May 4, 2024 at 8:41 pm

Nasty Landlord Tried To Screw Over A Restaurant Owner, So A Lawyer Got Involved And Turned It All Around On Him

by Matthew Gilligan

Source: Reddit/AITA/Pexels

It pays to know lawyers…

Especially if they’re good ones!

And the lawyer in this story wasn’t messing around when they decided to put a shady landlord in his place.

Get all the details below and see what you think!

A lawyer’s pro revenge on a landlord.

“If you think residential landlords are bad, they’re nothing compared to commercial landlords.

Landlords of commercial buildings are some of the cruelest, nastiest people I’ve ever come across. This revenge tale is about a commercial landlord, and how I dealt with him.

Back in the ’90s, sometimes I’d go for lunch at this restaurant in the basement of our building. The place was called “The Vault”, because it had a massive bank vault that had always been there, dating back to the days before the place was turned into a restaurant.

The vault was so huge that they could seat a couple of tables in there, and you could eat dinner surrounded by rows of old, gleaming safe deposit boxes. One day I was there for lunch, and the owner took me aside.

“The landlord’s driving me nuts,” he said.

They knew what he was talking about.

“The landlord drives everyone nuts.” I was a subtenant in the same building, sharing space with an older lawyer, Aaron, and the landlord was always causing us trouble. I’d already had a few run-ins with him, and we didn’t like each other on sight.

In most jurisdictions, commercial landlords don’t need court orders to get you out. Instead, they just change the locks, and you find out about it when you show up and your key doesn’t work. Every time our landlord had a dispute with anyone, which was often, he’d always threaten to change the locks.

“He keeps demanding all this stuff for extra rent, and it’s really weird, because a lot of it’s really old.”

The restaurant owner showed me a letter the landlord had served on him earlier that day. I looked over the demand, and read a list of expenses for snow removal and parking lot repair and common area flooring and all kinds of stuff going back years.

I read it all the way to the end, and there it was, the usual clause saying he was going to change the locks if the tenant didn’t pay this and do that.

“From the wording of the demand, it looks like you’ve been fighting a while. Why did you wait before consulting a lawyer?”

“I asked one of the lawyers I know, and he said it’s hopeless.” He told me the lawyer’s name. It was a guy I knew with a bad real estate practice, who’d resorted to taking little legal aid cases to keep the lights on when the market tanked in ‘89.

“You do something to make the landlord dislike you?” I asked, “because this is a bit over the top, even for our jerk landlord.”

There was a reason for this…

“He knows I’m moving the restaurant. I think he’s trying to grab as much money as possible before I go. Plus he’s giving me grief over the vault.”

“He won’t let you take it with you?”

“Are you kidding? It weighs almost a hundred tons, and I don’t need it. But the lease says I have to remove it, and that I also have to restore the building to what it was before there was a vault. That would cost a fortune. The jerk landlord says if I leave the vault behind when I move, he’ll sue.”

“Send your lease up to my office, and let me look it over,” I said. I finished my lunch, and when I got back to my office the lease was waiting for me.

It was just as bad as the restaurant owner said. The lease was a renewal of a renewal of an assignment of a renewal, the original documents dating back to the shortly after WWII when a bank first leased the place and the vault was installed.

Somehow the landlord had suckered the restaurant into taking over a lease that left him liable to remove a bank vault at the end of term.

“No big deal,” I thought, “the restaurant can default, and all the landlord can do is sue a shell company.” But when I got to the last page of the lease, there was a guarantee clause.

The restaurant owner had personally guaranteed the lease, and he was on the hook for removing a vault weighing a hundred tons, and then fixing the place up. It would cost a fortune.

The case was hopeless, of course; that was obvious right away. But then I thought about the jerk landlord with his demands and his threats and his rent hikes, and I asked my brain to do me a solid, which it promptly did. I picked up the phone and called the restaurant owner.

It was time to get to work.

“I’m screwed, right? You’re calling me to say there’s no way out. That’s what my commercial lawyer already said. But I just thought I’d ask.”

“I can save you, but it’s gonna cost.”

“How much?”

“Five thousand in legals, and another G-note for the agent.”

“Agent? What kind of agent?”

“Real estate. Send up a cheque, certified, and leave the rest to me.” The cheque hit my desk in less than an hour. I went to Aaron’s office. “I need a real estate agent,” I said.

“You buying a house?”


“Selling a house?”


By this point I’d been sharing space with Aaron for almost five years, and he knew me pretty well. “You pulling one of your stunts again?” he asked.

“Yup. But nothing that will get you into trouble.”

“I know a guy.” Aaron knew all kinds of guys, and that’s one of the reasons he eventually got disbarred. But he knew a guy, and he gave me the agent’s name and number, and the next day I paid the agent a visit. I told him what I needed, and we agreed to terms. I gave him some papers and the cash for his fee.

A few days later I was again at The Vault for lunch. The owner saw me walk in, and greeted me himself.

“The landlord’s here,” he said.


“For lunch, and to be a jerk. Let’s sit in the vault room so I don’t have to look at his face.” He took me to the vault room, and with the door almost completely closed, we had a consultation while we ate pasta and drank red wine.

“We’re making a demand on the landlord,” I said, munching on spaghetti carbonara.

“Demand? What are we demanding?”

Not a bad idea!

I pulled a document out of my briefcase and passed it to him while I sipped my wine. “We’re demanding that the jerk landlord release all the restaurant equipment, all the fixtures. The ovens, the freezers, the ventilation: everything you need to run a restaurant.”

“The lease exempts all that stuff. He can’t stop me taking what I want. The only thing that matters is the vault, and of course I don’t want that.” I shook my head.

“You need the vault,” I said “and we’re demanding that he release the bank vault as well. We’re insisting that he let you take it out within seven business days.”

“You think you can beat the landlord with reverse psychology? You think if you treat him like a two-year old, you can manipulate him into doing what you want?”

“We’ll find out soon enough. He’s had the demand for a couple of days now.”

The restaurant owner dropped his wine glass and it shattered on the marble floor. “You already gave it to him?” the restaurant owner said. He got up, swung open the vault door and called for the waiter to clean up the mess.

“Let’s see what the landlord has to say,” I told him, and we walked over to the landlord’s table. The landlord was a big, beefy man with a big appetite. He sat alone, eating wolfishly and with his hands.

“My client needs an answer today,” I said. The landlord looked up at me as he chewed noisily. “I’m The Vault’s lawyer,” I said. “I gave you a demand the other day. My client needs an answer right now. He needs the vault for a new place, and he’s got to make arrangements.”

“Your client can forget about the bank vault,” he said, wiping his massive greasy hands on an already soiled napkin.

“But you can’t do that,” I said. My shock was feigned, but the restaurant owner’s jaw dropped for real.

The landlord laughed at us. “I’m the landlord. I can do what I want.”

“I’m gonna need that in writing, because my client might sue.” I said.

“Sue all you like,” the landlord told me, “sue ‘till you’re blue in the face.” He told me that I’d have a formal response by day’s end, and then he told me to go away and let him finish his lunch. When the letter arrived from the landlord, claiming ownership over the bank vault, I brought it downstairs and showed it to my client.

“How the hell did you do that?”

“Trade secret,” I said.

Worked like a charm.

The following month the restaurant moved out and the place was empty, and that was too bad, because I had always liked eating at the Vault. Now the restaurant was in a new location twenty minutes away.

They called the new place “The Vault,” and they’d preserved the vibe of the old place. It was very similar, except they didn’t have the bank vault.

The bank vault, all one hundred tons of it, was where it had always been, in the basement of the building where I rented space. I showed up for work a little after that, and Aaron collared me.

“The landlord’s looking for you,” he said.

“Oh yeah? What about?”

“He’s really angry. He said his deal fell through.”


“He was supposed to rent the place downstairs to a new tenant, a bank or a credit union or something like that. They were supposed to come in to sign a lease, but they didn’t show up.”

“And what’s that got to do with me?” I said to Aaron, and I said the same thing again to the landlord when he managed to track me down a couple of days later.

“I know you were behind this,” he said, his jowls quivering, “I know it was you. That offer from the agent, it was all nonsense. Just a trick to make me keep the vault, so that your client could sneak out of the place and leave that bank vault behind. I’m gonna sue.”

“If you’re looking for counsel, I think I’m going to have to declare a conflict.”

“I’m gonna sue the restaurant, and that agent, and I’m gonna sue you.” He stormed off.

Sure you are…

But the landlord didn’t sue. Of course he didn’t. He didn’t have a contract to sue on, only a vague letter of intent that I’d drafted, enough to hook a greedy landlord who was used to having his way.

The offer he’d received was non-binding, incapable of acceptance without the signing of a formal lease, which of course never got signed.

When I left Aaron’s place a year later, the downstairs was still unoccupied, with a sad ‘for rent’ sign sitting in the window, starting to look faded.”

Here’s how folks reacted on Reddit.

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Lawyers doing good work.

You love to see it!

If you liked that post, check out this post about a rude customer who got exactly what they wanted in their pizza.