Canada: Assignment Of Lease vs. Mortgage Of Lease

This article may only be applicable in certain jurisdictions.

When lenders consider their real property security options, their analysis often goes beyond simply taking a mortgage from a debtor who owns real estate. A debtor's interest in real property leases (whether as landlord or tenant) means a lender often obtains either an Assignment of Lease or a Mortgage of Lease as additional security. Like any other specific security agreement, these agreements facilitate the orderly and more effective enforcement of the Lender's security in the underlying debtor asset.

Assignment of Lease.

In cases where the debtor owns real property but does not occupy it, the revenue stream from third party leases is a significant asset that should be secured. Although most mortgage standard charge terms include at least a brief paragraph related to assignment of leases, they do not provide the benefit of the more fulsome provisions typically contained in a stand alone specific Assignment of Lease (in cases where there may be a significant tenant) or a general Assignment of Lease (securing all present and future leases without reference to a specific tenant).

The debtor's interest as landlord is secured by registration against title to the debtor's real property, typically immediately following the registration of the mortgage of land. It should be noted that in order to register a specific Assignment of Lease, there first requires the registration of a Notice of Lease in respect of the lease that is being specifically assigned. The Assignment of Lease also has a personal property component that cannot be overlooked. The rents and leases that are secured by the Assignment of Lease fall within the definition of personal property under the personal property security legislation; and as such require the registration of a financing statement against the debtor.

An Assignment of Lease document includes certain generally accepted provisions.

The debtor assigns to the lender (as collateral security for the payment of principal and interest under the mortgage of land) all rents and other monies due to it by tenants and the benefit of all tenant covenants under all current and future leases.

The debtor typically covenants to not collect rent more than one month in advance (to ensure that the normal revenue stream is available to the lender on enforcement) and not amend any material terms of the leases without the lender's approval. In the case of a specific Assignment of Lease, it is prudent to also obtain similar covenants from the tenant itself and an acknowledgement that the tenant will attorn to the Lender in the event of default by the debtor.

The debtor is permitted to continue to collect rent according to the terms of the leases until an event of default occurs pursuant to the mortgage of land, after which the Lender may give notice to the tenants to pay all future rents to the lender directly.

Mortgage of Lease.

In cases where the debtor does not own real estate but rents space instead, the right to occupy the premises may be a key asset of the debtor that is secured. Although it is typical that a general security agreement includes a reference to leasehold interests in the description of the charged collateral, the general security agreement does not provide the benefit of the more complete language in a stand alone specific Mortgage of Lease document.

The debtor's interest as tenant is secured by registration against title to the debtor's leasehold interest in the real property. This requires the prior registration of a Notice of Lease in respect of the lease that is being secured.

It should be noted that if there is a real property mortgage on title granted by the owner/landlord to another lender prior to the lease, and if the tenant/debtor or tenant's lender has not obtained a non-disturbance agreement from the owner/landlord, the Mortgage of Lease will be no better security than the lease itself (i.e., subject to being terminated at the option of the prior mortgagee in the event of default under the real property mortgage). Most leases will contain a prohibition against mortgaging the lease, so it will be necessary to obtain the landlord's consent to a Mortgage of Lease.

A Mortgage of Lease document typically contains some basic standard provisions.

As in a mortgage of land, the Mortgage of Lease specifies a principal amount, interest rate, payment dates, and contains charging language whereby the debtor's leasehold interest is security for payment of the principal and interest.

Similarly, in the event of default, the lender has the ability to exercise a power of sale and sublease or assign the leasehold interest to a third party.

The debtor covenants to not pay rent more than one month in advance, to not amend any material terms of the leases without the lender's approval, to not terminate or surrender the term of the lease and to hold possession of the premises in trust for the lender.

Most lender mortgage standard charge terms contain flexible language that contemplates use of the terms for both cases where the chargor owns a freehold interest in the property or a leasehold interest in the property.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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