An access easement is a key link in the legal chain when builders need to cross another’s land to develop property. A poorly drafted easement could hobble an entire development. Counsel should always be consulted to avoid the crippling impact of a development held hostage. Here are eight tips to remember in reviewing an access easement where the developer is seeking easement rights.
Gene Frassetto practiced in business law with an emphasis on complex real estate transactions. He worked on urban retail, industrial and commercial development transactions; rural farm, ranch, vineyard, wind-farm and renewable-energy transactions; and the real estate aspects of corporate transactions.
Gene gained extensive experience in the acquisition, leasing, development and sale of electric generation facilities (both renewable and conventional), including wind farms, solar projects, gas- and coal-fired power plants and biofuels facilities across the country. Gene represented many of the premier vineyard and winery operators in the Northwest in vineyard and winery operations, acquisitions, and leasing transactions; grape sales; alternating proprietorships; and other related transactions. He assisted clients in complex real estate due diligence analysis and title insurance matters, including corporate merger and acquisition transactions.
At some point, almost every tenant of a commercial lease is asked to sign a Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreement (an “SNDA”). Generally, the SNDA comes from the landlord’s lender sometime after the tenant’s lease has been signed and the term has commenced. It can be a complex document with onerous provisions for a tenant, and, without adequate counsel early in the process, a tenant may have little room to negotiate or revise an SNDA.
At its core, an SNDA contains three key provisions. First, the tenant agrees that, notwithstanding that the lease may pre-date the lender’s mortgage, the lease is subordinate and junior to the mortgage. Second, the lender agrees that, so long as the tenant performs its obligations under the lease prior to the expiration of applicable cure periods, the lender will not disturb the tenant’s occupancy or terminate the tenant’s lease in the event of foreclosure or other enforcement by the lender. The third prong is attornment: the tenant’s agreement to accept the lender (or other purchaser at foreclosure or its successor or assign) as the landlord following foreclosure. This exchange of promises gives the lender a senior right to its collateral and gives the tenant security in its lease.
A letter of intent (“LOI”) is often the first document in a proposed deal – a summary of a range of key terms or concepts for negotiation toward entering into a final, formal agreement. But what seems like a simple document can be much more than a mere list of possible terms to be discussed by the parties, and might just result in a final agreement in one side’s sole discretion. In some cases, an LOI can be an enforceable agreement to negotiate in good faith toward a final agreement based, at least in part, on its stated terms. Even those LOIs that specifically say they are non-binding may, in fact, be binding. For instance, an LOI could be enforceable in its own right if all material terms of a final agreement are set out in the LOI and the parties’ conduct suggests they treated the LOI as a final agreement. Rather than being a “safe haven” that can be terminated at will without liability, an LOI can present great risk and unintended consequences to the parties if not recognized and handled with care. Missteps in documentation and/or subsequent conduct of the parties along the way could result in blown deals and damages. Even an otherwise carefully and clearly drafted LOI may not be free from risk or unintended consequences.