In a 21 page opinion (the “Opinion”) released February 20, 2015, in the Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc bankruptcy (Case No. 14-12103), Judge Gross, granted the motion of Trump AC Casino Marks, LLC (“Trump AC”) to modify the automatic stay to allow litigation to proceed, which could result in termination of their license with the Debtors.
When a company files for bankruptcy, they gain a number of protections under federal law. One of these protections is the “automatic stay” provided by 11 U.S.C. § 362. The automatic stay makes it illegal to continue prosecuting, or to initiate, an action against the debtor who is in bankruptcy. Even if that debtor…
In a 17 page decision entered March 9, 2012, Judge Carey of the Delaware Bankruptcy Court granted a motion for relief from the Bankruptcy Code’s automatic stay to allow an undersecured creditor to exercise its remedies against a debtor’s collateral. A copy of Judge Carey’s opinion is available here (the “Opinion”). The Opinion was issued…
As more companies file for bankruptcy, creditors and other interested parties of a debtor must quickly familiarize themselves with the automatic stay. Section 362(a)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code stays “the commencement or continuation … of a judicial, administrative, or other action or proceeding against the debtor that was or could have been commenced before…
As the economy fluctuates, tenant bankruptcies become a greater risk for commercial landlords. Yet some landlords are not familiar with the rights provided to them under the Bankruptcy Code, nor are they aware of the protections provided to a tenant in bankruptcy. For example, certain lease provisions are unenforceable once a tenant files for bankruptcy. Should a landlord attempt to exercise its rights under the lease without first seeking approval from the bankruptcy court, the landlord may be subject to strong sanctions. The purpose of this article is to provide landlords with the questions and answers they should consider when a commercial tenant files for bankruptcy.
1. What effect does a tenant’s bankruptcy have on the lease?
Once a tenant files for bankruptcy, it has three options regarding the lease: it can assume the lease and continue performing all obligations, or assume and assign the lease to a third party, or reject the lease and surrender the premises and terminate performance. The Bankruptcy Code gives the debtor-tenant 120 days to decide whether to assume or reject the lease. During this period, the tenant can request one 90 day extension to decide what to do with the lease.
If the debtor-tenant fails to assume or reject the lease within the 120 day period, and no extension is granted, the lease is deemed rejected. This is a significant provision for landlords. To be proactive, landlords should review all pleadings filed in the tenant’s bankruptcy proceeding to see if the debtor-tenant sought an extension of time to assume or reject. Additionally, landlords should review the tenant’s motions to assume, motions to assume and assign, as well as motions to reject leases. The exhibits to these motions often contain schedules identifying the leases affected by the motion.
2. How does the “automatic stay” of the Bankruptcy Code apply to landlords?
The automatic stay is one of the most powerful protections provided to debtors in a bankruptcy proceeding. The stay acts as an injunction that prohibits creditors (including landlords) from commencing or continuing any proceeding against the debtor which could have been commenced prior to the bankruptcy. Before a landlord seeks to enforce its rights under the lease (such as through eviction, termination or foreclosure), the landlord should seek “relief” from the automatic stay by filing a motion with the bankruptcy court.
It is important for landlords to realize that the automatic stay becomes effective without notice or a hearing. Were a landlord to be found in violation of the automatic stay, the debtor-tenant may be able to recover actual damages from the landlord, including attorneys’ fees. If the violation is found to be intentional, the debtor-tenant may recover punitive damages.