I opened a business 6 months ago, and signed a 5 yr commercials lease with a 1 yr personal guarantee, we are struggling to pay our bills and will probably have to close in a couple of months, what can they the landlord go after?

Here are some options you may want to consider:

1)  Contact the lessor and explain the situation. Ask if there isn’t some way of structuring a settlement to terminate the lease. Perhaps you can pay a reduced amount (say 30% or less) over a period of a few months while at the same time the lessor can lease the property out to someone else. As a lessor, I would find that a much more attractive course of action than pursuing a legal recourse. If he can find another lessee right away, he won’t lose much; and he can recoup whatever he does lose (or a majority of it) from his structured settlement with you.

2)  Speaking of legal recourse, what does the lease allow? Take the lease to a good local real estate attorney and ask him/her to review it. There may be some solution within the verbiage that will allow a termination of the lease with little to no cost to you. Was the lease written by a real estate attorney or just done on a Stevens and Ness generic form? If the latter, it may be easy to break.

3)  Does the lease allow for a sub-lease of the space? Read it over or ask your attorney whether it does. If it does, you can sublet the space to a sub-lessee who will make the monthly lease payments. If it does not, contact the lessor (per number 1 above) and ask if the lease can be amended to allow a sub-lease. This could be a good option, especially if you know of someone looking for space. Contact a local Realtor who specializes in leasing. Find out if they know of anyone looking for a space like yours. If they do and your lease allows for a sub-lease, you’re out of it. Again, if the lease does not allow for a sub-lease, perhaps the lessor would agree to it once they hear of your situation. Amending the lease to allow for sub-leasing would be only a matter of agreement between you and the lessor.

4)  Remember that bankruptcy laws were created for people who find themselves in untenable financial situations through no fault of their own. The laws are there for a reason and offer protection for you. While discussing your lease with your attorney, ask him/her if bankruptcy is a viable option. He/she may want to refer you to an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy Get good legal counsel regarding this important option. 

I hope one or more of these options help. If not, post another question and we’ll explore some more options together.

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