacking room at nearby intersections?

e. Lawful curb-cuts?

f. Full access vs. right-turn only?

g. Adequate parking for business needs (which may be more than zoning requirements)?

h. ADA compliant/handicap accessible?

i. Any other access requirements or impediments?

3. Use

a. Any private land use controls/restrictions on use?

b. Proper zoning?

c. Sufficient parking as required by zoning?

d. Sufficient occupancy capacity?

e. Adequate utility service?

f. If buyer is acquiring the property for its own use, are there any existing tenants or users that must be terminated or removed? Can they be lawfully  removed?

g. Environmental issues? (which may be as much a finance issue as a use issue)

h. Other use requirements or issues?

4. Finances

a. Financing

i.   Appraised value?

ii.  Loan to value – equity requirement?

iii. Terms of financing?

iv.  Lender required due diligence expenses?

v.  Lease subordination required?

x. Subordination Non-Disturbance and Attornment (SNDA) Agreements?

y. Tenant Estoppel Certificates?

vi.  Other lender requirements?

b. Financial Metrics

i.  Real estate taxes and special assessments?

ii. Rehab/repair costs?

iii. User fees and recapture costs?

iv.  Environmental remediation costs?

v.   Leases?

1.  Lease income?

2. Security deposits?

3. Rental abatement?

4. CAM and operating expense reconciliations?

5. Landlord obligations to Tenants for build-out, etc.?

vi.  Other financial benefits and burdens affecting the property?

RESOURCES

Many of the white papers and posts on this blog delve more deeply into due diligence issues and concerns.   You may find particularly useful my post Due Diligence Checklists: for Commercial Real Estate Transactions.

Should you need assistance, we have a number of attorneys at Robbins Salomon & Patt, Ltd. who are experienced commercial real estate practitioners and can help. Do not hesitate to reach out to us. We are always looking for new clients with interesting or challenging projects.

Enjoy!

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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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NEW: ALTA Land Title Survey Standards

NEW ALTA LAND TITLE SURVEY STANDARDS effective February 23, 2016.

UPDATE:  Effective February 23, 2016, new minimum standard detail requirements for ALTA Land Title Surveys went into effect, replacing the previously existing 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys.

 

Note that the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) is the legal successor organization to the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (ACSM). Accordingly, the new survey standards will be cited as the “2016 Minimum Standard Detail requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys.

 

Several substantive changes have been made in the updated 2016 land title survey standards. A comparison of the 2016 standards to the previous 2011 standards is highlighted on the Red-lined version (click here) showing the changes made. Among the notable changes are changes to the Table A list of Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications. The modifications to Table A are largely a result of the 2016 Land Title Survey standards making certain requirements mandatory instead of optional. Additional changes involve reassigned responsibilities (or at least a clarification of responsibilities) for obtaining certain information for use by surveyors in preparing a 2016 ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.

 

RSP_LogoHD (3)Update Purchase Agreements to Require Surveys compliant with NEW 2016 ALTA Land Title Survey Standards

 

Especially for commercial or industrial real estate purchase agreements (and financing commitments) requiring ALTA Surveys  prepared after February 23, 2016, be sure to contractually require that they be prepared in accordance the the 2016 Minimum Standard Detail requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys.  Be sure, also, to modify your existing contracts as they pertain to the Table A Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications to address the new Table A instead of the version associated with the former 2011 standards.

 

Purchasers should check with their lenders, and with the title insurance company engaged to insure title, to be certain everyone is on the same page, and that all parties understand their respective responsibilities for obtaining documents and information necessary for use by the Surveyor. Lenders and their counsel should do likewise.

 

2016 should be an interesting year for commercial real estate. Best of luck for a prosperous year!

 

Thanks,

Kymn

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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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COOL PROJECTS – Real Estate

COOL PROJECTS
Real Estate Projects I Love to Work On.

I love cool real estate projects. Cool projects are why I became a lawyer. Cool projects are why I come to the office each day. Cool real estate projects are why I did not become an astrophysicist (well, one reason – although, that might have been cool too). Cool projects are the reason I live, smile, dance, breath, scour the earth for new deals, jump for joy.

And by “cool”, I don’t mean in a thermal sense – but rather in a “this project is so cool” sense. I am referring to real estate projects that are awesome. Real estate projects that are fun. Real estate projects that make you say “Wow – what a cool project!

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

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

Cool projects don’t need to be costly projects in major urban centers – although those can be cool too. I’m talking about projects that are creative. Projects that require vision and imagination. Projects that take something mundane and turn it into something special.

Some people think I only like huge projects. To be honest, I do like huge projects, but largely because the huge projects I have worked on also happened to be cool projects.

Redevelopment of the commercial portions of Marina City in downtown Chicago was a cool project. Ground-up development of Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois was a cool project. Work on various mixed-use projects around the Midwest and upstate New York have been cool projects. But so has been the much smaller development of an 8,000 square foot microbrewery in the historic Motor Row District of Chicago using TIF financing; development of countless restaurant and entertainment venues throughout the Midwest; conversion of a multi-story industrial building into a high-tech office center; conversion of an outdated office building into a stylish, luxury hotel; adaptive reuse of outdated retail strip centers, bank buildings, city and suburban office buildings, bowling alleys, warehouses, industrial buildings, gas stations, and various small to medium sized special purpose buildings into modern, fully functional jewels – reinvented to provide much needed retail and service amenities for local neighborhoods and communities. It is not the size of the project that makes it cool – or the cost – it is the concept, imagination and creative challenge involved that makes the difference. At least for me.

Cool Projects Test

Here’s a test [call it the “Cool Projects Test”, if you will]:

Which of the following projects is more likely to end up on Kymn Harp’s list of cool projects? (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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