rent-free church parking lot

honugirlhawaiiJune 23, 2010

I don't know what category to post my question so I'll just toss it in here and hope I can get advice.

We would like to give a church use of our parking lot rent-free. This is not a "lease agreement" because I won't be collecting rent. I will need to write an agreement but can't think of how to word it.

Mahalo in advance.

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I'd speak to an attorney. I figure all you would need is a "hold harmless" document outlining what is allowed and that you can't be held responsible for any damages (injury, loss of use, etc). I would also suggest having the agreement expire annually and have to be renewed, so if for any reason it turns out not to be a good idea, it's easy to terminate the agreement.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 10:04AM
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I agree, talk to your attorney first. Will the church be using the lot all the time--for special events only, allowing RV's to park there? That is important. Anyone could fall, and you would be responsible. Ask your homeowners/insurance agent first. Yes, it is nice to offer the lot, but you do have to protect yourself. Another thing, is it close to your home? Could come one come on the lot, but go on your property?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:09PM
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yeah, as a church member, if parking is a problem, it is much appreciated. As a property owner, I would set up some kind of legal document outlining your intent, time of use etc, with the experiation.

what if they decided to use it during a time when you want to? if its not in the agreement it could cause a problem, assuming you're actually using it when they aren't.

also if you decide to sell it, having something in the contract regarding that and the cancelation of their "lease"

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:26PM
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Besides what's been mentioned above who is going to be responsible for maintaining the property, mowing, clearing snow, keeping the surface in good shape, filling in pot holes and are your neighbors going to pitch a fit with the traffic/noise this is going to create?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 2:52PM
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I would actually get a standard parking lot lease agreement and make the monthly lease cost to the church just $1.00. You can return it to the collection plate on Sunday if you want. I think a standard lease agreement would cover all the bases about liability, usage and maintenance issues.

But you should still check with an attorney as there might be zoning/land usage issues.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 6:44PM
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The liability issue is often a driver.

If someone is injured on the property they can pint to the property owner as having allowed a hazard and make the owner liable.

The church itself cannot stop this from occurring, but they can assume the liability (the person would sue you, and you would point to eh church as the liable party, leaving the church to defend you or settle the suite).

This is definitely attorney time to have a solid agreement created.
In some cases it is better for no money to change hands, while in others the $1 a year lease is better.
It depends on state and local law (often case law).

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 9:09AM
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Talk to your insurance agent as well. He's almost as important as the attorney in this regard.

Don't be surprised if he tells you that your policy will have to be changed and the annual premium will increase.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 8:44PM
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I would require that the church carry an insurance policy on the lot that lists you are an additional insured and they should provide you a certificate of insurance.

Property owners DO get sued for things that happen in parking lots. Plaintiffs will generally sue everyone (church, parking lot owner, plow guy, etc.).

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 1:18AM
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Does that mean that signs in grocery store parking lots disavowing responsibility for damage and injury are meaningless?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 6:38AM
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"Does that mean that signs in grocery store parking lots disavowing responsibility for damage and injury are meaningless?"

To the extent the damage is inflicted by other shoppers on your car, yes.

To the extent that a hole in the lot (or other item under control of the land owner) ruined a tire(or caused damage), no.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 10:34AM
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Disavowing responsibility for pretty much anything is a common business practice, precisely because so many believe the disavowals. If you can get potential litigants to believe they have no case before there is even an event generating a case, you are way ahead of the game.

A lot of people are sheep.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 1:15PM
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"To the extent the damage is inflicted by other shoppers on your car, yes.

To the extent that a hole in the lot (or other item under control of the land owner) ruined a tire(or caused damage), no. "

I actually have this worded backwards.

The signs about damage to your car from shopping carts ARE valid.

It would be hte same as trying to hold th elot owner reponsiable becasue the car next to you dinged you with the door of their car.

The store has no control over the other shoppers.

If a hazard ion the lot results in damage, the sings are indeed invalid.
They are responsible for keeping the lot in good repair and safe for pedestrians and vehicles.

have you noticed the huge proliferation of stop signs in parking lots lately?

They are rarely valid (no ticket for not stopping) but allow the lot owner to disclaim responsibility for accidents.

They told you to stop.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 8:33PM
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I am the property manager of an office building in town, and we have a similar arrangement with a synagogue across the street. The owner of the building has given the synagogue permission to use the parking lot free of charge for overflow parking. This is not on a weekly basis, but only occasionally, during high holidays and special events and only outside of normal business hours.

We didn't have a signed agreement, simply requested an indemnity letter from the church that included the language drafted by our attorney "the Synagogue agrees to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend, including reasonable attorneys fees, the Owner from any claims arising from the use of the Parking Lot" etc.

We also requested that the owner of the office building be named on they Synagogue's liability insurance and that they provide a copy of the certificate of such insurance.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 2:19PM
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Even with insurance, you have to be aware of how well funded the church is.

When their insurance can 'run out' on a large settlement leaving you in the lurch.

It IS rather unlikely, but something to consider.

You should at least talk with your attorney about ALL the liability issues that attach form simply allowing someone to use your land.

It varies enough state-by-state that a local attorney should be consulted.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 5:31PM
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how about a sign that simply says:

parking here is free and any damage, loss, or other is your responsibility :)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 3:28PM
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I would think long and hard about this. I definitely would be sure that the church has you (owner of lot) put on their landowner liability policy as an additional insured. There should be hold harmless and/or indemnity language.

There also is the possible non-profit status of the church, and limitation on how much $$ they can be sued for. Well, if someone is hurt because of a fall on your property being used by the church, their lawyer is going to do a search of the property and your name will pop up. You do not enjoy the benefit of the non-profit status.

Could you possibly afford to carry a general liability insurance policy on the lot. Draw up some type of lease or whatever evidencing the church having permission to use same, and take the premium amount as a tax deduction as charitable contribution? I don't even know if that would work as your insurance is going to be nit picking which claims it will pay for you and which of the church are valid. Are there certain times, etc. that the church will be able to use the lot? This is a really muddy area of law/insurance language.

sasafras - that sign would not be worth the material on which it were written. We are living in a a sue-ready society these days. You see them, but they mean nothing.

If/when you enter a hospital and sign off on the consent and waiver of liability for say a surgery. Should something go wrong during your surgery and you contend it was negligence, you still have every right to sue. People sometimes assume that if they have signed something agreeing not to sue, then they are not able to do so. No so.

OP - protect yourself. Consult an attorney for guidance on the language needed to be added to the church liability insurance policy.

If it were my lot and wanted to let the church use it, I would be inclined to just sell the lot to the church for a nominal fee and be removed from any possible liability claims.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 9:18AM
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Everyone's busy debating this...
but has honugirl even checked back in?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 12:03PM
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