REPAIRS, RENT AND SECURITY!
following lease provision frequently found in commercial leases regarding
repairs and maintenance:
“Tenant shall maintain at his sole
expense and without contribution from Landlord, the Premises in good and
safe condition, including, but not limited to, the roof, plate
glass, electrical wiring, plumbing and heating installation.”
such a provision require the tenant to replace the roof if it has become so
run-down that it cannot be repaired?
past year, a California court considered this question. In reviewing the facts of the case, the court
noted that a prior owner of the building entered into an amendment to a lease
with the tenant providing the tenant with a $500 reduction of monthly rent for
the remainder of the lease term. The
amendment to the lease also contained the above provision regarding repairs and
three years after the tenant entered into this amendment, the prior owner sold
the premises to the current landlord.
After conducting a roof inspection, the landlord sent the tenant a
letter demanding that the tenant undertake certain maintenance and repairs within
60 days. Subsequently, the landlord sent
the tenant a three-day notice demanding that the tenant complete repairs or
quit possession of the premises.
the course of an unlawful detainer action, it was determined that the roof was
placed upon the building in 1978, that the life expectancy at the outside was
15 years which would take the life expectancy of the roof to 1993, that the
lease with the tenant was not entered into until 1997, and the amendment was
entered into in 2000.
reviewing the law on the subject of contracts, the court noted that “The
purpose of the law of contracts is to protect the reasonable expectations of
the parties.” The court also noted that
“interpretation of contract ‘must be fair and reasonable, not leading to absurd
court observed that the tenant’s duty of maintenance under the lease and
amendment could be reasonably construed as only requiring the tenant to
maintain the roof in its condition at the time the agreements were executed in
1997 and 2000, i.e., in its then-dilapidated condition) and that had the
parties intended the tenant to assume the obligation to replace the
roof, one would reasonably expect the written agreements to expressly so
state rather than merely requiring the tenant to maintain the roof.
court continues to maintain that a tenant is not obligated to restore the
premises to his landlord in a better condition than it existed at the beginning
of the lease.
you are in a partnership and the sole asset of the partnership is a building
that has been converted from a residence into offices. May your
partner lease an office of the building to a friend at below fair market
reviewing the nature of the relationship between partners, a court recently
noted that a partnership is a fiduciary relationship and partners are
essentially held to the standard of a trustee in their dealings with one
another. In view of the existence of a
fiduciary relationship, the court concluded that partners may not take
advantage for themselves at the expense of the partnership and thus could not
lease partnership property for a sum less than could be obtained on the open
we consider the issue of security. Not
the security of money that a landlord customarily requires of a tenant by way
of lease deposit, but rather, a tenant’s need for security or protection from
another recent California case, a plaintiff was injured by a stray bullet
during a gang fight at a trailer park where he lived. Understandably upset, he sued the landlord,
claiming negligence in failing to take adequate security precautions.
this situation, plaintiff presented evidence to the court that the landlord was
aware that spaces in the mobile park were being rented to gang members and that
there had been a variety of gang-related criminal activity occurring on or near
was also noted that, in addition to a lack of security, there was a lack of
lighting in the park. An expert on the
subject of security testified that the park had become a fertile ground for
gang “turf wars,” and that gangs tended to congregate in the “shadows” for the
purpose of carrying out their gang activity in the dark to avoid
view of these circumstances, the court determined that the landlord had a duty
to undertake additional security measures to protect the residents in the park
from potential violence.
moral of the story? Standard lease
provisions regarding repairs and maintenance, rent and security can prove to be
fertile territory for litigation!
[This column is intended to provide general information only and
is not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have a
specific question regarding the law, you should contact an
attorney of your choice. Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]
Reprinted from The Journal
Myles M. Mattenson © 2006