There were several instances recently when we got involved to represent both commercial tenants and commercial landlords who, as it turns out, prepared and/or reviewed their own leases or amendments without review by an attorney. While we always appreciate our clients and always look forward to serving them, it is difficult to think that these major headaches could have easily been avoided by way of a simple review by an experienced real estate attorney. Having prepared and reviewed a zillion leases throughout my career, I can say with absolute certainty that an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.
Once such matter recently involved a commercial tenant who transferred his lease from one entity to another, for various reasons which aren’t relevant here. To most people, a transfer sounds great. Sounds like it is off one plate and now on another. But the reality is that isn’t the case at all. A person can transfer a contract but that certainly doesn’t mean you are off the hook for it. That was exactly the case here and the end result was exposure to significant liability and the exact opposite of what was actually intended by the client. Unfortunately, I can also say with absolute certainty that had the client had a simple legal review and redline of the transfer, it would have been a non-issue altogether. Without any doubt, a couple hours for a review of the lease amendments and transfer would have saved 25 hours of legal time and an entire day in Court for trial. Fortunately we succeeded in this case nonetheless. We were able to capitalize on some other legal defects which plagued our adversaries case and papers. We were able to neutralize the claim against our client and bring about a favorable result. That doesn’t change the fact that a couple hours of contract review would have saved ten or twenty times the number of man hours…And this was a summary proceeding in Landlord-Tenant Court. Had it been a Supreme Court action, we would be talking about countless more hours.
The end result is clear. Unless you know the difference between a lease assignment, an assumption, amendment, and extension, all as they related to releases from liability, good guy clauses, and personal guarantees, as well as the relevant caselaw and statutes, and have tried countless of summary landlord tenant proceedings, please have an attorney prepare or negotiate your leases. Youâ€™re welcome in advance.