Historically, “Act of God” was defined to encompass sickness, but the concept has evolved, and it is unclear whether, in the absence of an express reference to epidemics in a force majeure clause, courts will find COVID-19 to be an Act of God. In “Tour de Force: What Constitutes an ‘Act of God,’ and Other Developments in Force Majeure Law,” colleagues Andrew C. Smith, Anne C. Lefever, Brian L. Beckerman, Stephanie S. Gomez and Colin Davis discuss the contours of the term “Act of God” and briefly cover new developments in case law regarding the doctrine of force majeure.
From mask-wearing to physical separation to staggered schedules and crowding-related transit incentives, implementing the new CDC guidelines may reshape office life. In “Updated CDC Guidelines Impact Business Districts, Office Buildings and Their Tenants, and Users,” colleagues Caroline A. Harcourt, Shani Rivaux and Amanda G. Halter outline how these guidelines contemplate a cooperative relationship between building owners and their employer tenants.
Until COVID-19 officially took hold in the U.S. in March of 2020, the U.S. real estate market was active, even robust. Starting in March, however, the possible scope of the pandemic and the sudden imposition of stay-at-home orders resulted in deal volume falling precipitously—with sales, leasing and lending transactions being put on temporary “wait and see” pause or terminated altogether.
Over the past few months, construction projects in most states have carried on because construction was deemed essential and projects were exempted from government orders that closed businesses. In the jurisdictions that halted construction operations, state and local authorities are now easing those restrictions and allowing construction to resume. In “Safety Measures for Construction Projects During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” colleagues Laura Bourgeois LoBue and Jose L. Lua-Valencia discuss just how different construction sites will be than they were a few months ago under this new normal.
A recent court order issued as part of an ongoing litigation involving a Manhattan hotel held that a mezzanine lender may proceed with a UCC foreclosure sale of the mezzanine loan collateral despite N.Y.E.O. 202.8, which prevents creditors from initiating judicial foreclosures. In “Distressed Real Estate During COVID-19: New York State Court Order Finds UCC Foreclosures Are Not Suspended by New York E.O. 202.8.,” colleague Caroline A. Harcourt addresses the court’s denial of injunctive relief to the UCC foreclosure and determination that damages were an adequate remedy may have significant effects even after the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to mezzanine borrowers considering their defenses to UCC foreclosure proceedings.
On May 13, 2020, proposed California Senate Bill No. 939 was amended to not only prohibit landlords from evicting commercial tenants during the pendency of the COVID-19 state of emergency, but to extend protections to certain qualifying tenants permitting express rent reduction negotiation rights and lease termination rights. In “Proposed California Bill Would Ban Commercial Evictions During the State of Emergency and Grant Lease Termination Rights to Qualifying Tenants,” special counsel Carmela D. Nicholas explores how California Senate Bill 939 goes beyond the COVID-19 eviction moratorium imposed in most cities and counties across the state.
On Friday, May 15, New York began reopening businesses after widespread closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. New York Forward, the New York plan to reopen the state, divides the state into ten (10) regions. Each region may reopen in a four-phased process as it satisfies certain metrics. In “COVID-19: New York and New Jersey Announce Phased Reopening of Businesses,” colleague Simone A. Wood discusses the steps reopening businesses must take to protect employees and customers.
Building on existing New York State protections, the New York City Council has passed a bill providing protections for individuals who have guaranteed leases for premises affected by COVID-19. In “New York City Council Proposes Extensive Protections for Commercial Lease Guarantors,” colleagues Andrew J. Weiner and Adam J. Weaver discuss that the proposed legislation would make personal guaranties temporarily unenforceable if certain conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are satisfied, but the scope of the relief is not clearly defined.
On May 13, 2020, one day before the expiration of the relevant “safe harbor” deadline, the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued new guidance to borrowers who have been considering whether to return their CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in the event that the borrowers failed to consider their access to alternative sources of liquidity before certifying the “necessity” of the PPP loans. In “SBA Issues Critical New Guidance on PPP Borrowers’ Certification of Necessity,” colleagues John E. Jensen, David B. Dixon, Elizabeth Vella Moeller and Matthew Oresman discuss how this new guidance purports to reduce significantly the risk to borrowers arising from a later determination by SBA that the borrower lacked an adequate basis for its certification.
On Thursday, May 7, California rolled out a modified stay-home order and issued guidance to move into “Stage 2” of reopening certain sectors of the economy. In “California Allows Localities to Reopen Certain Businesses Consistent with State Guidance,” colleagues Robert A. James, Callie A. Bjurstrom, Michelle A. Herrera and Stacie O. Kinser discuss how this new statewide order, and the county-level reactions to it, create another layer in the patchwork of compliance requirements, but provide a pathway for certain industries to open doors sooner than others.