LIBRIS Ready to Help Booksellers Interpret Lease Agreements

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As numerous specialty retailers close hundreds of locations, creating empty retail space and potentially driving down retail rents, some independent bookstores may find new opportunities to renegotiate their lease or to move into a new space.

LIBRIS logoWhether a bookstore is renegotiating a mid-term lease or signing a new or renewal lease, LIBRIS, the insurance company created by the American Booksellers Association for bookstores, is ready to help booksellers protect themselves against losses and liabilities. A representative from LIBRIS can review the insurance provisions of a store’s lease agreement to make sure it includes proper protections from certain types of claims, including slip, trip, and fall incidents.

According to LIBRIS program consultant Richard Poling, when negotiating a lease, it is important to set expectations between the parties because unmet expectations can lead to claims, whereas a well-written contract will assign responsibility for problems and losses appropriately; in this way, leases can also be a company asset in the event of sale, bankruptcy, personnel change, or other major company event.

The American Booksellers Association created LIBRIS specifically to meet the needs of independent bookstores; the program offers tailored and affordable property, liability, and workers’ compensation insurance through local brokers across the country. LIBRIS has been serving this market exclusively since 1997 and understands the industry, its exposures and risks, contracts, and claims issues.

Typically, a LIBRIS analyst will look at a lease as it relates to insurance to see what is covered and determine whether the store might want to renegotiate terms of the agreement. According to Whitney Balaun, a business development specialist on the LIBRIS team, the analyst will make sure that the bookstore is not being asked by the landlord to agree to something that is unreasonable.

“We want something that both parties can agree with. We’ve seen cases where an agreement is fair and other times where it has not been,” said Balaun. “There have been cases where you could actually have a landlord asking you to cover the entire building; we are making sure you are not being asked to do something that is putting you at risk.”

Balaun said that slip, trip, and fall accidents are the type of accident claims she sees most often in her line of work.

According to Poling, coverage for slip, trip, and fall accidents is important because:

  • Your reputation is at risk. You may become a target for claims and repeat offenders.
  • The average cost of a slip and fall claim is $24,000 (source: National Safety Council).
  • Slips and falls affect your insurance premium.
  • Slips and falls are a workers compensation issue, too.
  • Slip and fall claims, when litigated, can consume your valuable time for years.

Before LIBRIS can run its analysis of claim coverage, said Balaun, the landlord will send over the lease agreement, which typically requires standard insurance coverage, including the stipulation that if there is a loss, the landlord would be named as the additional insured.

“Most landlords just request standard coverage and don’t try to [take advantage],” said Balaun, “but it is always good to know what is being asked in an agreement so the bookseller is not in a bad situation if a claim does happen.”

In slip, trip, and fall cases, the plaintiff must typically demonstrate that either the condition complained of was inherently dangerous in its construction, or that the defendants had previous notice of the condition and failed to use reasonable care in attempting to remedy it. A list of tips for preventing employee and customer trips and falls is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

If you are or become a LIBRIS policyholder, LIBRIS will review your contracts and lease insurance provisions. To find out more about LIBRIS or for a quote, contact the LIBRIS team by calling (888) 694-8585 or by e-mail at LIBRIS@Arrowheadgrp.com, or visit www.libris.org.