Specific Performance of an Option Contract to Purchase Real Property is Barred Absent Agreement on All Material Terms

By:  Richard H. Herold

On November 14, 2017, the Court of Appeals (Division 1), in Offerman v. Granada, LLC, 2017 WL 5352664, reversed a trial court order directing specific performance of an alleged option to purchase real property, holding that the alleged option was too indefinite to be specifically performed because the parties did not agree to all of the material terms of the option.

Tenant-Purchaser Offerman executed a two-year lease with Landlord-Seller Granada, which granted Offerman “the option to purchase [the] property…for a sales price to be determined at that time by an independent appraiser acceptable to both Tenant and Landlord.… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Holds a Credit Bid at a Trustee’s Sale Should Not be Credited to a Title Insurer Under a Standard Lender’s Title Policy To the Extent the Bid Exceeds the Collateral’s Fair Market Value

By:  Richard H. Herold

The Arizona Supreme Court recently addressed what impact, if any, a lender’s credit bid at an Arizona trustee’s sale has on an insurer’s liability under Sections 2, 7 and 9 of the standard’s lender’s title policy (“Policy”), holding in Equity Income Partners, LP v. Chicago Title Insurance Company, 241 Ariz. 334, 387 P.3d 1263 (February 7, 2017) as follows:

  1. Section 2 of the Policy, entitled “Continuation of Insurance,” not Section 9, entitled “Reduction of Insurance; Reduction or Termination of Liability,” applies when a lender acquires property at a trustee sale by “either a full- or partial-credit bid” since Section 2 directly addresses the existence and amount of coverage in such circumstances.
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Franchisors Should Consider Signing a Conditional Lease Assignment Rather Than a Franchisee’s Lease

By:  Richard H. Herold

In Franchise & High Properties, LLC v. Happy’s Franchise, LLC, a 2015 decision issued by the Court of Appeals in Michigan, the franchisor, Happy’s Pizza Franchise, LLC, signed a five-year lease for the commercial space to be occupied by its franchisee, Happy’s Pizza #19, Inc.  The franchisor did so to secure a right of first refusal to purchase the property and to enforce the franchise agreement to have the lease assigned to the franchisor if the franchisee defaulted.

The issue in the case was whether the term “tenant” referred solely to Happy’s Pizza #19 or whether it also included Happy’s Franchise as a co-tenant. … Read More »

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Landlords Must Not be Arbitrary When Denying a Tenant’s Request To Sublease or Assign

By:  Richard Herold

So, you’re a landlord who’s entered into a 30-year lease, the lease has rent escalation clauses which are dramatically out of step with the market, and it’s your view that you are therefore losing money every month. The tenant is closing its business and wants to sublet or assign the lease to a similar business for the final seven years of the lease.  While these cases are fact-sensitive, some of the following rules may apply where the lease provides the tenant with an opportunity to ask the landlord to consent to an assignment of the lease or a sublease.… Read More »

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Eminent Domain: Be Careful What You Ask For

By:  Richard Herold and Patrick Paul

The condemnation[1] of property for public works may not always be as clean and easy as the government would like.  Although local governments are often critical players in the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated properties, contaminated property can: (1) trigger disclosure requirements; (2) lead to environmental liability, for example, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA” or “Superfund”) (42 U.S.C. §9601, et seq.) or an analogous state statute;[2] and/or (3) impact the ultimate valuation of the property.

Local governments can be liable under CERCLA as any one of the following:

  • A current owner or operator of the contaminated property
  • An owner or operator of the property at the time of contamination
  • A party who arranged for the disposal of contamination
  • One who transported the hazardous substances to the property

Condemning authorities can, however, avail of Superfund’s bona fide prospective purchaser defense by engaging in all appropriate inquiry in advance of condemnation and/or taking reasonable post condemnation steps with respect to any known or discovered contamination.… Read More »

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Property Taxes: A Shopping Center May Not Always be a Shopping Center

By:  Rick Herold, Craig McPike & Ben Reeves

In the world of real property taxes, Valuation + Classification = Assessed Valuation.  Sounds simple, right?  The County Assessor determines the first factor, valuation (subject to certain guidelines under applicable Arizona law).  The Arizona State Legislature determines the second factor, the property’s legal classification and corresponding assessment ratio (i.e., tax rate).  Given the wide disparity in assessment ratios, classification can be a major issue for taxpayers.

Recently, the Court of Appeals confirmed that a shopping center for valuation purposes may not be a shopping center for classification purposes.  Scottsdale/101 Associates LLC v.Read More »

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Inverse Condemnation: When is Your Claim Precluded by the Arizona Statute of Limitations?

By:  Richard Herold

An inverse condemnation of a landowner’s property can occur when a governmental entity: (1) physically takes the property without compensation; or (2) passes a new law that has a serious impact on the value and/or utility of the property.  At times, the taking may be obvious, for example, if the governmental entity deprives the owner of access to the property by putting up a fence.  While regulatory takings are at times less obvious and/or pressing, in both cases, the property owner may adopt the view that he or she will simply address the problem later.

Believe it or not, the property owner needs to move quickly and file suit within one year of the taking.… Read More »

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Easements Made Easier: Building Pipelines with the Power of Eminent Domain Under the Natural Gas Act

By: Richard H. Herold

Any person or entity seeking to construct a natural gas pipeline and successful in obtaining a certificate of convenience and necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may exercise the power of eminent domain to obtain easements across private property when those easements are necessary and cannot be obtained consensually (by contract) from the landowners.  Columbia Gas Transmission, L.L.C. v. 76 Acres More or Less, 2014 WL 2960836 (D. Md. June 27, 2014).  the Columbia Gas Court recently held that (1) the property’s legal description need not be attached to sufficiently identify the property to be condemned, and (2) even in the absence of a federal condemnation statute authorizing immediate possession of the property, the condemning plaintiff may obtain an order to take immediate possession of the property since it would be wasteful and inefficient to skip over one or more parcels in the construction process – only if the condemning plaintiff is capable of satisfying the requirements for preliminary injunctive relief under Fed.R.Civ.P.… Read More »

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Beyond Real Estate: Publicly Traded Homebuilders (And Other Public Companies) Must be Aware of Cybersecurity and Data Breach Disclosure Requirements Applicable to SEC Filings

By:  Richard H. Herold

Generally speaking, publicly traded homebuilders and other public companies must disclose material information in their SEC filings.  “Information is considered material if there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable investor would consider it important in making an investment decision or if the information would significantly alter the total mix of information available.”  Basic v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988)

As the agenda of hackers and other criminals advances, so has the issue of cybersecurity, focusing on what risks exist in the company’s cybersecurity defenses and, if there has already been a data breach incident, whether the scope of the breach and the resulting adverse consequences (which may include regulatory investigations, SEC or FTC enforcement actions, securities class actions, and/or derivative lawsuits) is material and must be reported in SEC filings.… Read More »

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Bidding on State Land Trust Leases: Even the Top Revenue-Generating Bids Must be Balanced Against Qualitative “Best Use” Factors Designed to Protect the Land

By:  Richard H. Herold

The Court of Appeals recently held that that the Commissioner of the State Land Trust Department properly balanced Wildearth Guardians, Inc.’s higher revenue-generating bid against “best use” qualitative factors set forth in the Arizona Administrative Code.  As a result, the appellate court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision to award a 10-year grazing lease to the Knights for their 28-year record of stewardship and protection of the leased land near Springerville, Arizona, despite the $79,344 in additional revenue over 10 years which would have been generated for the benefit of Arizona’s public schools by the Wildearth Guardian’s bid.  Wildearth Guardians, Inc.Read More »

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s Latest Attempt to Differentiate a Fair Quid Pro Quo in the Developer’s Permitting Process From an Unconstitutional Taking

By:  Rick Herold

Introduction

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued an important decision in an attempt to add clarity and help government land use planners understand the difference between reasonable requests and unreasonable demands rising to the level of unconstitutional takings in the permitting process.  Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, 2013 WL 3184628 (June 25, 2013).

When does a fair quid pro quo, a legitimate exercise of police power in the permitting process, go too far and lapse into an unconstitutional taking without just compensation through the government’s unconstitutional conditions in the permitting process?  In Koontz, the Supreme Court ruled that the seminal cases of Nollan v.Read More »

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The Risk of Intent in Your Letter of Intent

By:  Richard Herold

Although the press frequently reports cavalierly on the execution of a “letter of intent” (“LOI”), as if it is a meaningless document, a LOI can be enforced if the parties intend to be bound, which turns primarily upon a close review of the language of the LOI and, sometimes, the surrounding facts and circumstances.

 First and foremost, under Arizona’s statute of frauds at A.R.S. §44-101(6), to have an enforceable agreement to sell real property, it must be in writing and signed by the “party to be charged” (i.e., the party you want to sue or hold accountable under the agreement).… Read More »

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