Commercial leases, rents and evictions in the days of COVID-19 are certainly a hot topic among North Carolina businesses. COVID-19 has placed many services and industries at a standstill. Even the brightest economic minds cannot currently predict what the aftermath of this will bring. Social distancing requirements affect not just commercial tenants struggling to pay rent, but also commercial landlords who themselves may be small businesses with limited reserves.
Evictions are Delayed, but Not for Long
Many North Carolina sheriffs are placing restrictions on evictions. Small claims courts are closed and not hearing summary ejectments. Communities are looking to commercial landlords to be accommodating. Still, landlords have their own expenses and burdens. Unlike some states, North Carolina has not placed a moratorium on rent. Further, the CARES Act provides some eviction relief for residential tenants but does not do so for commercial tenants. This means that rents are still due unless the landlord and tenant have worked out alternative arrangements. Landlords can still file for summary ejectment, the matters just will not be heard until later.
This means that once social distancing requirements are lifted, a wave of summery ejectment hearings and evictions will occur. Commercial tenants will be forced to close their businesses. Commercial landlords will be faced with the harsh realities of a poor economy and vacant spaces.
So, What Can Be Done?
A commercial tenant may be well served by negotiating an alternative payment arrangement with its landlord. Possible solutions may include a payment plan where the overdue rents are distributed over time. The key is to ensure that the payment arrangement is memorialized in writing and signed by both the commercial landlord and tenant. The writing should specifically outline the terms of the arrangement. It should state how much is due and when, which payments are being deferred and anything else that is important to the parties. This new payment arrangement document will be an amendment to the lease agreement. Therefore, it is important to follow the requirements for amendments as prescribed by the existing lease agreement.
COVID-19 unquestionably presents difficult challenges for both commercial tenants and landlords. Eventually, commercial landlords may be able to evict their struggling tenants, but what is next for their vacant space?
*This blog post does not constitute legal advice. Reading or in any way accessing this blog post does not form a client-attorney relationship between you and Anderson Legal, PLLC or any of its attorney(s).
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