Tenant Protection When Landlord’s Property Is Foreclosed!

Posted by Lee Sterling | Posted in Landlord-Tenant, Legal | Posted on 20-05-2009

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I’ve mentioned the SNDA in previous posts (Subordination, Non-Disturbance, and Attornment). The ND portion refers to non-disturbance of the tenant’s right to have its lease recognized as valid in the event of the foreclosure of a senior trust deed. The S refers to the Subordination clause and the A refers to the Attornment clause. I’ll discuss the Subordination and Attornment clauses in separate blog posts. From the Tenant’s standpoint, the non-disturbance clause (“ND”) is most important.

The use of the Non-Disturbance Agreement depends on the timing of the recording of the trust deed and the recording date of the lease (or the recording of a Short Form Notice of Lease) ,collectively “Notice”. Usually neither the Tenant nor the Landlord want the whole lease recorded. The lease may or may not provide for the recording of a Short Form Notice of Lease. As a Tenant you may want a Notice recorded. Check with your attorney for advice.

California follows the race-notice theory of recording. The first legitimate document recorded has priority over subsequently recorded documents. If a trust deed is signed on January 2, but not immediately recorded, and the lease is signed on January 10 and its Notice is recorded on January 11, while the trust deed has not yet been recorded , the lease would have priority over the trust deed. If the trust deed were subsequently foreclosed, it would NOT have the right to evict the Tenant so long as the Tenant was not in default under the terms of the lease.

However, if the trust deed were RECORDED first the lease would be subject to the priority of the trust deed. If the trust deed were foreclosed, the foreclosing party could evict the Tenant! The reason most Tenants want the ND is that they usually have spent quite a bit of money on leasehold improvements, moving costs would adversely impact their bottom line, they may have spent substantial amounts branding their location, and they may be out of business while moving to a new location. A Non-Disturbance agreement should protect the Tenant in those circumstances.

Before entering into a lease, or when renegotiating a lease, the Tenant should determine whether or not there is a recorded trust deed encumbering the property. If there is, the Tenant should make it a condition of the lease that the Landlord provides a Non-Disturbance agreement signed by the lender. Obtaining a Non-Disturbance Agreement often depends on the negotiating position of the parties. A tenant leasing 1,000 square feet of retail space in a mall probably won’t be able to obtain the lender’s consent to a Non-Disturbance agreement. However, a major Tenant in a development should insist on an ND agreement. Merely having the ND clause in the lease will not protect the Tenant if the lender has not provided the signed agreement. The ND clause may provide that the Landlord will use its best efforts to obtain the lender’s Non-Disturbance Agreement. In the standard lease used by commercial brokers in Carlsbad and the rest of San Diego, the lease ND clause provides that if the landlord doesn’t obtain the ND agreement within 60 days, the Tenant may go directly to the lender to try to obtain the Agreement. Without the lender’s signed agreement, the Tenant is at risk. There are various forms of ND clauses and agreements. Be sure to have the language reviewed by your attorney if you want to protect your rights to retain your lease rights in the event of foreclosure.

If you have general questions about commercial leases, please send us a note at Lee@leesterling.com