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Sum0
12-29-2009, 09:44 PM
I'm trying to work a legal case into my novel with barely any understanding of law. Help me out, please! :D

Basically, my novel has an empty shopping mall, abandoned due to the economic downturn. The owners of the mall have leased part of it to an artistic commune on a five-year contract (hey, it's better than nothing), but as the economy steadily improves the owners decide they can get a better deal by re-opening the mall.

But they're stuck in the contract. So they try to get out of it by suing the commune for breach of contract (some woolly reason like alleged illegal activity, perhaps). The commune's charismatic leader argues their case, though, and the suit is dismissed.

Does this make sense? In particular, what other methods could/would the owners use to get out of the contract? Would this sort of case even be heard in a court?

I might add that this is taking place under Japanese law, but I think I'd be trying my luck to find a expert in such things here. But I would love to be pleasantly surprised!

Mel A.
12-29-2009, 09:52 PM
Hi, Sum0!
If I were you, I'd hold out for someone that knows the law in Japan so that you aren't basing your facts on something that isn't applicable. Here in the states, I would assume, based on your facts, that a case like that would go out on summary judgment without ever getting to trial, if the "alleged illegal activity" is as baseless as it sounds.
Good luck!

RJK
12-29-2009, 10:50 PM
Nearly every contract has a buyout provision. When all else fails, the owner can pay the tenant a fee to get them out. If the amount isn't in the contract, a court will set a fair amount.

Bing Z
12-30-2009, 05:04 AM
I do not know the law, but your plot doesn't seem right to me. Illegal activities aren't dealt with by the landlord (except in Hollywood), but by law enforcement agencies. If the landlord genuinely suspects (or secretly instigates) illegal activities at the mall, I'd expect them call the cops. I don't see the possibility of a a civil case in court.

However, if it's a part of your plot that the MC argues and thus causes the case to be dropped in court, maybe an original provision (with gray areas) in the lease would work? A provision like pets are not allowed in the mall yet several participants of the commune train cats to perform ballet... you know, arguments on whether they are working cats or artist cats or pets.

jclarkdawe
12-30-2009, 06:34 AM
You need to understand that most of the people on this board are of European or English descent. Australian, Canadian, US, and many of the former Commonwealth countries base their property law on old English law, which developed as part of the feudal society. So an attorney or business person from one of those countries can make reasonable guesses as to general law questions.

But when dealing with Japan or China, where the laws come from an entirely different cultural prospective, there's no way of doing it. I'd hesitate to guess on a provision like this in a French contract, and there's no way I'd even try with Japan. I'd suggest contacting the equivalent of the Bar Association and asking them.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Mel A.
12-30-2009, 06:37 AM
I do not know the law, but your plot doesn't seem right to me. Illegal activities aren't dealt with by the landlord (except in Hollywood), but by law enforcement agencies. If the landlord genuinely suspects (or secretly instigates) illegal activities at the mall, I'd expect them call the cops. I don't see the possibility of a a civil case in court.

However, if it's a part of your plot that the MC argues and thus causes the case to be dropped in court, maybe an original provision (with gray areas) in the lease would work? A provision like pets are not allowed in the mall yet several participants of the commune train cats to perform ballet... you know, arguments on whether they are working cats or artist cats or pets.

The dancing cats idea is a good example of a type of breach that the landlord could attempt to use, but, assuming the lease had a provision requiring the tenant to obey all applicable laws and regs, any illegal activity might be a breach as well. In that case, the illegal deeds could lead to both criminal and civil action.

Mel A.
12-30-2009, 06:42 AM
You need to understand that most of the people on this board are of European or English descent. Australian, Canadian, US, and many of the former Commonwealth countries base their property law on old English law, which developed as part of the feudal society. So an attorney or business person from one of those countries can make reasonable guesses as to general law questions.

But when dealing with Japan or China, where the laws come from an entirely different cultural prospective, there's no way of doing it. I'd hesitate to guess on a provision like this in a French contract, and there's no way I'd even try with Japan. I'd suggest contacting the equivalent of the Bar Association and asking them.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Their embassy staff may be able to direct you to the proper organization.

Mel A.
12-30-2009, 06:53 AM
On second thought, if you are living in Japan, a bar association or even lawyer referral service would be your best bet. Otherwise, some law schools have student clinics that field general questions.

Sum0
12-30-2009, 08:53 AM
Hey, thanks for the replies. Looks like this will be more difficult than I thought, but that's all part of the fun!

ideagirl
01-06-2010, 07:32 AM
I'm trying to work a legal case into my novel with barely any understanding of law. Help me out, please! :D

Basically, my novel has an empty shopping mall, abandoned due to the economic downturn. The owners of the mall have leased part of it to an artistic commune on a five-year contract (hey, it's better than nothing), but as the economy steadily improves the owners decide they can get a better deal by re-opening the mall.

But they're stuck in the contract. So they try to get out of it by suing the commune for breach of contract (some woolly reason like alleged illegal activity, perhaps). The commune's charismatic leader argues their case, though, and the suit is dismissed.

Does this make sense?

What doesn't make sense is--well, two things:

(1) that a commune lives in a shopping mall. That probably violates local zoning regulations (malls are zoned commercial, not residential; Houston is, I believe, the only city in America without zoning, so unless your story is set in Houston this is going to be an issue). It also would create complications with the owner's liability insurance, since the existing policy probably covers mall operations, not residential use, and the insurance company might balk at extending the policy to cover residential use. (I'm sorry to be so pragmatic, but if you're setting your story in the actual real world instead of in a slightly fanciful version of the world, the zoning and insurance problems would be problems.)

(2) that it's a five-year contract. AFAIK shopping mall leases (in fact leases in general) are usually one year long and renewable, instead of being for long periods of time. But aside from that, this particular five-year leas doesn't make commercial sense, because no one thinks this downturn is going to last five years--the owner must realize that renting the mall to a commune is going to put the last nail in the coffin of the mall, since retailers will not want to start renting storefronts until the commune is gone, so the mall will remain devoid of other tenants until then. That means that as long as the commune is there the mall cannot possibly bounce back, since no one else will rent... and the longer they're there, the more people will stop thinking of the mall as a mall. After such a long lease, it will be forgotten by retailers and it'll be much harder for the owner to get it back up and running once the commune is gone.

Of course, if your mall owner is eccentric to the point of being irrational and not caring about money, they might do this, but then see problem (1) above: the city might not let them do it. Also, mall owners have mortgages too, and the bank that holds the mortgage might object--the mortgage may well contain provisions that restrict the owner's ability to do crazy sh*t like this.



In particular, what other methods could/would the owners use to get out of the contract? Would this sort of case even be heard in a court?

I might add that this is taking place under Japanese law, but I think I'd be trying my luck to find a expert in such things here. But I would love to be pleasantly surprised!

Oh dear. JAPANESE law? Well, Hiroshi Oda wrote a great book on Japanese law, but Japanese commercial landlord-tenant law?! No, I'm not even remotely an expert on that. I would bet that longer-term leases are more the norm there than they are here, but beyond that, you're going to have to google scholars of Japanese business law (some such scholars exist in US law schools). Japanese disputes tend to be taken care of without a trial more than ours do--I should say even more than ours do--but beyond that there's not much I can tell you.

ideagirl
01-06-2010, 07:35 AM
I do not know the law, but your plot doesn't seem right to me. Illegal activities aren't dealt with by the landlord (except in Hollywood), but by law enforcement agencies. If the landlord genuinely suspects (or secretly instigates) illegal activities at the mall, I'd expect them call the cops. I don't see the possibility of a a civil case in court.

In the US, landlords deal with illegal activities in the sense that they can usually evict tenants for doing illegal activities on the premises. So that would go to court, as an eviction case. This whole thing would be an eviction case, regardless of whether it was for illegal activities or whatever else, because eviction is how landlords get rid of unwanted tenants. But I'm only talking about the US.