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I am currently in a commercial lease for my business in Los Angeles. The least signed between myself and the landlord was a 5 year with 5 option (giving me a total of 10 years). Right now I am a year into the lease, have not had any problems with the landlord and have paid my rent on time! The landlord has a management company, very hard to get a hold of, and they are Asian with limited english. Although it was tough negotiating to get the space for the tobacco business I have, we signed the lease. The lease does not designate an exclusivity clause as far as I can see and there is an arbitration agreement but the arbitration agreement excludes any party seeking money through an act of willful misconduct, bad faith or tortious actions. The property management just got a new tenant, who will have the same products that I do, as is by law considered the same category. I tried speaking to the management company to explain that there is a conflict of interest with my business, and the manager explained that she already signed the lease with the new tenant and "its only a one year lease", as though that would make me feel better. She also said that they did not tell her exactly what would be in the store when they opened, so she "did not know" it would be a competing business to me. I asked them to provide to me in writing that they refuse to remedy the situation, and my question is if I have any legal standing to send any documents via a lawyer to get rid of the new tenant or if they cannot then find a reasonable compensation for my business which will probably suffer because of it. Do I have a chance or possibility to send them a threatening letter via attorney? Or what choice do I have? Isn't considered tortious action/interference knowingly? The lease is pretty standard just outlining the property/landlord not responsible for this..etc. I know it's hard to give a definite answer, but if there is no exclusivity clause can that be used for me as well?
Dear Customer, thank you for choosing Just Answer. I am sorry to learn of this conduct by your landlord. Unfortunately without an exclusivity clause in your lease, it will make it difficult to pursue a direct action against the landlord or management for this conduct. I would advise speaking with a civil litigation attorney (hopefully one with commercial property experience) as most leases do have provisions regarding harmony of the tenants and an intent not to compete, even if it is not an express exclusivity clause.
Even if you do not have a contract cause of action (the strongest claim in these situations) you are right that there may be a claim of "Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Relations" The California jury instructions can be found here: http://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/2200/2202.html these are the elements you must prove to win this type of claim.
I would recommend approaching this matter as a business matter, taking into account the cost of consulting an attorney (relatively low), the cost of retaining an attorney to negotiate on your behalf (slightly higher), the cost of litigation (much higher), and the cost to your business of the ongoing situation (I do not know what this would be).
If you wish to locate an attorney, you can find one on the California Bar Association website: CalBar.org, Martindale Hubble, or AVVO.
I do apologize for the delay in getting you an answer to your question, but would be happy to respond to any follow up questions you may have. I hope that my answer was of assistance to you. My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you for your business!
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