Grill and Schieber Prevail on Summary Judgment Motion in Favor of DC Landlord

January 19, 2021 | Real Estate, Zoning & Land Use

David M. Grill and Evan R. Schieber recently scored a major victory for a landlord client in an action against a commercial law firm tenant. The action was for breach of a lease due to the tenant’s abandonment of the premises and failure to pay rent. In National Association of Water Companies v CKR Law, LLP,  pending in Supreme Court, New York County, the Court ruled in favor of our client and rejected the tenant’s defenses that the landlord accepted the tenant’s abandonment and otherwise failed to properly mitigate its damages.

The landlord brought suit for breach of a commercial lease for office space in Washington, D.C., after the tenant vacated the premises and stopped paying rent in November 2019, well in advance of the March 2021 expiration of the lease. We moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no genuine dispute regarding the tenant’s failure to perform its lease obligations. In response, the tenant argued that it engaged in email discussions with the landlord about the tenant’s need to surrender, which the landlord agreed to consider, but never responded. Accordingly, the tenant argued that the landlord should have been deemed to have accepted the abandonment, thereby extinguishing the tenant’s obligation to pay rent.

The court agreed with our position that the emails painted a different picture and that they did not amount to an agreement on surrender. Similarly, the court held that the tenant could not use unverified marketing materials as evidence of its attempt to mitigate, particularly, where the lease gave the landlord the option not to re-let the premises and continue to collect rent. Accordingly, the court rejected the tenant’s attempt to employ the doctrine of mitigation as a defense to its non-payment.

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