There is a saying that lawyers get the clients they deserve. The question is whether the same applies to the clients. Probably not because Mr Lee Wo Pong, the opposite party, was a nice, clever man and you couldn’t say the same about his lawyer. Mr Kabouter conducted a general practice. He performed all kinds of cases interchangeably, which is not always a guarantee of quality.
Wo Pong has rented a shop in the Randstad conurbation from my client Torenhoog B.V. since 2001. He operates a sushi bar in the space. Jim Bello of Torenhoog phoned me. “I am at odds with a lawyer, a certain mr. Kabouter. He is demanding a rent reduction on behalf of his client Wo Pong. Wo Pong is reported to have suffered a drop in sales due to the corona measures, but I question whether this is the case.” Rightly so, as the tenant could have conducted business as usual via a distribution counter in his shop. Jim Bello said he had unsuccessfully asked mr. Kabouter to provide sales figures of his client.
“Eventually, I stopped by Wo Pong’s shop. Who told him that a small concession would be enough and that he actually wanted to sell his sushi bar. He wants to retire”. It was problematic for Wo Pong that his lease would expired within one year. Nobody would want to buy his sushi bar and agree to a substitution, if the lease ended a few months later.
Jim Bello finally managed to get in touch with mr. Kabouter. “I proposed to give Wo Pong a 25 per cent rent reduction and a new ten year lease. Then he could sell his shop.” Mr Kabouter did not understood the friendly offer and berated my client. About how Torenhoog could dare trick an elderly man into putting his head in the noose of a new lease.
I phoned mr. Kabouter to explain the matter to him, but was also lectured about pulling a trick. He said his client would not agree to the offer. Fortunately, Jim Bello managed to convince Wo Pong to find another lawyer. In other words, also a kind of substitution. The new lawyer was a tenancy law specialist. The case was settled within a few days. Not much later, Wo Pong found a buyer for his sushi bar. He could now start enjoying his retirement.
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This column ‘Substitution’ was written for Den Haag Centraal. Raymond de Mooij writes a monthly column about what he experiences in his practice.