Landlord’s Property Manager Direct Examination (Commercial Lease)

witness stand (photocredit: google images; www.pixgood.com)

Here is an outline of the direct examination I’ve used in commercial lease eviction cases representing a landlord.  Assume a commercial tenant who has defaulted under a commercial lease and I’ve called the lessor’s property manager to testify concerning the lease, the 5-day notice, the tenant ledger and to provide damages testimony.  This case also involves a guarantor who guaranteed the tenant’s lease obligations.

Necessary documents/exhibits: (1) Lease, (2) 5-day Notice, (3) Tenant Ledger, (4) Management Agreement (contract between owner and property manager that authorizes property manager to collect rents and to prosecute forcible action if tenant breaches lease); (5) Fee petition (assuming lease contains fee-shifting language); and (6) any legally significant correspondence (i.e. a lease termination notice).  Obviously, at trial, I often have to deviate from my script but this hopefully provides a useful outline of key topics.

Also – some of the  questions are leading and may have to be rephrased.  My experience though is most judges give some latitude in the interest of streamlining the examination.

Q: State name

Q: Employment

Q: Job title

Q: Relationship to Property Owner

Q: Is your company authorized to collect rents on this site?

Q: How do you know that?

[A: There’s a written management agreement between the owner and us]

Note: Show Management Agreement if defendant challenges; establish witness’ familiarity with Management Agreement and that it is kept as part of the Lease file and is therefore a business record.

Q: Are you familiar with Property known as [say address]

Q: Familiar with Tenant

Q: Is there a written lease

SHOW LEASE – Exh. 1

Q: Showing you what’s been marked as Exhibit 1 – do you recognize this

Q: What is it?

Q: What is commencement date and end date of the Lease?

Q: Do you recognize the signatures on the Lease?

Q: How so?

Q: Does [Property Mgr] keep records of rents charged and owing under this lease?

Q: Have you reviewed [Name of Property Mgmt company] books and records pertaining to this Lease and Property

SHOW 5-DAY NOTICE – EX. 2

Q: Do you recognize this

Q: What is it

Q: Do you know how this notice was served on the Tenant

Q: Do you know when it was served

Q: Did you personally serve it?

Q: How much did the Tenant owe on the date of this 5-day notice

Q: Has Tenant made any payments since the date of this notice

SHOW TENANT LEDGER – EX. 3

Q: Do you recognize this?

Q: What is it?

Q: What information is contained on here?

Q: Is this prepared and kept in the regular course of [Property Mgr’s] business?

Q: For what purpose?

DAMAGES

Q: Is the Tenant current on its lease payments

Q: When was the last payment made

Q: Is the tenant still in possession to your knowledge?

Q: How much does the Tenant owe through today?

Q: How did you arrive at that number

Q: How much does the Tenant owe through the end of the Lease term?

Q: Explain how you calculated that

GUARANTEE – EX. 4

Q: Showing you what’s been marked as Exhibit 4- do you recognize this

Q: What is it?

Q: Are you generally familiar with its terms

Q: Did you ever notify the Guarantor that the Tenant was in default under the Lease

Q: When

Q: who did you notify

Q: have you received any payments from the Guarantor since notifying him of the Tenant’s breach

Q: What damages are you claiming for breach of the Guaranty?

Q: How did you calculate that figure

Nothing further