How a Georgia Landlord Successfully Stopped a Tenant’s Attempt to Block Zoning Changes Sought by the Landlord

Poole Huffman, LLC

Legal matters can sometimes be like doing a construction job or a home renovation task. Achieving a successful result isn’t just about selecting a goal that you can achieve, but also about making sure that you are using the right tool to get the job completed correctly. In any commercial leasing situation, your lease agreement will give you certain rights. If you think that the other side has not lived up to its obligations under the lease, you may have a right to recovery in court, but, in addition to needing valid proof, you must be certain that you’ve chosen the correct avenue for seeking recovery. In other words, you have to be sure you’re using the right legal tool. If your commercial tenant sues you while using the wrong legal tool, you may be able to obtain a dismissal. A skilled Georgia commercial leasing attorney can provide invaluable advice and representation in your commercial lease-related litigation.

In June, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed such a situation in which a commercial tenant was displeased with an action taken by its landlord and sought assistance from the courts. A non-profit foundation headquartered in Glynn County rented space within a commercial property on St. Simons Island. In the fall of 2015, the landlord filed papers with the county zoning authorities, seeking rezoning of its property and requesting permission to build an addition onto the building in which the foundation rented space. The county approved both of the landlord’s requests six months later.

The foundation was not in favor of the rezoning or the addition that the landlord proposed. The foundation’s legal plan of attack to oppose the landlord’s actions was to go to court and ask the judge either to review the rezoning application and site plan, or else to issue a directive to the county to revoke its approval of the changes.

The landlord asked the trial court to throw out the tenant’s case, and the trial court agreed with the landlord. The foundation appealed all the way to the Supreme Court but still lost. The problem that doomed the foundation at all levels was something called standing. Standing means that you have suffered some direct harm from the action you’re contesting and that the harm can be redressed through the legal process. Standing is something that you must have in order to pursue a lawsuit, and standing was something that the courts decided that the foundation lacked in this situation.

The court was careful to explain that the landlord won because the tenant wasn’t entitled to the legal relief it sought. Had the tenant chosen a different legal avenue for its case, the outcome could have possibly been different. As the trial court noted, the terms of a lease may impose a duty on the landlord to seek or oppose a zoning decision in order to effectuate the intent of the parties, but such a duty is contractual and may be enforced by an action against the landlord for a breach of the lease. However, the tenant did not, so the landlord was able to use this to achieve success.

Every step of the process regarding a commercial lease is extremely important. Negotiating the terms of such an agreement is definitely one of the most important elements of the process. It is very important to make certain that all of the issues that are important to you, whether you’re the landlord or the tenant, are properly and carefully spelled out in the lease agreement. If they are, and the other side does something that is contrary to your interests, having a carefully negotiated and worded commercial lease contract may enhance your chances of going to court and succeeding in a breach of lease case. For reliable representation related to all aspects of your commercial leasing legal needs, reach out to the knowledgeable Atlanta commercial lease attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC. Our attorneys have been helping their commercial landlord clients protect their business interests for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Property Investors Beware: “self-Help” Evictions Are Never an Option, Atlanta Business Litigation Attorneys Blog, June 18, 2015

Commercial Real Estate Broker’s Liens, Atlanta Business Litigation Attorneys Blog, Sept. 23, 2013

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