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Is Coronavirus an ‘Act of God?’ Lawyers Say That’s Complicated

  • Force majeure clauses take spotlight in fight over retail rent
  • Leases often require payment despite unforeseen disruptions
A pedestrian walks past a closed carousel on the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, April 20.

A pedestrian walks past a closed carousel on the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, April 20.

Photographer: Holly Pickett/Bloomberg

It’s time to figure out what constitutes an “act of God.”

Lawyers’ phones have been ringing off the hook in recent weeks, as tenants and landlords grapple over rent payments with much of the U.S. economy shut down. More than $20 billion in retail rent comes due each month in the U.S., and both sides are hoping “force majeure” offers protection.