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JCatalanoSRHL2An article authored by firm shareholder John Catalano is featured in the Business Monday section of today’s Miami Herald.  The article, which is titled “Owners of Retail Properties, As Well As Tenants, Will Feel Pandemic’s Bite,” focuses on the prospects for rent deferrals and insurance claims for the owners of closed stores and the spaces they occupy.  It reads:

. . . It has quickly become apparent that the outbreak of COVID-19 will take a massive toll not only on retail tenants, but also on the owners of retail properties. One of the first places that retailers will look for potential relief will be their lease agreements, which may include force majeure clauses and other provisions that are designed to cover business disruptions caused by catastrophes and acts of God.

These provisions will often list events such as floods, earthquakes, war, strikes, government regulations, civil disorder, etc., as triggers that would delay parties’ obligations under the contract. The applicability of the spread of COVID-19 as a force majeure triggering event may depend on the exact wording used in the lease. Some may generally stipulate “conditions beyond the parties’ control, including but not limited to Acts of God” as qualifying conditions, while others may specify circumstances such as “war, terrorist act, government regulation, disaster or strikes.” MHerald2015-300x72While leases widely differ in their form, modern leases for most major retail centers include a carve-out that the occurrence of a force majeure event does not permit late payment or nonpayment of rent by a tenant. Continue reading

JCatalanoSRHL2ORivera2014By Oscar R. Rivera and John Catalano

Real estate billionaire Tom Barrack, the chairman and chief executive officer of Colony Capital, warned recently that the U.S. commercial real estate mortgage market is on the brink of collapse due to a predicted chain reaction of margin calls, mass foreclosures, evictions and bank failures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Loan repayment demands are likely to escalate on a systemic level, triggering a domino effect of borrower defaults that will swiftly and severely impact the broad range of stakeholders in the entire real estate market, including property and home owners, landlords, developers, hotel operators and their respective tenants and employees,” he wrote.

The longtime friend of President Donald Trump surmises that the impact could dwarf that of the Great Depression.

Indeed, the commercial property market is under severe strain domestically and abroad due to forced shutdowns of retail and hospitality businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.  The looming crisis in commercial real estate could eventually cause the Federal Reserve to relax some regulations, allow more forbearance on loans, and buy distressed assets directly by restarting the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

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Our firm’s founder and managing partner, Steven M. Siegfried was awarded the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Construction Law Committee of The Florida Bar.  The award, which he received at the group’s annual awards reception in Orlando on Friday, March 6 (see photo below), recognizes one Florida construction law practitioner per year for their lifetime of exemplary dedication and mentoring, and their commitment to maintaining the very highest level of professional reputation and integrity.

Lifetime-Achievement-Award-2020-60-1024x681Steven has focused on construction law in Florida since 1976.  He has served as an adjunct professor of construction law at the University of Miami since 1984, and he has also conducted many seminars and presentations for construction law practitioners throughout Florida during his entire career.  He is board certified by The Florida Bar as both a civil trial and construction law, having earned both designations in their year of inception from the state’s bar association.  Steven is also a founding Fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers, and he is the author of Florida Construction Law and The Florida Construction Lien Law, An Overview.  He earned his undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College in 1971 and his law degree from American University, Washington College of Law in 1974.

All of the attorneys and professionals at our firm are very proud of the impact that our founder has had in teaching a generation of attorneys about the intricacies of construction law at the University of Miami while helping to build one of the state’s most respected practices in the field.  We congratulate Steven and salute him for receiving this prestigious recognition from his peers in The Florida Bar’s Construction Law Committee.

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Three of the firm’s shareholders finalized several real estate transactions totaling more $76 million in Broward and Monroe counties.  John Catalano represented Konover South and Master Development Partners in their purchase of vacant property in Miramar, Fla. owned by the Cleghorn Shoe Corporation.  The purchase was part of a $41 million acquisition that will pave the way for a 30-acre mixed-use community with 650 apartments to be developed by Altman Cos., while Konover South and Master Development Partners plan to break ground on a 56,000-square-foot retail center.  Click here to read additional information on the deal from the pages of the South Florida Business Journal.

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Oscar R. Rivera represented the seller in the sale of Palm Square, a 77,621- square-foot shopping center in Broward County that sold for $20.475 million to Galim Capital. The retail strip, located on Pines Boulevard, is at the epicenter of a thriving Broward County submarket, which is in the midst of adding multifamily, retail and mixed-use development to the area.  Click here to access PROFILE Miami’s article and read more on the deal.

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susanodess-srhl-224x300The firm’s Susan C. Odess authored an article that appeared as the featured guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article, which is titled “Court Opens Citizens Property Insurance to Claims for Consequential Damages,” focuses on a recent precedent-setting ruling with a certified question to the Florida Supreme Court by the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeal.  It reads:

. . . The appellate panel overturned the trial court’s decision and remanded the case back to the lower court for hearings on whether the claimant is entitled to consequential damages for lost rental income caused by the insurer’s delays and denials.

The case began with an insurance claim by Manor House with Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which accepted responsibility for the loss and paid $1.93 million. The property owner later reopened the claim seeking $10 million, and the insurer subsequently made additional payments for approximately $345,000. However, Citizens’ adjuster estimated the actual cash value and replacement cost value of the policyholder’s loss to be in the $5.5 to $6.5 million range.

dbr-logo-1-300x57The property owner eventually sued in 2007 seeking prompt payment of the allegedly undisputed amount of $6.4 million and asking the court to compel Citizens to engage in the appraisal procedures called for under the policy.

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JCatalano200x300-200x300For the second consecutive day, an article by one of the firm’s attorneys is featured as the guest commentary column in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper. The article by shareholder John Catalano, which is titled “New Remote Online Notary Law Brings Notarization Process Into 21st Century in Florida,” discusses the ramifications of the new Florida law authorizing the use of remote online notarization to enable signers and notaries to use audio and video communications to notarize signatures.  His article reads:

. . . The remote online notary (RON) process entails the use of a live two-way video conference, such as Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts, to meet the statutory personal appearance requirements for notarizations. Notaries and signers will be able to see the documents on their screens during the conferences, and they must follow specific procedures for identity proofing. This includes the use of data services to have signers answer questions requiring personal knowledge, and they may also use facial recognition services.

dbr-logo-300x57Notaries using RON must provide a clear video recording with audio of the notarial act along with a post-execution document record, and they must also utilize a comprehensive vendor security program to help ensure data security. They will use their electronic notary seal as well as their signature to secure documents against tampering, and they must retain recordings of the video conferences for at least five years.

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ElisabethKozlow-240x300Our firm would like to congratulate shareholder Elisabeth D. Kozlow on her appointment as chairperson of The Florida Bar Aviation Law Committee. She will mark the beginning of her tenure at the Committee Meeting at the Bar’s annual convention on June 28 in Boca Raton.

Elisabeth has focused on aviation law, commercial real estate and leasing law since 1997. She has represented many domestic and international clients in the purchase, sale and lease of personal and business aircraft, with a focus on international clients seeking to purchase an aircraft to be titled under the U.S. Registry. She has also represented an international airline in the acquisition of aircraft.

All our attorneys and professionals salute Elisabeth on her involvement and important contributions to The Florida Bar and its Aviation Law Committee.

nsiegfriedjmilesThe firm’s Joseph A. Miles and Nicholas D. Siegfried were featured in an article in today’s edition of the Daily Business Review, South Florida’s exclusive business daily and official court newspaper, about a major verdict that they recently secured for one of the firm’s clients.  The article, which is titled “South Florida Lawyers Win $4.1M for Cable Company Fired Over Service Delays,” focuses on their work in securing the verdict for an affiliate of Miami-based OpticalTel in a case involving the company’s wrongful termination by a Central Florida HOA.  The article reads:

Coral Gables lawyers Joseph A. Miles and Nicholas D. Siegfried landed a $4.1 million verdict for Miami-based company PC Services LLC, which claimed the Cascades of Groveland Homeowners’ Association Inc. in Lake County should never have terminated an agreement with the company because it wasn’t responsible for a flurry of delays and problems with services.

The 2012 lawsuit arose from years of bad blood between the parties over a deal that turned sour. On July 2007, the homeowner association terminated its contract with PC Services, claiming it had failed to properly do its job. But PC Services argued it had and lost the opportunity to make a profit on its $1.6 million investment.

The defense argued it was right to terminate the agreement because it didn’t get what PC Services promised.

dbrlogo-300x57Defense lawyers Aristides J. Diaz and Thomas R. Slaten Jr. of Larsen & Associates in Orlando did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

Making the case was no small feat for the Siegfried Rivera lawyers, as it was laced with technical jargon that would likely stump the average juror.

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With the growing popularity of Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and other food delivery services, many restaurants and other food service tenants (e.g., coffee shops) are now working diligently to increase their sales through delivery. Part of that process entails changes to their kitchen staffing and meal-preparation techniques, but another important element involves the use of dedicated parking spaces for takeout/delivery orders.

The online food-delivery apps are tapping into the public’s increasing aversion to cooking at home. For the first time ever in 2016, Americans spent more at eating and drinking establishments than on groceries, according to U.S. Census data. The delivery market grossed $30 billion in 2017, but Morgan Stanley estimates it could balloon to $220 billion within the next few years.

food-deliver-300x200The growth in food delivery has even led to the rise of virtual restaurants, which can only be accessed online. These establishments are discreetly nestled away in industrial parks, have no takeout window or signage, and their offerings can only be purchased via Grubhub and other delivery apps.

With the increased demand and competition in food takeout/delivery, savvy restaurateurs are now scrambling to make the necessary changes in order to take advantage of this fast-growing segment of the industry. The result of this changing dining landscape is creating the need for changes to the physical landscape of many malls and shopping centers, namely in the use of dedicated parking spaces for delivery/takeout visitors in order to enable them to make quick and easy stops.

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One of the retail sectors that is currently experiencing significant upheaval is the mattress industry.  Mattress Firm, the largest mattress retailer in the country, is closing hundreds of stores and scrambling to bolster its digital business as a result of significant sales declines.  Bed-in-a-box e-commerce mattress companies are sprouting up and beginning to expand to brick-and-mortar locations, but they are expected to continue to focus primarily on growing their online sales.

Analysts say overexpansion is at the heart of the industry’s troubles.  They point to the fact that there are now more mattress stores than McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S.  The end result is that the industry is in contraction, which comes at a difficult time for struggling malls and shopping centers while many other retailers are also flailing.

As landlords begin to receive rent reduction and concession requests from mattress store operators, they need to carefully consider and weigh their options.  This should begin with a thorough financial analysis of the value of the new lease rates that are being proposed, the long-term impact of the reduced lease payments on the property, the likelihood of leasing the space to a new tenant at comparable rates, and the costs and challenges that would stem from suing a tenant that may end up filing for bankruptcy. mat-store-300x200 This type of analysis can be very difficult to process, as it entails a clear-eyed look at the state of the market, the current vacancy and lease rates, and the marketing and commission costs that would be associated with securing a new tenant.

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