A recent dispute involving the owners of a medical office building demonstrates, once again, how unexpected business governance issues can threaten an ongoing business.
This opinion from the Appellate Division, in New Jersey Realty Concepts, LLC v. Mavroudis, Docket No. A-2013-12T1 (App. Div. March 18, 2014)(opinion here), demonstrates how the failure to put a business enterprise into a business form with limited liability, be it a corporation, limited liability company or limited liability partnership, can make it impossible for the business to continue.
The case itself turned on the scope of authority of a special fiscal agent, which is a court appointee typically found in shareholder or limited liability company litigation. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.
Judgment Creditor Attaches LLC Interest in Rents
The real issue, however, is buried at the end of the opinion in which the Appellate Court held that a debtor could directly attach rents paid by the building tenants because the owners’ interest was itself assignable. And that is the big difference as far as asset protection goes – a joint tenancy offers no real protection to creditors.
Had the owners of the building placed it in some type of holding company, then the remedy against a debt owed by of one of the principals would have been much more limited — and would not have threatened the viability of the enterprise. Here, as a result of the form of the enterprise, a judgment creditor of one of the participants was able to levy against 60 percent of the rent roll, leaving the building itself apparently insolvent.
Had the building been held as a limited liability company, the best the judgment creditor could have done was a charging order against the individual interest of the member that was a judgment creditor. Similarly, in a corporation, the remedy would have been limited to the individual shareholder’s interest – assuming no buy-sell agreement restricted transfer.