In the United States, the general rule about legal fees is that each party to a lawsuit pays his or her own fees. However, like any rule, there are exceptions. In the event a contract specifically provides for the payment of legal fees, or a statute allows the recovery of legal fees, the prevailing party may apply to the court for reimbursement. There is no statute in New Jersey that allows recovery of legal fees for a successful tax appeal. The tenant may only recover the fees from a landlord if the lease expressly provides for such a recovery, or if the landlord separately agrees to pay them. As the parties learned in Crosspoint Developers v. Wegmans Food Markets, the express terms of the lease can lead to unforeseen results.
Lowes, as a tenant in a retail shopping center, filed a tax appeal and was successful in getting a reduction in the assessment. Since the appeal involved an entire retail center, all tenants received the benefit of Lowe’s efforts through a reduction in their pro rata shares of taxes.