It is not uncommon to have co-participation clauses in retail leases – a clause which states that a tenant will be obligated to pay a certain charge at a specific rate with annual increases to that charge, but “only if at least 70% of the other tenants are similarly obligated to pay such charge.”
The percentage of other tenants is a negotiated percentage, often ranging from 60-85%. Further, there will often be exceptions to what types of tenants get considered when calculating this percentage, such as “excluding department stores, outparcels and theaters.” Sometimes the co-participation may be based upon absolute the absolute number of tenants, while in other cased it may be based upon the square footage. (In the case of the former, a 1,000 sf tenant’s participation carries the same weight as a 15,000 sf tenant’s participation, while in the case of the latter, the 15,000 sf tenant carries 15 times the weight.)
Where the clause gets dicey and ambiguous is when “similarly obligated” is not defined. If a tenant is required to pay $2.00/sf increased by 5% per year, do other tenants have to pay similar rates per square foot with similar increases, or is it based upon absolute amounts? If another tenant pays the same $2.00/sf, but has 3% increases, does that eliminate the similar obligation? If a tenant is paying a $1,000 per year marketing charge, but another tenant sponsors two celebrity autograph events in lieu of a contribution, are they not both obligated?
Ambiguity typically goes against the writer, and it is typically a tenant requesting/offering the co-participation clause. With ambiguity, it is fairly easy to present a supportable position for or against “similarly obligated.”
So, take the time to eliminate the ambiguity in advance!
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