Category: Legal writing

There is no “slow claim” deed either

The evolution of our language has left some legal concepts with names that no longer reflect what they actually mean.  The Statute of Frauds doesn’t describe the crime of fraud. The Statute of Uses has nothing to do with land use.

Speech transcription is adding to the list: I am seeing more references to “quick claim deeds” instead of “quitclaim deeds.” They are no faster or slower than any other kind of deed; calling a deed “quick” doesn’t speed it up.

We like “Landlords.” Here’s why.

A tip on drafting leases:  Embrace the “Landlord” — no, not that kind of embrace.  Embrace the word.  

William Nickerson, in his classic work on investing in real estate, recommended using the terms “Lessor” and “Lessee” in leases.  He thought that “Landlord” sounded like a relic of the feudal era, and that it offended tenants.  

He may have been right about the effect on tenants, but he was wrong about the effect on contracts.  If you use “Lessor” and “Lessee” to identify the parties to a lease, you’re much more likely to mistake one term for the other when you’re proofreading the agreement.  No one mistakes “Landlord” for “Tenant,” but casual readers can easily mistake “Lessor” for “Lessee.”  It’s a whimsical mistake to make — unless you’re the “Lessor” to whom the lease assigned maintenance and repair responsibilities that you wanted to be the tenant’s responsibility, and that your tenant now wants you to fulfill.   

Don’t be afraid to be the “Landlord” in the lease: it’s a lessor evil (sorry) than being mistaken for the tenant.

A bad contingency clause can produce a dissatisfied buyer

Almost every real estate sale agreement includes some contingencies: conditions that, if not met, will allow the seller or buyer to cancel the sale. The two most common are a financing contingency and a property inspection contingency.

Be sure when you’re writing a contingency that you identify what the contingency actually is. Don’t write “Buyer’s obligation is subject to Buyer obtaining a property inspection,” or (even worse) “This transaction is subject to Buyer obtaining a property inspection.” The actual contingency isn’t the inspection, but the buyer approving the inspection. What if the buyer obtains an inspection, but doesn’t like what the inspector has to say?  The buyer has satisfied the contingency, but is dissatisfied with the property, and likely to be dissatisfied (or worse) with the attorney or agent who drafted the contingency clause.

Instead, write “Buyer’s obligation is subject to Buyer obtaining and approving a professional inspection of the property on or before _______, 2018.”   When the actual contingency is the buyer being happy, say so.