As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on the economy, especially the retail, restaurant, and hospitality sectors, more and more tenants have stopped paying rent, forcing landlords to take more aggressive action to obtain payment. Contention between landlords and tenants in the retail sector has really intensified. In one day alone, the entity that owns Easton Town Center in Columbus filed a dozen separate lawsuits against tenants, nearly all of which are well-recognized name brand national retailers. The following day, Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. filed suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against all of its Simon Group landlord entities, 69 Simon Group landlord defendants in total, asserting that Abercrombie paid April and May rent “under protest,” and asking the Court to order that those rent payments be refunded.
As the economy struggles to reopen in its entirety, certain sectors will continue to suffer financially, increasing the stress on the commercial real estate system, and leading to more disputes. Our commercial real estate developer and owner Clients are selectively having us play a greater role, generally with helping them obtain payment in their most severe situations, although the threshold for severity seems to be lower and interest that landlords have in taking action now is greater than it has been over the past several months.