TENANTS LEGAL CENTER
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Commercial
Landlord Tenant Law

WE HELP MANY BUSINESSES WITH LANDLORD, LEASE AND EVICTION ISSUES.  WE HAVE ASSISTED VARIOUS BUSINESSES FROM THE SMALLEST KIOSK IN A MALL RIGHT UP TO A LARGER OPERATION WITH MANY EMPLOYEES. 

We give business, even the smaller ones, a great advantage since we can offer powerful legal services from experienced landlord tenant attorneys without the sky high legal fees charged by traditional law firms.  Feel free to contact us if you own or manage a business facing landlord tenant issues so we can help as early as possible.  Prompt action can avoid costly problems that occur by waiting or hoping the matter will work itself out, or even worse, hoping the landlord will help you to resolve things. 
See a LIST of former client business types.


MANY BUSINESS OWNERS GET IN TROUBLE AFTER APPLYING COMMON SENSE TENANT RIGHTS PRINCIPLES FROM RESIDENTIAL LAW.  THAT CAN CAUSE BIG PROBLEMS SINCE THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT. HERE ARE SOME DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COMMERCIAL AND RESIDENTIAL TENANCY LAWS.

IN COMMERCIAL TENANCIES;

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Contrary to what some landlords/agents say, there is no single "standard" commercial lease.
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Some leases cause you to lose your lease and business if you try and sublease to anyone.
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There is no implied right of habitability.
-There is no statutory right to "repair and deduct" for property defects.
-The protections for residential foreclosures (extended time to vacate) do not apply
-The 10% 60 day rent raise rule does not apply.
- The 60 day notice to quit rule (required for month to month tenancies over one year) does not apply.
-Statutory penalties for turning off utilities or changing locks (CC 789.3) do not apply.
-There is no limit to the amount of security deposit charged.
-The privacy protections of entry by landlord laws (CC 1954) do not apply.
-Landlords can accept a partial rent payment during an eviction and still successfully proceed with that eviction if they use the proper notice.
-Landlords can ask for too much rent in a 3 day notice to pay rent or quit and still successfully proceed with the eviction if they use the right notice.
-Late charges which are excessive or illegal in residential tenancies may be acceptable for commercial ones.
-Landlords may shift maintenance responsibilities to the tenant.
-Many unwaivable rights in residential tenancies may be waived in commercial ones.
-Tenants may waive litigation rights including a trial by jury.
-Assignments and subleases may be prohibited.
-Landlords may restrict the tenant's use of the property even if it is an unreasonable restriction.
-Commercial leases (i.e. the value of your business and the space) may actually be cancelled and lost upon the tenant's attempt to sell their business ("recapture" of the lease) thus losing the business and the proposed sale!
-Rent control generally does not affect commercial rents.
-Many tenants sign away valuable rights by unknowingly signing improper (i.e. factually incorrect)  "Estoppel Certificates" which materially change the lease  and your rights.
-You may have to pay the rent even if the space becomes damaged by such events as flood or fire.

THE LAW FOLLOWS THE LEASE

In most commercial situations, the courts will uphold the lease, even when it is unfair and/or unreasonable.  The general "automatic" or implied protections found in residential tenancies simply do not exist in these situations.  For example, you may rent a space that is unusable for your business but you still have to pay rent.  Also, be aware of personal guarantees the landlord wants you to sign if you are renting in a company name.   They may be used in ways you did not imagine.

ESTOPPEL CERTIFICATES

These are required to be signed in many commercial leases.  What many business owners do NOT know is that this is NOT a routine document.  It can and has changed many leases without the tenant's knowledge.  They will routinely say that you, as a tenant, agree with everything at the property and that you have no claims against the landlord.  Further if the Certificate has new and different terms than the lease, you could unknowingly CHANGE your lease or give up valuable rights by just signing such a document without having it reviewed.  Some things need not be agreed to or some items need to be changed or commented on.  BEFORE signing one of these, seek legal counsel to be sure you are not giving up valuable rights (claims, property use, non-compete clauses, options etc.).

WE WORK TO PROTECT OUR CLIENTS, EVEN WHEN FACING BIG AND POWERFUL LANDLORDS AND THEIR LAW FIRMS

We have positively and successfully negotiated with and settled many cases with Landlords through their Law Firms, no matter their size.  When settlement was not possible, we have gone to the mat with the big powerful landlords fighting for our clients.  In one case example, we had won an eviction case filed by a property owner regarding a dispute over a part of a 10 year lease for an Automobile Sales business.  The lease (as amended) said in part that:

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. 

The Roof was in such bad condition, it needed to be replaced so the landlord wanted our client to pay for it as if it were "maintenance."  We said replacement was not "maintenance".  The landlord appealed the eviction trial ruling that was for our client.  The appellate court confirmed our eviction trial victory and our client did not have to pay for the roof.  This final ruling is now used by many lawyers and judges when interpreting lease maintenance clauses. The case cite is 133 Cal.App.4th 1257  (a 2005 case)  The court granted judgment in favor of our client based on the terms and interpretations in that lease.  A differently worded lease may lead to a different result.  That is why commercial lease terms are very technical and important.

LEGAL ASSISTANCE IS VERY IMPORTANT

In commercial situations, where your business is at stake, seek legal advice from an attorney experienced in these matters before taking action with a lease matter.  If you get important papers: i.e. eviction papers, estoppel certificates, 3 day notices for breach of lease, improper CAM charges, any letters of demand, foreclosure notices etc., seek legal assistance ASAP!  Failure to act timely can cause the loss of valuable rights or even the entire business.

At the Tenants Legal Center, we assist tenants in commercial matters as well as residential ones.  Legal services are offered at fees we believe to be significantly lower than the fees charged by traditional law firms while providing the same or a higher level of expertise for your matter.

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California law for San Diego is applied in these pages.  Such laws may or may not be applicable in other jurisdictions.  The information provided herein is of a general nature and is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice.  For legal advice in a particular situation, promptly consult with an appropriate attorney.