Landlords may be able to recover attorneys’ fees incurred when a debtor-tenant seeks to assume the lease, or assume and assign the lease to a third party. To recover attorney’s fees, however, the landlord must meet several criteria. First, the lease must expressly state that the landlord is entitled to recover attorneys’ fees as additional rent or in connection with the collection of rent. Next, the landlord must have prevailed in the proceedings in which it seeks to recover attorneys’ fees. “Prevailing” in a bankruptcy proceeding may include filing an objection to a motion of the debtor-tenant and receiving a favorable decision (i.e., objecting to the cure amount proposed by the tenant).
The matter in which the landlord seeks attorneys’ fees must be in pursuit or enforcement of the landlord’s rights under the lease, not matters where the landlord challenges the debtor-tenant’s rights under the Bankruptcy Code. Finally, the attorneys’ fees must be reasonable. To determine whether the fees are reasonable, courts will consider factors such as the amount in dispute relative to the fees requested, the debtor-tenant’s good faith efforts to resolve the dispute and compliance with the Bankruptcy Code.
Carl D. Neff is a bankruptcy attorney with the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP. Carl is admitted in Delaware and regularly practices before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. You can reach Carl at (302) 622-4272 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.