Stan Pate owned a shopping center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and one of his tenants, Santa Fe Cattle Co. restaurant, closed, and the parent company filed for bankruptcy protection. The lease was terminated on September 29, 2009, and the next day employees of the company showed up at the restaurant in the Center with several police officers to remove leased equipment. One of the employees alleged that Pate pointed a shotgun at him, which Pate denied. He was charged with “menacing’ and convicted of a misdemeanor. He appealed the conviction, arguing that he had lien rights on the property being removed, and had the right to prevent others from removing the property. The appellate decision indicated that it was inconclusive that Pate had a landlord lien on the contents of the restaurant, and the conviction was upheld by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Pate plans to appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. Whether his conviction is overturned or not, this episode has cost him time and money and, undoubtedly, anguish. During his appeal the National Rifle Association Defense Fund filed a brief with the court arguing that “Pate had a right to protect his personal property because police had no duty to protect him or his property.”
The lesson for tenants in this episode is that if you’re going to enter property after your lease has been terminated BRING THE POLICE WITH YOU!