Is there anything we can do to defend ourselves from our landlord?

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Is there anything we can do to defend ourselves from our landlord?

I grew up in a small family owned business run by my parents. We’ve worked so hard and sacrificed so much to keep it running. Our business has blossomed and thankfully we have enough to cover our needs and our college. The problem is that it seems like the owner of the building has taken interested in our business. He used to be really kind and generous and now he has changed completely. He’s been making dramatic changes, like we can no longer use the building’s parking lot for our customers. And he won’t let us renew our yearly contract. We fear that he will kick us out soon and take over our business. This business is a huge part of my life. It is my parents legacy. We really struggled so much and I don’t want to lose it that easily. Is there anything we can do to protect it? To defend ourselves from him?

Asked on December 1, 2016 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

If you have a written lease, he cannot do anything against terms of the lease while it is effect, or evict you during the lease so long as you pay your rent on time, don't yourself violate the lease, etc.
Unfortunately, when the lease expires, he can refuse to re-rent to you, or can increase the rent as much as he likes or make other drastic changes to the lease terms (there are no protections for commercial tenants, unlike residential tenants, who do have some protections against unreasonable lease changes or rental increases).
If there is no in-effect written lease, you are month-to-month tenants under an oral (often incorrectly called "verbal") lease, which means he can at any time, on a month's notice, terminate the tenancy, change the terms of your rental, increase the rent, etc.
Ultimately, as a commercial tenant, if your landlord wants you out, you will have to get out--the only protection you have is during the remaining term or duration of a still-in-effect written lease. That does not mean he can take over the business of course--he does not get your business's name, equipment, customer list, vendor contacts, "good will," etc. All he can do is remove you from the space. And you can relocate and run your business elsewhere, which may be disruptive and expensive (as you move and get set up), but is certainly your legal right.


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