Q: What is the difference between a general assignment of rents and leases and a specific assignment of rents and leases, and when should I include them in my term sheet for a commercial real estate financing of an Ontario property?
A: In situations where a borrower owns real property in Ontario that either is or will be leased to third party tenants, a lender should consider obtaining either a general assignment of rents and leases or a specific assignment of rents and leases in addition to a mortgage on the secured property. Like a mortgage, an assignment of rents and leases should be registered against title to the subject property, and in addition, should be registered under the applicable personal property security legislation as the rents and leases that are being secured by the assignment fall within the definition of personal property under that legislation. 
An assignment of rents and leases, be it a general assignment of rents and leases or a specific assignment of rents and leases, provides a lender with two principal benefits which may be realized by the lender after an event of default:
- it permits the lender to receive the rent payments that the borrower/landlord would otherwise be entitled to, and this revenue stream from the tenants is a significant asset that should be secured; and,
- it permits the lender to step into the shoes of the borrower/landlord and exercise all of the rights and remedies available to the landlord to ensure that the full benefit and value of the lease is realized by the lender, which includes for example, the right to demand payment in the event of non-payment of rent by a tenant and to assign the lease to a purchaser in the event of a power of sale proceeding.
The only difference between a general assignment of rents and leases and a specific assignment of rents and leases is the revenue streams and leases to which they apply. A general assignment of rents and leases applies to all present and future rental income and leases in respect of a particular property. Once in place, a general assignment of rents and leases gives the lender a right to the rental income and the ability to exercise all of the rights of the landlord under a lease in respect of all leases of the property, including but not limited to any new leases, subleases or assignments of lease entered into after the assignment is granted and registered. In contrast to this, a specific assignment of rents and leases only applies to leases which are specifically listed in the document. In the event that any of the specifically listed leases expire or are terminated, and/or a new lease or sublease is put in place, the specific assignment of leases will not apply to this new lease or sublease and the lender will have no right to the rental income or rights resulting from the new lease or sublease.
In most lending situations, the lender will prefer a general assignment of rents and leases as it provides the most comprehensive security. The lender will have security over all rental income, and be able to exercise the rights of the landlord, regardless of who the tenants are in the future, or what leases the borrower has in place at the time of default under the terms of the loan or credit facility. However, where there is a principal or anchor tenant that represents a preponderance of the rental income, and/or the borrower objects to a general assignment of rents and leases securing all rents and leases as too broad a security interest, the lender may only be interested in securing the rental income and landlord rights associated with a specific principal or anchor lease, or a particular group of leases. In such a situation, a specific assignment of rents and leases may be a reasonable compromise position for a lender to adopt. Alternatively, in situations where multiple lenders are taking security in a particular parcel of real property, specific assignments of rents and leases allow the various lenders to divide the rental income and leases among themselves, with each lender only obtaining security in a specifically agreed upon lease or group of leases.
The above is a general overview of general and specific assignments of rents and leases.
When Lenders consider their real property security options, their analysis should go 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 should obtain 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 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 to 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 should be 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 in those cases.
A Mortgage of Lease document typically contains some basic 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 the use of the terms for both cases where the chargor owns a freehold interest in the property or a leasehold interest in the property.
So please consider an Assignment of Lease or Mortgage of Lease as part of your security package. We would be pleased to assist you with these documents.