you and the law | Leases of vacant land for solar farms pose great risk to landlords – Times-Standard
Today’s story will be of particular interest to anyone who owns an area – usually agricultural – in areas of the country that receive a lot of sun or wind, ideal for building a solar or wind farm. .
Unless you’re careful, a speaking representative of an energy farm developer could have you walking through quicksand.
Never, ever, ever trust the nice people at these companies to have your best interests in mind. They don’t, as “Dr. Jim” discovered.
The Baltimore surgeon owns 20 acres near the town of Tehachapi in eastern Kern County, California and has been contacted by Samsung’s solar subsidiary. They sent her a “rental option” agreement, told her it was “standard”, asking her to sign it.
Fortunately Jim, recognizing his lack of knowledge in this area, contacted my office.
It was his lucky day because when I heard ‘Samsung’ I told him I didn’t trust this company even though we own their televisions and cellphones.
It’s their business ethics and their horrible customer relationships that turn my stomach. If you doubt what I’m saying, just Google Samsung Customer Reviews. Here is a telling example:
A few years ago, they started selling smart TVs with Skype, which required the purchase of a $ 49 webcam that could only be used on their TVs. In 2016, after thousands of customers around the world bought televisions and webcams – because of Skype – Samsung removed the Skype app, did not provide a driver for you to use the camera on another device and refused to offer a refund. !
It was a total scam, and I wrote about it in my column. Samsung couldn’t have cared less.
Real estate lawyers offer views
I managed this option contract by two real estate attorneys, each with years of experience, Fawn Dessy of Bakersfield and Ron Jones of Hanford, California.
“An option is a contract that gives the option holder the right to do something – like buy or lease land – for a specified period of time,” Dessy explains. “It doesn’t give you an interest in the property, only the right to rent it out or buy it later. For projects as complex as solar or wind farms, options can last up to two years, leaving time for due diligence before work begins.
Jones points out, “There’s nothing simple about an option contract for any of these projects, and the devil is in the details – details that can throw the landowner into horribly expensive litigation.
I referred Jim to Mrs. Dessy and after reading the contract she said, “They make it look very typical and fair. It’s anything but! It’s a total abomination and landowners across the country need to be extremely careful if Samsung comes calling them. I have practiced law for 42 years and have never seen anything like it! It’s just awful! “
“They are so clear on how ‘This is the way it’s done and it’s going to make you a lot of money.’ But the way it is worded could easily get you and Samsung sued in its contract. ‘option, has no obligation to protect you.
What is wrong here?
Dessy and Jones listed a few of the deal’s many dangerous flaws:
1. Their five-year duration is excessive. A maximum of two years is sufficient to explore the land, environment, zoning, cost of utilities, etc.
2. They intend to start withdrawing building permits before exercising the option and actually renting out the property. This is completely wrong.
3. By renting out the property, they want the owner to take the land out of the farmland preservation, which gives a significant tax break. This is totally false, it is inadmissible!
4. There is no requirement for workers compensation or liability insurance, no obligation to hire licensed contractors or bonding. This exposes the landowner to a significant risk of lawsuits for injuries that could occur on the property even before the option is exercised.
5. These types of developments predictably lead to lawsuits against homeowners. The Samsung contract does not address this likely event, which means legal fees will be paid by the owner.
6. One of the most clearly misleading paragraphs states: “This agreement creates a valid and current interest in the property in favor of the assignee (Samsung.)” This is totally against the law! An option is only an offer; it does not confer on the option holder an interest in the property.
The two lawyers offered these warning tips to anyone approached by a company wishing to transform their vacant land into a solar or wind farm: “Seek the advice of an experienced real estate advisor immediately. “