Commercial Lease Disputes

We help clients steer through commercial lease issues. Most recently, COVID-19 has had profound effects on the working relationship between landlords and tenants. On those and other topics that arise in our fast-changing environment, we can help.

Commercial leases define the relationship between landlords and tenants, protect landlord assets, and provide tenants with places to operate their businesses. From single-tenant office or other facilities to build-to-suit arrangements to mixed use projects, we advise parties on issues of commercial lease negotiation, formation, interpretation, performance, and disputes that may arise. We know the substantive law, but also the procedures for addressing issues under particular leases and in different areas of the country.

Recently, COVID-19 has upended the working relationship between landlords and tenants. Many tenants, for example, are struggling to meet their lease terms amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Where disputes have arisen, some landlords and tenants have negotiated mutually acceptable changes to their leases. In other areas, state or local regulations and directives have imposed requirements on landlords and tenants and affected the availability of court remedies to address disagreements. We help our clients navigate this fast-changing environment.

Our Approach

Our litigators and commercial leasing attorneys work together to counsel clients before litigation begins. We make sure our clients know all their options—from the negotiating table to the courtroom—and we advise them so they maintain the best legal position throughout a dispute.

Our real estate litigation attorneys have handled lawsuits and arbitrations for landlords, tenants, property owners, and property managers concerning commercial real estate throughout the country. With a geographic footprint in most major commercial leasing markets, we are well-positioned to handle litigation involving commercial lease issues. We grasp the intricacies of the law across jurisdictions, the different procedures applicable in different places, and we understand the commercial lease relationship. We are problem-solvers, and we’re ready to help you solve yours.

Who We Work With

Landlords, Owners, and Property Managers, who we can help with:

  • Applying a cash security deposit
  • Drawing down on a letter of credit
  • Reminding tenants of requirements for certain lease obligations, such as tenant improvements or payment of allowances conditioned on tenant fulfillment of lease terms
  • Beginning litigation to force payment of rent, to recover damages, or declare disputed rights
  • Initiating eviction or other proceedings

Tenants, who we can help with:

  • Seeking relief from obligations due to extenuating circumstances (force majeure, frustration of purpose, impossibility of performance, or other claims)
  • Commencing litigation to require landlords to perform obligations and pay damages incurred as a result of refusal to perform, or to declare disputed rights
  • Filing for bankruptcy

Representative Experience

Landlord Representation

  • Represented a landlord in actions in the Supreme Court for New York County against property lessee and guarantors where the premises was abandoned and the lessee failed to properly insure, repair, or secure the property after a hurricane. CAM-Houston, LLC v. Pine Valley Specialty Hospital Operator LLC, No. 653237/2018; CAM-Houston, LLC v. Newman, No. 652615/2018.
  • Won a favorable judgment after a two-day bench trial for a real estate investment trust client. The matter involved an eviction at a commercial property in the Seaport commercial district of Boston. The tenants were in violation of the lease terms and delinquent on several months’ rent, but refused to leave the space and disputed that the lease was properly terminated. MEPT Seaport 12 Farnsworth LLC v. Farm to Table, LLC and Bee’s Knees, LLC, No. 1603SU000018, (Boston Municipal Court, South Boston Division).
  • Represented a commercial lessor in a dispute with a lessee regarding constructive eviction from a garage and office used for taxi dispatch in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Represented a lessor in a dispute with a lessee regarding the interpretation of additional rent provisions of the lease, including allocation of pass-through expenses to lessee concerning commercial office space in Washington, D.C.
  • Represented a commercial office lessor in a dispute with a lessee regarding option to purchase provisions in a lease for premises in Rockville, Maryland.
  • Represented a commercial lessor in a dispute with a lessee regarding breach of lease and adequacy of refrigeration at a warehouse outside Chicago, Illinois.
  • Represented a lessor in a dispute with a restaurant lessee regarding repair and maintenance obligations, payment of rent, capital improvement obligations, and lessor-lessee allocation of expenses, for leased premises and common areas in multiple premises leased in several multitenant commercial retail properties in Arlington, Virginia.
  • Represented the owner in a series of commercial lease disputes involving a historic Chicago office building that once resolved allowed the owner to proceed with its anticipated $130 million redevelopment of the building.
  • Represented the owner of Midtown Manhattan retail storefronts in an ejectment and breach of lease action brought against a tenant in the New York Supreme Court, Commercial Division. Landlord terminated the lease for non-monetary defaults, including defaults relating to insurance, failure to cure health and safety violations, failure to provide access, and failure to provide sub-leases, otherwise required under the lease.
  • Represented a plaintiff in a multimillion-dollar contract dispute involving a sublessee at the Washington Dulles International Airport. After a three-week trial, the court ruled in favor of plaintiff on all contract issues and entered a permanent injunction forcing the sublessee to comply with the sublease. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirmed bench trial victory and protected our client’s business interests against improper competition at Washington Dulles Airport for the next 16 years. Signature Flight Support Corporation v. Landow Aviation Limited Partnership, Case No. 1:08cv955, (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, 2010); U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, No. 10-1440, 10-1968.
  • Represented an owner of a large commercial building in Boston’s Back Bay concerning a lawsuit against a tenant regarding a tenant improvement allowance and rent owed by the tenant. Bish 2 LLC v. MT Back Bay One LLC, 1784-cv-03341.
  • Represented a prominent national commercial real estate investment group owner of a luxury New York 6th Avenue office building in a holdover proceeding brought against the tenant for failure to pay rent. Obtained judgment of eviction and for non-payment of rent, including interest and legal fees.
  • Represented a commercial landlord in an illegal lockout case brought by sub-tenants in New York Housing Court and obtained a warrant of eviction and judgment for use and occupancy against sub-tenants where master lease had terminated.
  • Defended a landlord, the real estate investment arm of a global financial investment management and insurance company, in litigation in Supreme Court, New York County, brought by a hedge fund tenant involving lease dispute relating to penthouse office space in mid-town Manhattan in which plaintiff asserted claims arising out of landlord’s and general contractor’s alleged failure to make improvements and to properly complete an agreed upon build-out of the space in a good and workmanlike manner, Jamison Capital Partners LLC v. Avenue of Americas LLC, Index No. 650187/2017. After we filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss tenant’s claim, the tenant discontinued the action and, following a default on the lease by tenant, we thereafter successfully negotiated the surrender of the premises by the tenant.

Tenant Representation

  • Represented a luxury home goods retailer in a commercial lease dispute with the landlord of its Midtown Manhattan storefront. The landlord exercised an early termination option in the lease in order to expedite the conversion of the property into a hotel and condominium tower. When the tenant demanded an early termination fee, the landlord issued an eviction notice based on alleged insurance coverage and building permit violations. We defeated a motion for summary judgment seeking a declaration that no termination fee was owed and that the landlord was entitled to terminate the lease. (Mackenzie-Childs of New York LLC v. 20 West 57th Street Realty LLC 650014/2018 New York State Supreme Court).
  • Prevailed on summary judgment on behalf of a multi-national baked products retailer that leased property used as a distribution center. The landlord sued the tenant alleging that the tenant failed to pay its share of allocable expenses, insurance premiums, real estate taxes, and restoration costs per terms of its lease. Cranberry Commons, Ltd. v. Orograin Bakeries, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153293 (D. Mass. 2013).
  • Represented a commercial office lessee in a dispute with a lessor regarding the right of first refusal provisions in a Deed of Lease Agreement for premises in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
  • Represented a lessee in a dispute regarding the validity of a commercial lease not subject to recorded memorandum of lease, and allegedly not known to successor lessor that acquired commercial real property in Leesburg, Virginia.
  • Represented lessees in a dispute against lessors and other lessees regarding conduct of activities in multi-tenant properties in Washington, D.C.
  • Represented a restaurant franchise lessee in a dispute with a lessor regarding repair and maintenance obligations, and related expense allocations, for leased premises and common areas in a multitenant commercial retail mall in Fairfax, Virginia.
  • Represented a national big-box retailer in a commercial lease dispute concerning the payment of a municipal assessment for capital expenses used for sewers. We obtained summary judgment in favor of our client, and the case later went to trial on the retailer’s counterclaim to have its landlord repay it for payments previously made to the town. We prevailed at trial and on appeal. Roadepot, LLC v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 163 A.3d 513 (R.I. 2017).
  • Represented a restaurant company in a dispute with their former landlord and a developer over the landlord/developer’s failure to pay the client pursuant to a lease termination agreement. The landlord terminated the well-known Boston restaurant’s lease prematurely in anticipation of enhanced development of the real estate, requiring the client to terminate its lease, in exchange for certain specified early termination payments. However, following the client’s surrender of the space, the landlord/developer refused to make the required termination payments. Following client’s filing of a lawsuit, landlord/developer entered into a settlement favorable to our client.
  • Represented a lessee’s successor in a dispute with a lessor regarding successor liability for breach of a lease of commercial office space in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Represented a Canadian luxury menswear manufacturer and its principal in a lease dispute with the landlord regarding a New York City showroom, where the client exercised surrender provision in Good Guy Guaranty, ultimately resulting in negotiated lease termination.

Resolution Without Litigation

  • Represented one of the largest asset management firms in the United States in a real estate dispute involving a landlord’s claim that our client breached key lease terms and had failed to keep the premises in good repair. Dispute settled favorably for our client.
  • Represented lessees in disputes regarding interpretation of commercial lease provisions and related obligations of lessors and lessees involving national wholesale firm leasing space in over 100 locations throughout the United States.
  • Represented two components of a university hospital system as subtenants in lease disputes under two separate subleases for space within a medical campus that was purchased by a competitor hospital. Following the acquisition and several intercompany assignments, the landlord attempted to terminate the subleases, arguing that the ground lease was extinguished by a merger. We were able to reach a settlement that allowed both clients to remain in place.
  • Advised a New Zealand-based baby clothing company operating internationally in the workout and restructuring of its commercial lease portfolio. The portfolio consisted of approximately 15 different retail leases throughout California and the West Coast. Representation required analyzing the client’s current retail leases, strategizing new lease terms, and negotiating with a number of different institutional landlords to modify the terms of the client’s retail leases in accordance with the client’s restructuring plan.
  • Represented a lessee negotiating issues with Baltimore, Maryland, and recordation of memorandum of lease for commercial real property in the City.
  • Represented a lessee/sublessor with issues posed by bankruptcy filing and reorganization of sublessee, for commercial real property in Columbia, South Carolina.

COVID-19 Pandemic-Related Disputes

  • Representing a landlord in a COVID-related lease dispute involving a Chicago hotel.
  • Advising a public company to develop a strategy to address COVID-related issues on its portfolio of commercial leases.
  • Successfully negotiating rent deferrals for a national retail chain with more than 95 locations shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic due to government orders and represented one location sued in New York Supreme Court that resulted in an agreement that our client pay back rent and attorney’s fees, in exchange for a waiver of late fees and suit dismissal.
  • Representing a nonprofit lessee in Boston concerning the landlord’s inability to complete its obligations under the lease during the COVID-19 pandemic before the lessee took possession.
  • Representing a lessee in Boston concerning the landlord’s refusal to allow tenants to access the leased premises during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Represented a tenant in a data center and carrier hotel facility in a dispute with the facility owner with respect to the client’s surrender obligations under the lease and the client’s rights under the lease to effect such surrender and removal of the client’s equipment, cabling and other infrastructure. Negotiated a settlement that permitted a client holdover in the facility long enough to complete the removal of its equipment, cabling and other infrastructure.
  • Represent European luxury mattress tenant in dispute seeking rent abatement for Covid-19 related shutdown of NYC retail showroom.
  • Represent national commercial real estate investment group owners of Madison Avenue and 6th Avenue office buildings in lease modification negotiations with tenants.
  • Represent 17-building NYC Cooperative Apartment Corporation in lease modification negotiations with garage tenant seeking Covid-19 related deferment of rent obligations.

Real Estate Workout/Bankruptcy Matters

  • Represented a lender to a large residential project in multiple complex litigations and Chapter 11 cases commenced by the project owner in state courts, bankruptcy courts, and federal district and appellate courts, in New York and Florida, which made law in the 11th Circuit on the issue of bad faith bankruptcy filings.
  • Represented the loan servicing arm of a major bank in various stages of workout and foreclosure for 35 commercial properties with notes ranging in value from $500,000 to $8,000,000 for properties located in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Philadelphia.
  • Represented the real estate investment and management company in the workout of multiple distressed properties with notes ranging from $5,000,000 to $35 million in New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
  • Represented a Philadelphia-based real estate finance company in numerous trust preferred securities transactions across the country ranging from $25 million to $200 million to public and private companies, home builders, REITS, and other borrowers and the subsequent restructuring of several transactions.
  • Represented the lender in a transaction involving a substantial paydown and restructuring the balance of a mortgage loan in excess of $100 million secured by a portfolio of real estate assets in New York, including apartment buildings and a hotel.
  • Represented a regional bank in the bankruptcy and subsequent Section 363 auction of a property on Long Island, New York, owned by a multi-property golf entertainment chain, resulting in full recovery of the lender’s $9 million loan (loan was purchased by client from JP Morgan Chase Bank).
  • Represented a Dallas-based portfolio management company in the receivership, sale, and claims against the principal owners of a $22.5 million property.
  • Represented the lender in restructuring a $35 million mortgage loan secured by five industrial buildings located in Long Island, New York.
  • Representing a landlord in connection with the RGN bankruptcy filed in DE consisting of over 150 single purpose debtors reorganizing under Subchapter V of Chapter 11—governing Small Business Debtor Reorganizations. We are currently addressing issues of lease assumption and rejection and application of proceeds of letter of credit deposits as well as claims against a guarantor of the tenant’s obligations that is also one of the debtors in the RGN group.
  • Represented the lender in restructuring a $27.5 million mortgage covering a movie theatre complex in New York City through a pre-packaged Chapter 11 proceeding.
  • Represented a special servicer in restructurings involving over $10 billion in loans, including pre-negotiated plan of reorganization involving $200 million land development 363 sale and note purchase, and billions of dollars in hotel and commercial office space throughout the continental U.S. and in the Cayman Islands.

No. 569: Enter the phantom, feel the winds and meet the PTA, with cabbage (sorry)

Innovate Long Island | February 17, 2021

This morning roundup of notable business news in Long Island includes the launch of the Long Island office’s “What’s New” virtual workshop series, designed to keep participants up-to-date with the fast-paced, post-pandemic changes across law and industry.

Landlords Fear Tenant Wins in Lease Disputes May Snowball

Law360 | December 23, 2020

This article on how commercial landlords are navigating rent disagreements with tenants quotes Commercial Lease Disputes team co-leader and Boston Affordable Housing & Real Estate partner Matthew Lynch on the unusual nature of the current environment, and the potential for judges in some instances to read outside the four corners of the lease.


Vernon W. Johnson, III

Deputy Leader, Construction & Real Estate Litigation

Phone: 202-585-8401

Jeffrey S. Brenner

Practice Group Leader, Construction & Real Estate Litigation

Phone: 401-454-1042

Matthew R. Lynch


Phone: 617-345-1212

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