Commercial Loans Blog

Commercial Financing and Estoppel Agreements

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Jun 1, 2009

The Rent Might Not Be What the Borrower is Representing

Suppose you're a commercial lender, and you foreclose on commercial building. The good news is that the building still has a tenant. According to the lease in your commercial loan file, the tenant is obligated to pay $10,000 per month. Hooray.

Now the bad news. The tenant advises you that the lease in your commercial loan file is fraudulent. In order to obtain commercial financing, the borrower submitted a dummy lease. The tenant's signature on the dummy lease was forged. The real rent is only $2,700 per month! Ouch.

Okay, what did the lender do wrong? The commercial lender should have obtained an estoppel agreement from the tenant before making his loan.

What on earth does estoppel mean anyway? Estoppel is a a rule of evidence whereby a person is barred from denying the truth of a fact that has already been settled. To understand this definition, let's take a look at our current situation.

Suppose we had sent an Estoppel Agreement to the tenant that said that the rent was $10,000 per month, the lease was still in force, the lease still had ten years to run, and the landlord had performed all of his required duties under the lease. If the tenant had signed the Estoppel Agreement, agreeing that the lease terms described in the Estoppel Agreement were the actual lease terms, then the tenant would have been bound by the fraudulent lease terms, rather than the terms of the true lease.

The lack of prepaid rent is another item that needs to be addressed in the estoppel agreement. Suppose the tenant recorded his lease, so the lease was senior to the mortgage. Right before the commercial property owner loses the property in foreclosure, the owner approaches the tenant and say, "Say, I'm in a cash crunch.  You owe me $100,000 in rent for the rest of the year. I will reduce my rent to just $60,000 if you prepay it now." The tenant would be sorely tempted to accept that offer.

If the commercial lender then foreclosed, the commercial lender would be forced to honor the deal made by the prior owner, even if the former commercial property owner took the $60,000 and spent it on cocaine for his trashy girlfriend.

This is one of the reasons why commercial lenders do not like to be subordinate to recorded commercial leases.

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Topics: commercial real estate loan, commercial loan, commercial real estate financing, commercial mortgage rates, estoppel agreement, lease estoppel, commercial financing