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Table of Contents
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
FORM 10-K
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
or 
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Commission file number 1-34364
 
OFFICE PROPERTIES INCOME TRUST
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter) 
Maryland26-4273474
(State of Organization)(IRS Employer Identification No.)
 
Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, MA 02458-1634
(Address of Principal Executive Offices)                                                       (Zip Code)

Registrant’s Telephone Number, Including Area Code 617-219-1440
 
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title Of Each ClassTrading Symbol(s)Name Of Each Exchange On Which Registered
Common Shares of Beneficial InterestOPIThe Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
5.875% Senior Notes due 2046OPINIThe Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
6.375% Senior Notes due 2050OPINLThe Nasdaq Stock Market LLC
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes   No 
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes    No 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes   No 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes   No 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filerAccelerated filer
 
Non-accelerated filerSmaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes   No 
The aggregate market value of the voting common shares of beneficial interest, $.01 par value, or common shares, of the registrant held by non-affiliates was approximately $1.2 billion based on the $25.97 closing price per common share on The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC on June 30, 2020. For purposes of this calculation, an aggregate of 844,032 common shares held directly by, or by affiliates of, the trustees and the executive officers of the registrant have been included in the number of common shares held by affiliates.
Number of the registrant’s common shares outstanding as of February 18, 2021: 48,318,366.
References in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to the Company, OPI, we, us or our mean Office Properties Income Trust and its consolidated subsidiaries unless otherwise expressly stated or the context indicates otherwise.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Certain information required by Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K is incorporated by reference to our definitive Proxy Statement for the 2021 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.


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Warning Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains statements that constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other securities laws. Also, whenever we use words such as “believe”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “intend”, “plan”, “estimate”, “will”, “may” and negatives or derivatives of these or similar expressions, we are making forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon our present intent, beliefs or expectations, but forward-looking statements are not guaranteed to occur and may not occur. Forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K relate to various aspects of our business, including:
The duration and severity of the economic impact resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on us and our tenants and our tenants’ ability and willingness to pay us rent,
Our expectations about the financial strength of our tenants,
The likelihood that our rents will increase when we renew or extend our leases or enter new leases,
Our belief that we are in a position to opportunistically recycle and deploy capital,
Our expectations that the diversity and other characteristics of our property portfolio and our financial resources will result in our ability to successfully withstand the current economic conditions,
The likelihood that our tenants will renew or extend their leases and not exercise early termination options pursuant to their leases or that we will obtain replacement tenants, on terms as favorable to us as our prior leases,
The likelihood that our tenants will be negatively affected by cyclical economic conditions or government budget constraints and, if so, the impact that may have on their ability and willingness to lease our properties and pay us rent,
Our ability to successfully execute our capital recycling program,
The expectation that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leasing activity may further slow or remain at a reduced level,
Our ability to pay distributions to our shareholders and to maintain or increase the amount of such distributions,
Our expectations regarding occupancy at our properties,
Our expectations regarding our future financial performance including funds from operations, or FFO, normalized funds from operations, or Normalized FFO, and net operating income, or NOI,
Our expectations regarding demand for leased space,
Our expectations regarding capital expenditures,
Our expectation that there will be opportunities for us to acquire, and that we will acquire, additional properties primarily leased to single tenants and tenants with high credit quality characteristics such as government entities,
Our ability to compete for acquisitions and tenancies effectively,
Our sales and acquisitions of properties,
Our policies and plans regarding investments, financings and dispositions,
Our ability to appropriately balance our use of debt and equity capital,
The future availability of borrowings under our revolving credit facility,
Our ability to raise debt or equity capital,
Our ability to pay interest on and principal of our debt,
Our ability to maintain sufficient liquidity during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn,
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Our credit ratings,
Our expectation that we benefit from our relationships with The RMR Group LLC, or RMR LLC,
The credit qualities of our tenants,
Our qualification for taxation as a real estate investment trust, or REIT,
Changes in federal or state tax laws, and
Other matters.
Our actual results may differ materially from those contained in or implied by our forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, some of which are beyond our control. Risks, uncertainties and other factors that could have a material adverse effect on our forward-looking statements and upon our business, results of operations, financial condition, FFO, Normalized FFO, NOI, cash flows, liquidity and prospects include, but are not limited to:
The impact of conditions in the economy, including the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, and the capital markets on us and our tenants,
Competition within the real estate industry, particularly in those markets in which our properties are located,
The impact of changes in the real estate needs and financial conditions of our tenants,
Compliance with, and changes to, federal, state and local laws and regulations, accounting rules, tax laws and similar matters,
The impact of any U.S. government shutdown on our ability to collect rents or pay our operating expenses, debt obligations and distributions to shareholders on a timely basis,
Actual and potential conflicts of interest with our related parties, including our Managing Trustees, RMR LLC and others affiliated with them,
Limitations imposed on our business and our ability to satisfy complex rules in order for us to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes, and
Acts of terrorism, outbreaks of pandemics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, or other manmade or natural disasters beyond our control.
For example:
Our ability to make future distributions to our shareholders and to make payments of principal and interest on our indebtedness depends upon a number of factors, including our receipt of rent from our tenants, our future earnings, the capital costs we incur to lease our properties and our working capital requirements. We may be unable to pay our debt obligations or to maintain our current rate of distributions on our common shares and future distributions may be reduced or eliminated,
Our ability to grow our business and increase our distributions depends in large part upon our ability to buy properties and lease them for rents, less their property operating costs, that exceed our capital costs. We may be unable to identify properties that we want to acquire, and we may fail to reach agreement with the sellers and complete the purchases of any properties we want to acquire. In addition, any properties we may acquire may not provide us with rents less property operating costs that exceed our capital costs or achieve our expected returns,
We may fail to maintain, or we may elect to change, our target payout ratio for distributions to shareholders of 75% of cash available for distribution, or CAD, or our distribution rate. Further, our Board of Trustees considers many factors when setting distribution rates, including our historical and projected income, Normalized FFO, CAD, the then current and expected needs and availability of cash to pay our obligations and fund our investments, distributions which may be required to be paid to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT and other factors deemed relevant by our Board of Trustees. Accordingly, future distribution rates may be increased or decreased and there is no assurance as to the rate at which future distributions will be paid,
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We expect to selectively sell properties from time to time when we determine our continued ownership or ongoing required capital expenditures will not achieve desired returns or when we believe we can successfully pursue more desirable opportunities than retaining those properties. We cannot be sure we will sell any of these properties or what the terms of any sales may be nor that we will acquire replacement properties that improve our asset quality or our ability to increase our distributions to shareholders,
We may not succeed in maintaining our leverage consistent with our current investment grade ratings or levels that the market or credit rating agencies believe are appropriate,
Some of our tenants may not renew expiring leases or they may exercise their rights, if any, to vacate their space before the stated expirations of their leases, and we may be unable to obtain new tenants to maintain or increase the historical occupancy rates of, or rents from, our properties,
Rents that we can charge at our properties may decline upon renewals or expirations because of changing market conditions or otherwise,
Leasing for some of our properties depends on a private sector single tenant and we may be adversely affected by the bankruptcy, insolvency, a downturn of business or a lease termination of such single tenant,
Our belief that there is a likelihood that tenants may renew or extend our leases prior to their expirations whenever they have made significant investments in the leased properties, or because those properties may be of strategic importance to them, may not be realized,
Overall new leasing volume may decrease more than we currently expect. In addition, if the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic conditions continue for an extended period or worsen, our tenants may become unable to pay rent or they may elect to not renew their leases with us. Further, some of our government leases provide the tenant with certain rights to terminate their lease early. Budgetary and other fiscal pressures may result in some governmental tenants terminating their leases early or not renewing their leases. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in workplace practices, including increased remote work arrangements. To the extent those practices become permanent or increased, leasing demand for office space may decline. As a result of these factors, our tenant retention levels could decline,
Our belief that we are well positioned to opportunistically recycle and deploy capital may not be realized. We may fail to identify and execute on opportunities to deploy capital and any deployment of capital we may make may not result in the returns that we expect,
Our perception that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, government tenants may seek to manage space utilization rates in order to provide greater physical distancing for employees, may prove incorrect,
Our perception that recent activity prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic suggested that the government had begun to shift its leasing strategy to include longer term leases and that the government was actively exploring 10 to 20 year lease terms at renewal, in some instances, may mistakenly imply that these activities are indicative of a trend or broader change in government leasing strategy or practices that will recommence after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Further, even if such a trend or change were to recommence, that trend or change may not be sustained by the government,
Contingencies in our acquisition and sale agreements may not be satisfied and any expected acquisitions and sales and any related lease arrangements we expect to enter may not occur, may be delayed or the terms of such transactions or arrangements may change,
We expect to pursue accretively growing our property portfolio. However, we may not succeed in making acquisitions that are accretive and future acquisitions could be dilutive,
The competitive advantages we believe we have may not in fact exist or provide us with the advantages we expect. We may fail to maintain any of these advantages or our competition may obtain or increase their competitive advantages relative to us,
We intend to conduct our business activities in a manner that will afford us reasonable access to capital for investment and financing activities. However, we may not succeed in this regard and we may not have reasonable access to capital,
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Continued availability of borrowings under our revolving credit facility is subject to our satisfying certain financial covenants and other credit facility conditions that we may be unable to satisfy,
Actual costs under our revolving credit facility will be higher than LIBOR plus a premium because of fees and expenses associated with such debt,
The interest rates payable under our floating rate debt obligations depend upon our credit ratings. If our credit ratings are downgraded, our borrowing costs will increase,
Our ability to access debt capital and the cost of our debt capital will depend in part on our credit ratings. If our credit ratings are downgraded, we may not be able to access debt capital or the debt capital we can access may be expensive,
We may be unable to repay our debt obligations when they become due,
The maximum borrowing availability under our revolving credit facility may be increased to up to $1.95 billion in certain circumstances; however, increasing the maximum borrowing availability under our revolving credit facility is subject to our obtaining additional commitments from lenders, which may not occur,
We have the option to extend the maturity date of our revolving credit facility upon payment of a fee and meeting other conditions; however, the applicable conditions may not be met,
We may incur significant costs to prepare a property for tenancy, particularly for single tenant properties,
We may spend more for capital expenditures than we currently expect,
We may fail to obtain development rights or entitlements that we may seek for development and other projects we may wish to conduct at our properties,
Our existing joint venture arrangements and any other joint venture arrangements that we may enter may not be successful,
We believe that we are well positioned to weather the present disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic facing the real estate industry and the economy generally. However, the full extent of the future impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown and we may not realize similar or better operating results in the future,
We believe that the near term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to us will not be material due to the strength of our tenant base. However, if the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic conditions continue for an extended period of time or worsen, our tenants may be significantly adversely impacted, which may result in those tenants seeking relief from their rent obligations, their inability to pay rent, the termination of their leases or our tenants not renewing their leases or renewing their leases for less space. Therefore, the impact we experience in the near term may be worse than we currently expect and our results of operations and financial position may be negatively affected,
We have granted requests to some of our tenants to defer payments over, in most cases, a 12-month period, certain of which commenced in 2020. However, current market and economic conditions may deteriorate further and the rent assistance granted by us may not be sufficient to ensure that tenants will be able to meet their rent payment obligations under their leases with us, which may result in an increase in tenant defaults and terminations,
The business and property management agreements between us and RMR LLC have continuing 20 year terms. However, those agreements permit early termination in certain circumstances. Accordingly, we cannot be sure that these agreements will remain in effect for continuing 20 year terms,
We believe that our relationships with our related parties, including RMR LLC and others affiliated with them, may benefit us and provide us with competitive advantages in operating and growing our business. However, the advantages we believe we may realize from these relationships may not materialize, and
It is difficult to accurately estimate leasing related obligations and costs of property repositioning, development and tenant improvement costs. Our unspent leasing related obligations and development costs may cost more and may take longer to complete than we currently expect, and we may incur increased amounts for these and similar purposes in the future.
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Currently unexpected results could occur due to many different circumstances, some of which are beyond our control, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, changes in our tenants’ needs for leased space, the ability of the government to approve spending bills to fund the their obligations, acts of terrorism, natural disasters or changes in capital markets or the economy generally.
The information contained elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K or in our other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, including under the caption “Risk Factors”, or incorporated herein or therein, identifies other important factors that could cause differences from our forward-looking statements. Our filings with the SEC are available on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.
You should not place undue reliance upon our forward-looking statements.
Except as required by law, we do not intend to update or change any forward-looking statements as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Statement Concerning Limited Liability
The amended and restated declaration of trust establishing Office Properties Income Trust, dated June 8, 2009, as amended, as filed with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation of Maryland, provides that no trustee, officer, shareholder, employee or agent of Office Properties Income Trust shall be held to any personal liability, jointly or severally, for any obligation of, or claim against, Office Properties Income Trust. All persons dealing with Office Properties Income Trust in any way shall look only to the assets of Office Properties Income Trust for the payment of any sum or the performance of any obligation.

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OFFICE PROPERTIES INCOME TRUST
2020 FORM 10-K ANNUAL REPORT
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PART I
Item 1. Business
Our Company
We are a real estate investment trust, or REIT, formed in 2009 under Maryland law. As of December 31, 2020, our wholly owned properties were comprised of 181 properties containing approximately 24.9 million rentable square feet (all square footage amounts included within this Annual Report on Form 10-K are unaudited) and we had noncontrolling ownership interests in three properties through two unconsolidated joint ventures in which we own 51% and 50% interests. As of December 31, 2020, our properties have an undepreciated carrying value of approximately $3.5 billion and a depreciated carrying value of approximately $3.1 billion, excluding properties classified as held for sale. As of December 31, 2020, our properties were leased to 349 different tenants, with a weighted average remaining lease term (based on annualized rental income) of approximately 5.1 years. The U.S. government is our largest tenant, representing approximately 25.2% of our annualized rental income as of December 31, 2020. The term annualized rental income as used herein is defined as the annualized contractual base rents from our tenants pursuant to our lease agreements as of December 31, 2020, plus straight line rent adjustments and estimated recurring expense reimbursements to be paid to us, and excluding lease value amortization.
Our principal executive offices are located at Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, Massachusetts 02458-1634, and our telephone number is (617) 219-1440.
COVID-19 Pandemic
In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic and, in response to the outbreak, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary declared a public health emergency in the United States and many states and municipalities declared public health emergencies. Various governmental responses attempting to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus have negatively impacted, and continue to negatively impact, the global economy, including the U.S. economy.
To varying degrees, states and municipalities across the United States have generally allowed most businesses to re-open and have generally eased restrictions they had previously implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, often in stages that are phased in over time, although some states and municipalities have recently re-imposed certain restrictions in response to increases in COVID-19 infections. Economic data have indicated that the U.S. economy has improved since the lowest periods experienced in March and April 2020, although the U.S. gross domestic product remains below pre-pandemic levels. It is unclear whether the increases in the number of COVID-19 infections will continue or amplify, or whether the vaccines and other therapeutic treatments for COVID-19 that currently are or may become available will be successful in slowing or ending the pandemic. If the COVID-19 pandemic continues and vaccines and other therapeutic treatments do not become widely available or are not effective, we expect that there will continue to be adverse effects on human health and safety, the economy and our business.
Our business is focused on leasing office space to primarily single tenants and those with high credit quality characteristics such as government entities. Although, to date, the COVID-19 pandemic has not had a significant impact on our business, we have received requests from some of our tenants for rent assistance. As of February 16, 2021, we have granted temporary rent assistance totaling $2.5 million to 19 tenants who represent approximately 3.3% of our annualized rental income as of December 31, 2020. This assistance generally entails a deferral of, in most cases, one month of rent pursuant to deferred payment plans which require the deferred rent amounts be payable over a 12-month period, certain of which commenced in 2020. As of February 16, 2021, we have collected $2.0 million, or 78.5%, of our granted rent deferrals.
We continue to closely monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all aspects of our business, including:
our tenants and their ability to withstand the current economic conditions and continue to pay us rent;
our operations, liquidity and capital needs and resources;
conducting financial modeling and sensitivity analyses;
actively communicating with our tenants and other key constituents and stakeholders in order to help assess market conditions, opportunities and best practices and mitigate risks and potential adverse impacts;
monitoring applicable states and municipalities to which we lease property and their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown, including budgetary impacts; and
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monitoring, with the assistance of counsel and other specialists, possible government relief funding sources and other programs that may be available to us or our tenants to enable us and them to operate through the current economic conditions and enhance our tenants’ ability to pay us rent.
We believe that our current financial resources, the characteristics of our portfolio, including the diversity of our tenant base, both geographically and by industry, and the financial strength and resources of our tenants, will enable us to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic and perhaps present opportunities for us to strategically deploy our capital. As of February 18, 2021, we had:
$750.0 million of availability under our revolving credit facility;
no significant debt maturities until 2022; and
64.8% of our annualized rental income, as of December 31, 2020, derived from investment grade tenants (as described below).
We do not have any employees and the personnel and various services we require to operate our business are provided to us by The RMR Group LLC, or RMR LLC, pursuant to our business and property management agreements with RMR LLC. RMR LLC has implemented enhanced cleaning protocols and social distancing guidelines at its corporate headquarters and its regional offices, as well as business continuity plans to ensure RMR LLC employees remain safe and able to support us and other companies managed by RMR LLC or its subsidiaries, including providing appropriate information technology such as notebook computers, smart phones, computer applications, information technology security applications and technology support.
With respect to our properties, RMR LLC has implemented protocols and procedures at our properties based on recommended guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other regulatory agencies for the purpose of mitigating the potential for spreading of COVID-19 infections. All RMR LLC property management and engineering personnel have been trained on COVID-19 precaution procedures and RMR LLC’s property management teams have also established business continuity plans to ensure operational stability at our properties. Included among the protocols and procedures implemented by RMR LLC are the following:
sanitizing high touch points in common areas and restrooms;
shutting down certain building amenities;
prudently managing the execution or deferment of tenant work orders to limit RMR LLC staff and tenant interactions at our properties;
installing signage throughout our properties with social distancing reminders;
making changes to certain building HVAC systems and equipment, including adjusting outdoor air control programs to increase the amount of outside air delivered to interior spaces and to adjust control sequences to maintain space relative humidity in order to help minimize the concentration of the virus;
flushing domestic water systems to prepare for re-occupancy;
performing service calls and preventative maintenance after business hours to limit social interactions;
requiring vendors to follow best practices under COVID-19 pandemic conditions, including providing RMR LLC with documented preventative measures for vendors’ employees and requiring vendors’ staff to wear appropriate personal protective equipment when working at our properties; and
altering cleaning schedules to perform vacuuming at times intended to reduce the potential airborne spread of the virus.
Additionally, as our properties experience lower tenant utilization rates, RMR LLC has worked to reduce and optimize our operating costs at our properties by:
deferring non-emergency work;
implementing energy reduction protocols for lighting and HVAC systems;
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reducing non-essential building services and staff; and
reducing the frequency of trash removal.
RMR LLC has significantly reduced all non-essential work travel and its regional leadership personnel have not been allowed to work in the same locations at the same time. RMR LLC also requires its employees who work at our properties to use personal protective equipment and business continuity bonus payments have been provided to certain essential workers at our properties. RMR LLC’s regional management offices are currently limiting walk-in visitors and maintaining maximum office occupancy limits as required by state and local guidelines, including weekly rotations of employees as needed.
There are extensive uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. These uncertainties include among others:
the duration and severity of the negative economic impact;
the strength and sustainability of any economic recovery;
the timing and process for how federal, state and local governments and other market participants may oversee and conduct the return of economic activity when the COVID-19 pandemic abates, such as what continuing restrictions and protective measures may remain in place or be added and what restrictions and protective measures may be lifted or reduced in order to foster a return of increased economic activity in the United States; and
the responses of governments, businesses and the general public to any increased level or rates of COVID-19 infections.
As a result of these uncertainties, we are unable to determine what the ultimate impact will be on our, our tenants’ and other stakeholders’ businesses, operations, financial results and financial position. For more information and risks relating to the COVID-19 pandemic on us and our business, see Part I, Item 1A, “Risk Factors” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Merger with Select Income REIT
On December 31, 2018, we completed our acquisition of Select Income REIT, or SIR, a REIT that owned properties primarily net leased to single tenants, pursuant to a merger transaction, or the SIR Merger. As a result of the SIR Merger, we acquired SIR’s property portfolio of 99 properties with approximately 16.5 million rentable square feet.
The aggregate transaction value was approximately $2.4 billion, excluding closing costs of approximately $27.5 million ($14.5 million of which was paid by us and $13.0 million of which was paid by SIR) and including the repayment or assumption of approximately $1.7 billion of SIR debt. For more information regarding the SIR Merger, see Notes 1, 3, 6, 11 and 12 to the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Our Business Strategy
Our business plan is to focus on owning, operating and leasing properties primarily leased to single tenants and those with high credit quality characteristics such as government entities. We seek to maintain our properties, extend or enter new leases as leases approach expiration as well as enter new leases for our vacant space and selectively acquire additional properties.
As our current lease expirations approach, we will attempt to renew our leases with existing tenants or to enter leases with new tenants, in both circumstances at rents equal to or higher than the rents we now receive. Our ability to renew leases with our existing tenants or to enter new leases with new tenants and the rents we are able to charge will depend in large part upon market conditions which are generally beyond our control. For our properties that are leased to single tenants, because of the capital improvements in which many of these tenants have invested and because many of our properties that are leased to single tenants appear to have strategic importance to the tenants’ businesses, we believe that there is a greater likelihood that these tenants will renew or extend their leases when they expire as compared to tenants that have not invested capital into a property or where the property location may not be strategic to its business. However, we also believe that if a property previously occupied by a single tenant becomes vacant, it may take longer and cost more to locate a replacement tenant than compared to space for lease in a multi-tenant property because in place improvements designed specifically for the needs of the prior single tenant may not suit a replacement tenant’s needs.
We expect to selectively sell properties from time to time when we determine our continued ownership or ongoing required capital expenditures will not achieve desired returns or when we believe we can successfully pursue more desirable opportunities than retaining those properties. We also expect to use sales proceeds to acquire new properties that we believe
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will help us reduce the average age of our properties, lengthen our weighted average lease term, reduce our ongoing capital requirements and/or increase our distributions to shareholders. We refer to this as our capital recycling program.
Our Growth Strategy
Our internal growth strategy is to attempt to increase the rents we receive from our current properties and to increase occupancy by leasing vacant space. To achieve rent or occupancy increases we may invest in our properties through repositionings, development or improvements requested by existing tenants or to induce lease renewals or new tenant leases when our current leases expire or vacant space is leased. However, as noted above, our ability to increase occupancy or to maintain or increase the rents we receive from our current properties will depend in large part upon market conditions, many of which are beyond our control.
Our external growth strategy is defined by our investment policies, including our capital recycling program, and our acquisition, disposition and financing policies. 
Our Investment Policies
Our primary investment objectives include acquiring properties that produce yields that are greater than the yields of properties we are disposing in connection with our capital recycling program, as well as acquiring properties with yields that are greater than our cost of capital, with a goal of (1) improving the asset quality of our portfolio by reducing the average age of our properties, lengthening the weighted average term of our leases and increasing the likelihood of retaining our tenants, and (2) increasing our distributions to shareholders. To achieve these objectives, we seek to: (a) invest in institutional quality properties with high credit quality tenants; (b) use proceeds from our capital recycling program to fund additional investments and to maintain leverage consistent with our current investment grade ratings; (c) when market conditions permit, refinance debt with long term debt or additional equity; and (d) pursue diversification so that our cash flow from operations comes from diverse properties and tenants.
Acquisition Policies. We currently intend to focus our investments primarily in U.S. office properties in markets we believe have strong economic fundamentals to support growth, including (1) properties leased to single tenants that are strategic to the tenants and which may include built-to-suit properties, specialty uses, corporate headquarters and properties where tenants have invested meaningful capital, with a minimum remaining lease term of at least seven years and (2) properties leased to government tenants, including single and multi-tenant properties, with a focus on agencies that have high security needs or a mission strategic to the properties’ location. We also expect to seek investments primarily in first generation properties where we believe there is a reasonably high likelihood of renewing the tenants in place and where we expect ongoing capital needs to be relatively modest when compared to older properties.
We expect to use the extensive nationwide resources of our manager, RMR LLC, to locate and manage the acquisition of such properties. We expect most of our future acquisitions will be office properties; however, we may consider acquiring other types of properties, including properties with specialty uses and properties which have a mix of retail or housing uses, or acquiring properties with the purpose of redeveloping them in conjunction with properties we own. We also expect to further diversify our sources of rents, which we expect would improve the security of our revenues.
In implementing our acquisition strategy, we consider a range of factors relating to proposed property purchases including:
the return on the properties being sold to finance any acquisition or redevelopment compared to the projected returns we may realize by owning the property we would acquire or redevelop;
our cost of capital compared to the projected returns we may realize by owning the property;
the pricing of comparable properties as evidenced by recent arm’s length market sales;
the strategic fit of the property with the rest of our properties and how it may strategically improve key attributes of our portfolio;
the ongoing and expected capital requirements for the property;
the market location of the property and our assessment of rent growth for that market;
the likelihood of the tenant(s) renewing at lease expiration;
the type of property (e.g., single tenant or multi-tenant, etc.);
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the growth, tax and regulatory environments of the market in which the property is located;
the occupancy and demand for similar properties in the same or nearby markets;
the current or potential market position of the property;
the historic and projected rents received and likely to be received from the property;
the historic and expected operating expenses, incurred and expected to be incurred at the property;
the remaining term of the lease(s) at the property and other lease terms;
the industry(ies) in which the tenant(s) operate;
the experience and credit quality of the property’s tenant(s);
the current and expected future space utilization at the property by its tenant(s);
the construction quality, physical condition, age and design of the property;
the use and size of the property;
the price at which the property may be acquired or redeveloped;
the estimated replacement cost of the property; and
the existence of alternative sources, uses or needs for our capital, including our debt leverage.
Other Acquisitions. We prefer wholly owned investments in fee interests. However, we may invest in leaseholds, joint ventures, mortgages and other real estate interests. We currently own 51% and 50% interests in two unconsolidated joint ventures. In the future, we may invest in or enter into additional real estate joint ventures if we conclude that by doing so we may benefit from the participation of co-venturers, or that our opportunity to participate in the investment is contingent on the use of a joint venture structure or that pre-existing joint venture arrangements may be part of an acquisition we wish to make. We may invest in participating, convertible or other types of mortgages if we conclude that by doing so, we may benefit from the cash flow or appreciation in the value of a property which is not available for purchase.
We have in the past considered, and may in the future consider, the possibility of entering into mergers or strategic combinations with other companies. The principal goals of any such transaction will be to increase our cash flow from operations and to further diversify our revenue sources.
We have no policies which specifically limit the percentage of our assets that may be invested in any individual property, in any one type of property, in properties managed by or leased to any one entity, in properties managed by or leased to any affiliated group of entities or in securities of one or more other persons.
Our Board of Trustees may change our acquisition policies without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders.
Disposition Policies. We expect to sell properties, from time to time, in order to recycle capital into properties that we believe have better long term earnings potential. We make disposition decisions based on a number of factors including, but not limited to, the following:
the estimated sales price or value we may receive by selling the property;
the capital required to maintain the property;
our intended use of the proceeds we may realize from the sale of a property;
our expectation regarding tenant lease renewals or the likelihood of finding (a) replacement tenant(s) if the property has significant vacancies or is likely to become substantially vacant;
our evaluation of future rent for the property relative to leasing costs;
the strategic fit of the property or investment with the rest of our portfolio;
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the remaining length of the current lease(s) and its (their) other terms;
the potential costs associated with finding replacement tenant(s), including tenant improvements, leasing commissions and concessions, the cost to operate the property while vacant and building improvement capital, as compared to our projected returns from future rents;
the occupancy of the property;
the future expected space utilization of the tenant(s) and the potential impact that may have on occupancy at the property;
whether the property’s tenant(s) is (are) current on its (their) lease obligation(s);
our evaluation of the property’s tenant(s) ability to pay its (their) contractual rents;
the tax implications to us and our shareholders of any proposed dispositions;
our financial position and needs from time to time; and
the existence of alternative sources, uses or needs for capital, including our debt leverage.
Our Board of Trustees may change our disposition policies without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders.
Our Financing Policies
To qualify for taxation as a REIT under the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the IRC, we must distribute at least 90% of our annual REIT taxable income (excluding net capital gains). Accordingly, we generally will not be able to retain sufficient cash to fund our operations, repay our debts, invest in our properties and fund acquisitions and development and redevelopment efforts. We expect to use proceeds from our capital recycling program to fund acquisitions and development and redevelopment efforts and to maintain leverage consistent with our current investment grade ratings. We also expect to repay our debts, invest in our properties and fund acquisitions and development and redevelopment efforts with borrowings under our revolving credit facility (as defined below), proceeds from debt or equity securities we may issue or retained cash from operations that may exceed our distributions paid. To the extent we obtain additional debt financing, we may do so on an unsecured or a secured basis. We may seek to obtain lines of credit or to issue securities senior to our common shares, including preferred shares or debt securities, which may be convertible into our common shares or be accompanied by warrants to purchase our common shares. We may also finance acquisitions by assuming debt or through the issuance of equity or other securities. The proceeds from any of our financings may be used to pay distributions, to provide working capital, to refinance existing indebtedness or to finance acquisitions, developments or redevelopments of existing or new properties.
Although there are no limitations in our organizational documents on the type or amount of indebtedness we may incur, the borrowing limitations established by the covenants in the credit agreement governing our revolving credit facility, or our credit agreement, and our senior unsecured notes indentures and their supplements currently restrict our ability to incur indebtedness and require us to comply with certain financial and other covenants. However, we may seek to amend these covenants or seek replacement financings with less restrictive covenants. In the future, we may decide to seek changes in the financial covenants which currently restrict our debt leverage based upon then current economic conditions, the relative availability and costs of debt versus equity capital and our need for capital to take advantage of acquisition opportunities or otherwise.
We currently have a $750.0 million unsecured revolving credit facility, or our revolving credit facility, that we use for working capital and general business purposes, including to fund acquisitions and development or redevelopment efforts on an interim basis until we may refinance with equity or term debt. In some instances, we may assume outstanding mortgage debt in connection with our acquisitions or place new mortgages on properties we own. For more information regarding our financing sources and activities, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Investment and Financing Liquidity and Resources” included in Part II, Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Generally, we intend to manage our leverage in a way that may allow us to maintain “investment grade” ratings from nationally recognized rating organizations. However, we cannot be sure that we will be able to maintain our investment grade ratings in the future.
Our Board of Trustees may change our financing policies at any time without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders.
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Other Information
Employees. We have no employees. Services which would otherwise be provided to us by employees are provided by RMR LLC and by our Managing Trustees and officers. As of December 31, 2020, RMR LLC had over 600 full time employees in its headquarters and regional offices located throughout the United States.
Our Manager. The RMR Group Inc., or RMR Inc., is a holding company and substantially all of its business is conducted by its majority owned subsidiary, RMR LLC. The Chair of our Board of Trustees and one of our Managing Trustees, Adam D. Portnoy, is the sole trustee, an officer and the controlling shareholder of ABP Trust, which is the controlling shareholder of RMR Inc., a managing director and the president and chief executive officer of RMR Inc. and an officer and employee of RMR LLC. David Blackman resigned as our President and Chief Executive Officer, effective December 31, 2020. However, Mr. Blackman will continue as our Managing Trustee until June 30, 2021 or such earlier date as his successor Managing Trustee is elected to our Board. In replacement of Mr. Blackman, Christopher J. Bilotto was appointed as our President and Chief Operating Officer, effective January 1, 2021. Mr. Bilotto previously served as our Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and he is an officer and employee of RMR LLC. Our day to day operations are conducted by RMR LLC. RMR LLC originates and presents investment and divestment opportunities to our Board of Trustees and provides management and administrative services to us. RMR LLC has a principal place of business at Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, Massachusetts 02458-1634, and its telephone number is (617) 796-8390.
RMR LLC or its subsidiaries also act as the manager to Diversified Healthcare Trust, or DHC, Industrial Logistics Properties Trust, or ILPT, RMR Mortgage Trust (formerly known as RMR Real Estate Income Fund), or RMRM, Service Properties Trust, or SVC, and Tremont Mortgage Trust, or TRMT, and provides management and other services to other private and public companies, including Five Star Senior Living Inc., or Five Star, TravelCenters of America Inc., or TA, and Sonesta International Hotels Corporation, or Sonesta. As of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the executive officers of RMR LLC are: Adam D. Portnoy, President and Chief Executive Officer; Jennifer B. Clark, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary; Jennifer F. Francis, Executive Vice President, Matthew P. Jordan, Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer; John G. Murray, Executive Vice President; and Jonathan M. Pertchik, Executive Vice President. Our President and Chief Operating Officer, Christopher J. Bilotto is a Senior Vice President of RMR LLC. Our Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, Matthew C. Brown, is also a Senior Vice President of RMR LLC. Other officers of RMR LLC also serve as officers of other companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide management services.
Sustainability. In reaction to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the U.S. government has instituted “green lease” policies which include the “Promotion of Energy Efficiency and Use of Renewable Energy” as one of the factors it considers when leasing property. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 also allows the General Services Administration, or GSA, to give preference to properties for lease that have received an “ENERGY STAR” certification. The ENERGY STAR program is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy which is focused on promoting energy efficient products and properties. Properties that reach a specified level of energy efficiency may receive the ENERGY STAR recognition for a period of 12 months before the requirement that they be recertified. Furthermore, certain properties are not eligible for ENERGY STAR certification. For example, lab uses, medical office properties and properties less than 50% occupied cannot be ENERGY STAR certified. As of February 16, 2021, we have submitted 46 of our properties containing an aggregate of 6.5 million rentable square feet (31.9% and 34.4% of our eligible properties and eligible rentable square feet, respectively) for consideration for ENERGY STAR certification. Of the 46 properties submitted for consideration, 31 have been awarded and none have been denied.
The U.S. Government’s “green lease” policies also permit government tenants to require Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED®, designation in selecting new premises or renewing leases at existing premises. The LEED® designation program is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization focused on promoting environmental sustainability for the built environment. Properties that reach specified levels of sustainability may receive a LEED® designation. As of December 31, 2020, 28 of our properties with an aggregate of 4.5 million rentable square feet (15.5% and 18.2% of our total properties and total rentable square feet, respectively) were LEED® designated.
In an effort to reduce the effects of any increased energy costs in the future, we continuously study ways to improve the energy efficiency at all of our properties. Our property manager, RMR LLC, is a member of the “ENERGY STAR” partner program, and a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. We believe our effort to obtain additional ENERGY STAR labels and/or LEED® designations and manage our properties in a sustainable manner benefits our business while also bettering the environment. For more information, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—The U.S. Government’s “green lease” policies may adversely affect us” included in Part I, Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Additionally, in July 2020, RMR LLC released its first annual Sustainability Report, which summarizes the environmental, social and governance initiatives RMR LLC and its client companies, including OPI, employ. RMR LLC’s Sustainability
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Report may be accessed on RMR Inc.’s website at www.rmrgroup.com/corporate-sustainability/default.aspx. The information on or accessible through RMR Inc.’s website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Environmental Matters. Ownership of real estate is subject to risks associated with environmental matters. When we acquire properties we perform environmental site assessments and where there are concerns we do additional monitoring and periodic assessments. We require our tenants to maintain compliance with environmental laws and we also monitor any known conditions. Although we do not believe that there are environmental conditions at any of our properties that will materially and adversely affect us, we cannot be sure that such conditions or costs we may be required to incur in the future to address environmental contamination will not materially and adversely affect us.
Competition. Investing in and operating real estate properties is a highly competitive business. We compete against publicly traded and private REITs, numerous financial institutions, individuals and public and private companies, including entities funded by both domestic and foreign capital, who are actively engaged in this business. Some of our competitors may have greater financial and other resources, or lower costs of capital than us. Also, we compete for investments based on a number of factors, including purchase prices, closing terms, underwriting criteria and our and RMR LLC’s reputations. Our ability to successfully compete is also materially impacted by the availability and cost of capital to us. We do not believe we have a dominant position in any of the geographic markets in which we operate, but some of our competitors are dominant in selected markets. We believe the experience and abilities of our management and our manager, the quality of our properties, the diversity and credit qualities of our tenants, and the structure of our leases may afford us some competitive advantages and allow us to operate our business successfully despite the competitive nature of our business. For additional information about competition and other risks associated with our business, see “Risk Factors” included in Part I, Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Leases. We have leases with government entities, including the U.S. government, state governments and other government tenants as well as non-government tenants. Some of our leases allow government and non-government tenants to vacate the leased premises before the stated expirations of their leases with little or no liability, or with penalty, by exercising early termination rights. For additional information about tenants’ rights to terminate leases early, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—Some tenants have the right to terminate their leases prior to their lease expiration date and changes in our tenants’ requirements for leased space may adversely affect us.” included in Part I, Item 1A and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Overview—Property Operations” included in Part II, Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Other Matters. Legislative and regulatory developments may occur at the federal, state and local levels that have direct or indirect impact on the ownership, leasing and operation of our properties. We may need to make expenditures, to the extent these costs are not paid by our tenants, due to changes in government regulations, or the application of such regulations to our properties, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, fire and safety regulations, building codes, land use regulations or environmental regulations on containment, abatement or removal.
Segment Information. As of December 31, 2020, we had one operating segment: direct ownership of real estate properties. For more information, see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included in Part II, Item 7 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K and our Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Internet Website. Our internet website address is www.opireit.com. Copies of our governance guidelines, our code of business conduct and ethics, or our Code of Conduct, and the charters of our audit, compensation and nominating and governance committees are posted on our website and also may be obtained free of charge by writing to our Secretary, Office Properties Income Trust, Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, Massachusetts, 02458-1634. We also have a policy outlining procedures for handling concerns or complaints about accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters and a governance hotline accessible on our website that shareholders can use to report concerns or complaints about accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters or violations or possible violations of our Code of Conduct. We make available, free of charge, through the “Investors” section of our website, our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after these forms are filed with, or furnished to, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. Any material we file with or furnish to the SEC is also maintained on the SEC website, www.sec.gov. Securityholders may send communications to our Board of Trustees or individual Trustees by writing to the party for whom the communication is intended at c/o Secretary, Office Properties Income Trust, Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, Massachusetts 02458-1634 or by email at secretary@opireit.com. Our website address is included several times in this Annual Report on Form 10-K as a textual reference only. The information on or accessible through our website is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K or other documents we file with, or furnish to, the SEC. We intend to use our website as a means
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of disclosing material non-public information and for complying with our disclosure obligations under Regulation FD. Those disclosures will be included on our website in the “Investors” section. Accordingly, investors should monitor our website, in addition to following our press releases, SEC filings and public conference calls and webcasts.
MATERIAL UNITED STATES FEDERAL INCOME TAX CONSIDERATIONS
The following summary of material United States federal income tax considerations is based on existing law and is limited to investors who own our shares as investment assets rather than as inventory or as property used in a trade or business. The summary does not discuss all of the particular tax considerations that might be relevant to you if you are subject to special rules under federal income tax law, for example if you are:

a bank, insurance company or other financial institution;
a regulated investment company or REIT;
a subchapter S corporation;
a broker, dealer or trader in securities or foreign currencies;
a person who marks-to-market our shares for U.S. federal income tax purposes;
a U.S. shareholder (as defined below) that has a functional currency other than the U.S. dollar;
a person who acquires or owns our shares in connection with employment or other performance of services;
a person subject to alternative minimum tax;
a person who acquires or owns our shares as part of a straddle, hedging transaction, constructive sale transaction, constructive ownership transaction or conversion transaction, or as part of a “synthetic security” or other integrated financial transaction;
a person who owns 10% or more (by vote or value, directly or constructively under the IRC) of any class of our shares;
a U.S. expatriate;
a non-U.S. shareholder (as defined below) whose investment in our shares is effectively connected with the conduct of a trade or business in the United States;
a nonresident alien individual present in the United States for 183 days or more during an applicable taxable year;
a “qualified shareholder” (as defined in Section 897(k)(3)(A) of the IRC);
a “qualified foreign pension fund” (as defined in Section 897(l)(2) of the IRC) or any entity wholly owned by one or more qualified foreign pension funds;
a person subject to special tax accounting rules as a result of their use of applicable financial statements (within the meaning of Section 451(b)(3) of the IRC); or
except as specifically described in the following summary, a trust, estate, tax-exempt entity or foreign person.
The sections of the IRC that govern the federal income tax qualification and treatment of a REIT and its shareholders are complex. This presentation is a summary of applicable IRC provisions, related rules and regulations, and administrative and judicial interpretations, all of which are subject to change, possibly with retroactive effect. Future legislative, judicial or administrative actions or decisions could also affect the accuracy of statements made in this summary. We have not received a ruling from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or the IRS, with respect to any matter described in this summary, and we cannot be sure that the IRS or a court will agree with all of the statements made in this summary. The IRS could, for example, take a different position from that described in this summary with respect to our acquisitions, operations, valuations, restructurings or other matters, which, if a court agreed, could result in significant tax liabilities for applicable parties. In addition, this summary is not exhaustive of all possible tax considerations and does not discuss any estate, gift, state, local or foreign tax considerations. For all these reasons, we urge you and any holder of or prospective acquiror of our shares to consult with a tax advisor about the federal income tax and other tax consequences of the acquisition, ownership and disposition of our shares. Our intentions and beliefs described in this summary are based upon our understanding of applicable laws and regulations that
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are in effect as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. If new laws or regulations are enacted which impact us directly or indirectly, we may change our intentions or beliefs.
Your federal income tax consequences generally will differ depending on whether or not you are a “U.S. shareholder.” For purposes of this summary, a “U.S. shareholder” is a beneficial owner of our shares that is:
an individual who is a citizen or resident of the United States, including an alien individual who is a lawful permanent resident of the United States or meets the substantial presence residency test under the federal income tax laws;
an entity treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes that is created or organized in or under the laws of the United States, any state thereof or the District of Columbia;
an estate the income of which is subject to federal income taxation regardless of its source; or
a trust if a court within the United States is able to exercise primary supervision over the administration of the trust and one or more U.S. persons have the authority to control all substantial decisions of the trust, or, to the extent provided in Treasury regulations, a trust in existence on August 20, 1996 that has elected to be treated as a domestic trust;
whose status as a U.S. shareholder is not overridden by an applicable tax treaty. Conversely, a “non-U.S. shareholder” is a beneficial owner of our shares that is not an entity (or other arrangement) treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes and is not a U.S. shareholder.
If any entity (or other arrangement) treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes holds our shares, the tax treatment of a partner in the partnership generally will depend upon the tax status of the partner and the activities of the partnership. Any entity (or other arrangement) treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes that is a holder of our shares and the partners in such a partnership (as determined for federal income tax purposes) are urged to consult their own tax advisors about the federal income tax consequences and other tax consequences of the acquisition, ownership and disposition of our shares.
Taxation as a REIT
We have elected to be taxed as a REIT under Sections 856 through 860 of the IRC, commencing with our 2009 taxable year. Our REIT election, assuming continuing compliance with the then applicable qualification tests, has continued and will continue in effect for subsequent taxable years. Although we cannot be sure, we believe that from and after our 2009 taxable year we have been organized and have operated, and will continue to be organized and to operate, in a manner that qualified us and will continue to qualify us to be taxed as a REIT under the IRC.
As a REIT, we generally are not subject to federal income tax on our net income distributed as dividends to our shareholders. Distributions to our shareholders generally are included in our shareholders’ income as dividends to the extent of our available current or accumulated earnings and profits. Our dividends are not generally entitled to the preferential tax rates on qualified dividend income, but a portion of our dividends may be treated as capital gain dividends or as qualified dividend income, all as explained below. In addition, for taxable years beginning before 2026 and pursuant to the deduction-without-outlay mechanism of Section 199A of the IRC, our noncorporate U.S. shareholders that meet specified holding period requirements are generally eligible for lower effective tax rates on our dividends that are not treated as capital gain dividends or as qualified dividend income. No portion of any of our dividends is eligible for the dividends received deduction for corporate shareholders. Distributions in excess of our current or accumulated earnings and profits generally are treated for federal income tax purposes as returns of capital to the extent of a recipient shareholder’s basis in our shares, and will reduce this basis. Our current or accumulated earnings and profits are generally allocated first to distributions made on our preferred shares, of which there are none outstanding at this time, and thereafter to distributions made on our common shares. For all these purposes, our distributions include cash distributions, any in kind distributions of property that we might make, and deemed or constructive distributions resulting from capital market activities (such as some redemptions), as described below.
Our counsel, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, is of the opinion that we have been organized and have qualified for taxation as a REIT under the IRC for our 2009 through 2020 taxable years, and that our current and anticipated investments and plan of operation will enable us to continue to meet the requirements for qualification and taxation as a REIT under the IRC. Our counsel’s opinions are conditioned upon the assumption that our leases, our declaration of trust, and all other legal documents to which we have been or are a party have been and will be complied with by all parties to those documents, upon the accuracy and completeness of the factual matters described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and upon representations made by us to our counsel as to certain factual matters relating to our organization and operations and our expected manner of operation. If this assumption or a description or representation is inaccurate or incomplete, our counsel’s opinions may be adversely affected
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and may not be relied upon. The opinions of our counsel are based upon the law as it exists today, but the law may change in the future, possibly with retroactive effect. Given the highly complex nature of the rules governing REITs, the ongoing importance of factual determinations, and the possibility of future changes in our circumstances, neither Sullivan & Worcester LLP nor we can be sure that we will qualify as or be taxed as a REIT for any particular year. Any opinion of Sullivan & Worcester LLP as to our qualification or taxation as a REIT will be expressed as of the date issued. Our counsel will have no obligation to advise us or our shareholders of any subsequent change in the matters stated, represented or assumed, or of any subsequent change in the applicable law. Also, the opinions of our counsel are not binding on either the IRS or a court, and either could take a position different from that expressed by our counsel.
Our continued qualification and taxation as a REIT will depend upon our compliance with various qualification tests imposed under the IRC and summarized below. While we believe that we have satisfied and will satisfy these tests, our counsel does not review compliance with these tests on a continuing basis. If we fail to qualify for taxation as a REIT in any year, we will be subject to federal income taxation as if we were a corporation taxed under subchapter C of the IRC, or a C corporation, and our shareholders will be taxed like shareholders of regular C corporations, meaning that federal income tax generally will be applied at both the corporate and shareholder levels. In this event, we could be subject to significant tax liabilities, and the amount of cash available for distribution to our shareholders could be reduced or eliminated.
If we continue to qualify for taxation as a REIT and meet the tests described below, we generally will not pay federal income tax on amounts we distribute to our shareholders. However, even if we continue to qualify for taxation as a REIT, we may still be subject to federal tax in the following circumstances, as described below:
We will be taxed at regular corporate income tax rates on any undistributed “real estate investment trust taxable income,” determined by including our undistributed ordinary income and net capital gains, if any.
If we have net income from the disposition of “foreclosure property,” as described in Section 856(e) of the IRC, that is held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business or other nonqualifying income from foreclosure property, we will be subject to tax on this income at the highest regular corporate income tax rate.
If we have net income from “prohibited transactions”—that is, dispositions at a gain of inventory or property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business other than dispositions of foreclosure property and other than dispositions excepted by statutory safe harbors—we will be subject to tax on this income at a 100% rate.
If we fail to satisfy the 75% gross income test or the 95% gross income test discussed below, due to reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect, but nonetheless maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT because of specified cure provisions, we will be subject to tax at a 100% rate on the greater of the amount by which we fail the 75% gross income test or the 95% gross income test, with adjustments, multiplied by a fraction intended to reflect our profitability for the taxable year.
If we fail to satisfy any of the REIT asset tests described below (other than a de minimis failure of the 5% or 10% asset tests) due to reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect, but nonetheless maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT because of specified cure provisions, we will be subject to a tax equal to the greater of $50,000 or the highest regular corporate income tax rate multiplied by the net income generated by the nonqualifying assets that caused us to fail the test.
If we fail to satisfy any provision of the IRC that would result in our failure to qualify for taxation as a REIT (other than violations of the REIT gross income tests or violations of the REIT asset tests described below) due to reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect, we may retain our qualification for taxation as a REIT but will be subject to a penalty of $50,000 for each failure.
If we fail to distribute for any calendar year at least the sum of 85% of our REIT ordinary income for that year, 95% of our REIT capital gain net income for that year and any undistributed taxable income from prior periods, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax on the excess of the required distribution over the amounts actually distributed.
If we acquire a REIT asset where our adjusted tax basis in the asset is determined by reference to the adjusted tax basis of the asset in the hands of a C corporation, under specified circumstances we may be subject to federal income taxation on all or part of the built-in gain (calculated as of the date the property ceased being owned by the C corporation) on such asset. We generally do not expect to sell assets if doing so would result in the imposition of a
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material built-in gains tax liability; but if and when we do sell assets that may have associated built-in gains tax exposure, then we expect to make appropriate provision for the associated tax liabilities on our financial statements.
If we acquire a corporation in a transaction where we succeed to its tax attributes, to preserve our qualification for taxation as a REIT we must generally distribute all of the C corporation earnings and profits inherited in that acquisition, if any, no later than the end of our taxable year in which the acquisition occurs. However, if we fail to do so, relief provisions would allow us to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT provided we distribute any subsequently discovered C corporation earnings and profits and pay an interest charge in respect of the period of delayed distribution.
Our subsidiaries that are C corporations, including our “taxable REIT subsidiaries”, as defined in Section 856(l) of the IRC, or TRSs, generally will be required to pay federal corporate income tax on their earnings, and a 100% tax may be imposed on any transaction between us and one of our TRSs that does not reflect arm’s length terms.
As discussed below, we have acquired entities by merger that formerly qualified for taxation as REITs. If it is determined that one of these entities failed to satisfy one or more of the REIT tests described below before their respective mergers into us, the IRS might allow us, as such entity’s successor, the same opportunity for relief as though we were the remediating REIT. In such case, such entity would be deemed to have retained its qualification for taxation as a REIT and the relevant penalties or sanctions for remediation would fall upon us in a manner comparable to the above.
If we fail to qualify for taxation as a REIT in any year, then we will be subject to federal income tax in the same manner as a regular C corporation. Further, as a regular C corporation, distributions to our shareholders will not be deductible by us, nor will distributions be required under the IRC. Also, to the extent of our current and accumulated earnings and profits, all distributions to our shareholders will generally be taxable as ordinary dividends potentially eligible for the preferential tax rates discussed below under the heading “—Taxation of Taxable U.S. Shareholders” and, subject to limitations in the IRC, will be potentially eligible for the dividends received deduction for corporate shareholders. Finally, we will generally be disqualified from taxation as a REIT for the four taxable years following the taxable year in which the termination of our REIT status is effective. Our failure to qualify for taxation as a REIT for even one year could result in us reducing or eliminating distributions to our shareholders, or in us incurring substantial indebtedness or liquidating substantial investments in order to pay the resulting corporate-level income taxes. Relief provisions under the IRC may allow us to continue to qualify for taxation as a REIT even if we fail to comply with various REIT requirements, all as discussed in more detail below. However, it is impossible to state whether in any particular circumstance we would be entitled to the benefit of these relief provisions.
REIT Qualification Requirements
General Requirements. Section 856(a) of the IRC defines a REIT as a corporation, trust or association:
(1)that is managed by one or more trustees or directors;
(2)the beneficial ownership of which is evidenced by transferable shares or by transferable certificates of beneficial interest;
(3)that would be taxable, but for Sections 856 through 859 of the IRC, as a domestic C corporation;
(4)that is not a financial institution or an insurance company subject to special provisions of the IRC;
(5)the beneficial ownership of which is held by 100 or more persons;
(6)that is not “closely held,” meaning that during the last half of each taxable year, not more than 50% in value of the outstanding shares are owned, directly or indirectly, by five or fewer “individuals” (as defined in the IRC to include specified tax-exempt entities); and
(7)that meets other tests regarding the nature of its income and assets and the amount of its distributions, all as described below.
Section 856(b) of the IRC provides that conditions (1) through (4) must be met during the entire taxable year and that condition (5) must be met during at least 335 days of a taxable year of 12 months, or during a proportionate part of a taxable year of less than 12 months. Although we cannot be sure, we believe that we have met conditions (1) through (7) during each of the requisite periods ending on or before the close of our most recently completed taxable year, and that we will continue to meet these conditions in our current and future taxable years.
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To help comply with condition (6), our declaration of trust restricts transfers of our shares that would otherwise result in concentrated ownership positions. These restrictions, however, do not ensure that we have previously satisfied, and may not ensure that we will in all cases be able to continue to satisfy, the share ownership requirements described in condition (6). If we comply with applicable Treasury regulations to ascertain the ownership of our outstanding shares and do not know, or by exercising reasonable diligence would not have known, that we failed condition (6), then we will be treated as having met condition (6). Accordingly, we have complied and will continue to comply with these regulations, including by requesting annually from holders of significant percentages of our shares information regarding the ownership of our shares. Under our declaration of trust, our shareholders are required to respond to these requests for information. A shareholder that fails or refuses to comply with the request is required by Treasury regulations to submit a statement with its federal income tax return disclosing its actual ownership of our shares and other information.
For purposes of condition (6), an “individual” generally includes a natural person, a supplemental unemployment compensation benefit plan, a private foundation, or a portion of a trust permanently set aside or used exclusively for charitable purposes, but does not include a qualified pension plan or profit-sharing trust. As a result, REIT shares owned by an entity that is not an “individual” are considered to be owned by the direct and indirect owners of the entity that are individuals (as so defined), rather than to be owned by the entity itself. Similarly, REIT shares held by a qualified pension plan or profit-sharing trust are treated as held directly by the individual beneficiaries in proportion to their actuarial interests in such plan or trust. Consequently, five or fewer such trusts could own more than 50% of the interests in an entity without jeopardizing that entity’s qualification for taxation as a REIT.
The IRC provides that we will not automatically fail to qualify for taxation as a REIT if we do not meet conditions (1) through (6), provided we can establish that such failure was due to reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect. Each such excused failure will result in the imposition of a $50,000 penalty instead of REIT disqualification. This relief provision may apply to a failure of the applicable conditions even if the failure first occurred in a year prior to the taxable year in which the failure was discovered.
Our Wholly Owned Subsidiaries and Our Investments Through Partnerships. Except in respect of a TRS as discussed below, Section 856(i) of the IRC provides that any corporation, 100% of whose stock is held by a REIT and its disregarded subsidiaries, is a qualified REIT subsidiary and shall not be treated as a separate corporation for U.S. federal income tax purposes. The assets, liabilities and items of income, deduction and credit of a qualified REIT subsidiary are treated as the REIT’s. We believe that each of our direct and indirect wholly owned subsidiaries, other than the TRSs discussed below (and entities owned in whole or in part by the TRSs), will be either a qualified REIT subsidiary within the meaning of Section 856(i)(2) of the IRC or a noncorporate entity that for federal income tax purposes is not treated as separate from its owner under Treasury regulations issued under Section 7701 of the IRC, each such entity referred to as a QRS. Thus, in applying all of the REIT qualification requirements described in this summary, all assets, liabilities and items of income, deduction and credit of our QRSs are treated as ours, and our investment in the stock and other securities of such QRSs will be disregarded.
We have invested and may in the future invest in real estate through one or more entities that are treated as partnerships for federal income tax purposes. In the case of a REIT that is a partner in a partnership, Treasury regulations under the IRC provide that, for purposes of the REIT qualification requirements regarding income and assets described below, the REIT is generally deemed to own its proportionate share, based on respective capital interests, of the income and assets of the partnership (except that for purposes of the 10% value test, described below, the REIT’s proportionate share of the partnership’s assets is based on its proportionate interest in the equity and specified debt securities issued by the partnership). In addition, for these purposes, the character of the assets and items of gross income of the partnership generally remains the same in the hands of the REIT. In contrast, for purposes of the distribution requirements discussed below, we must take into account as a partner our share of the partnership’s income as determined under the general federal income tax rules governing partners and partnerships under Subchapter K of the IRC.
Subsidiary REITs. We have invested and may invest in real estate through one or more entities that are intended to qualify for taxation as REITs. When a subsidiary qualifies for taxation as a REIT separate and apart from its REIT parent, the subsidiary’s shares are qualifying real estate assets for purposes of the REIT parent’s 75% asset test described below. However, failure of the subsidiary to separately satisfy the various REIT qualification requirements described in this summary or that are otherwise applicable (and failure to qualify for the applicable relief provisions) would generally result in (a) the subsidiary being subject to regular U.S. corporate income tax, as described above, and (b) the REIT parent’s ownership in the subsidiary (i) ceasing to be qualifying real estate assets for purposes of the 75% asset test, (ii) becoming subject to the 5% asset test, the 10% vote test and the 10% value test generally applicable to a REIT’s ownership in corporations other than REITs and TRSs, and (iii) thereby jeopardizing the REIT parent’s own REIT qualification and taxation on account of the subsidiary’s failure cascading up to the REIT parent, all as described below under the heading “—Asset Tests”. We have made and expect to make protective TRS elections with respect to our subsidiary REITs and may implement other protective arrangements intended to
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avoid a cascading REIT failure if any of our intended subsidiary REITs were not to qualify for taxation as a REIT, but we cannot be sure that such protective elections and other arrangements will be effective to avoid or mitigate the resulting adverse consequences to us.
Taxable REIT Subsidiaries. As a REIT, we are permitted to own any or all of the securities of a TRS, provided that no more than 20% of the total value of our assets, at the close of each quarter, is comprised of our investments in the stock or other securities of our TRSs. Very generally, a TRS is a subsidiary corporation other than a REIT in which a REIT directly or indirectly holds stock and that has made a joint election with its affiliated REIT to be treated as a TRS. A TRS is taxed as a regular C corporation, separate and apart from its affiliated REIT. Our ownership of stock and other securities in our TRSs is exempt from the 5% asset test, the 10% vote test and the 10% value test discussed below.
In addition, any corporation (other than a REIT) in which a TRS directly or indirectly owns more than 35% of the voting power or value of the outstanding securities is automatically a TRS. Subject to the discussion below, we believe that we and each of our TRSs have complied with, and will continue to comply with, the requirements for TRS status at all times during which we intend for the subsidiary’s TRS election to be in effect, and we believe that the same will be true for any TRS that we later form or acquire.
As discussed below, TRSs can perform services for our tenants without disqualifying the rents we receive from those tenants under the 75% gross income test or the 95% gross income test discussed below. Moreover, because our TRSs are taxed as C corporations that are separate from us, their assets, liabilities and items of income, deduction and credit generally are not imputed to us for purposes of the REIT qualification requirements described in this summary. Therefore, our TRSs may generally conduct activities that would be treated as prohibited transactions or would give rise to nonqualified income if conducted by us directly.
Restrictions and sanctions are imposed on TRSs and their affiliated REITs to ensure that the TRSs will be subject to an appropriate level of federal income taxation. For example, if a TRS pays interest, rent or other amounts to its affiliated REIT in an amount that exceeds what an unrelated third party would have paid in an arm’s length transaction, then the REIT generally will be subject to an excise tax equal to 100% of the excessive portion of the payment. Further, if in comparison to an arm’s length transaction, a third-party tenant has overpaid rent to the REIT in exchange for underpaying the TRS for services rendered, and if the REIT has not adequately compensated the TRS for services provided to or on behalf of the third-party tenant, then the REIT may be subject to an excise tax equal to 100% of the undercompensation to the TRS. A safe harbor exception to this excise tax applies if the TRS has been compensated at a rate at least equal to 150% of its direct cost in furnishing or rendering the service. Finally, the 100% excise tax also applies to the underpricing of services provided by a TRS to its affiliated REIT in contexts where the services are unrelated to services for REIT tenants. We cannot be sure that arrangements involving our TRSs will not result in the imposition of one or more of these restrictions or sanctions, but we do not believe that we or our TRSs are or will be subject to these impositions.
Income Tests. We must satisfy two gross income tests annually to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT. First, at least 75% of our gross income for each taxable year must be derived from investments relating to real property, including “rents from real property” within the meaning of Section 856(d) of the IRC, interest and gain from mortgages on real property or on interests in real property, income and gain from foreclosure property, gain from the sale or other disposition of real property (including specified ancillary personal property treated as real property under the IRC), or dividends on and gain from the sale or disposition of shares in other REITs (but excluding in all cases any gains subject to the 100% tax on prohibited transactions). When we receive new capital in exchange for our shares or in a public offering of our five-year or longer debt instruments, income attributable to the temporary investment of this new capital in stock or a debt instrument, if received or accrued within one year of our receipt of the new capital, is generally also qualifying income under the 75% gross income test. Second, at least 95% of our gross income for each taxable year must consist of income that is qualifying income for purposes of the 75% gross income test, other types of interest and dividends, gain from the sale or disposition of stock or securities, or any combination of these. Gross income from our sale of property that we hold primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business, income and gain from specified “hedging transactions” that are clearly and timely identified as such, and income from the repurchase or discharge of indebtedness is excluded from both the numerator and the denominator in both gross income tests. In addition, specified foreign currency gains will be excluded from gross income for purposes of one or both of the gross income tests.
In order to qualify as “rents from real property” within the meaning of Section 856(d) of the IRC, several requirements must be met:
The amount of rent received generally must not be based on the income or profits of any person, but may be based on a fixed percentage or percentages of receipts or sales.
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Rents generally do not qualify if the REIT owns 10% or more by vote or value of stock of the tenant (or 10% or more of the interests in the assets or net profits of the tenant, if the tenant is not a corporation), whether directly or after application of attribution rules. We generally do not intend to lease property to any party if rents from that property would not qualify as “rents from real property,” but application of the 10% ownership rule is dependent upon complex attribution rules and circumstances that may be beyond our control. Our declaration of trust generally disallows transfers or purported acquisitions, directly or by attribution, of our shares to the extent necessary to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT under the IRC. Nevertheless, we cannot be sure that these restrictions will be effective to prevent our qualification for taxation as a REIT from being jeopardized under the 10% affiliated tenant rule. Furthermore, we cannot be sure that we will be able to monitor and enforce these restrictions, nor will our shareholders necessarily be aware of ownership of our shares attributed to them under the IRC’s attribution rules.
There is a limited exception to the above prohibition on earning “rents from real property” from a 10% affiliated tenant where the tenant is a TRS. If at least 90% of the leased space of a property is leased to tenants other than TRSs and 10% affiliated tenants, and if the TRS’s rent to the REIT for space at that property is substantially comparable to the rents paid by nonaffiliated tenants for comparable space at the property, then otherwise qualifying rents paid by the TRS to the REIT will not be disqualified on account of the rule prohibiting 10% affiliated tenants.
In order for rents to qualify, a REIT generally must not manage the property or furnish or render services to the tenants of the property, except through an independent contractor from whom it derives no income or through one of its TRSs. There is an exception to this rule permitting a REIT to perform customary management and tenant services of the sort that a tax-exempt organization could perform without being considered in receipt of “unrelated business taxable income” as defined in Section 512(b)(3) of the IRC, or UBTI. In addition, a de minimis amount of noncustomary services provided to tenants will not disqualify income as “rents from real property” as long as the value of the impermissible tenant services does not exceed 1% of the gross income from the property.
If rent attributable to personal property leased in connection with a lease of real property is 15% or less of the total rent received under the lease, then the rent attributable to personal property will qualify as “rents from real property;” if this 15% threshold is exceeded, then the rent attributable to personal property will not so qualify. The portion of rental income treated as attributable to personal property is determined according to the ratio of the fair market value of the personal property to the total fair market value of the real and personal property that is rented.
In addition, “rents from real property” includes both charges we receive for services customarily rendered in connection with the rental of comparable real property in the same geographic area, even if the charges are separately stated, as well as charges we receive for services provided by our TRSs when the charges are not separately stated. Whether separately stated charges received by a REIT for services that are not geographically customary and provided by a TRS are included in “rents from real property” has not been addressed clearly by the IRS in published authorities; however, our counsel, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, is of the opinion that, although the matter is not free from doubt, “rents from real property” also includes charges we receive for services provided by our TRSs when the charges are separately stated, even if the services are not geographically customary. Accordingly, we believe that our revenues from TRS-provided services, whether the charges are separately stated or not, qualify as “rents from real property” because the services satisfy the geographically customary standard, because the services have been provided by a TRS, or for both reasons.
We believe that all or substantially all of our rents and related service charges have qualified and will continue to qualify as “rents from real property” for purposes of Section 856 of the IRC.
Absent the “foreclosure property” rules of Section 856(e) of the IRC, a REIT’s receipt of active, nonrental gross income from a property would not qualify under the 75% and 95% gross income tests. But as foreclosure property, the active, nonrental gross income from the property would so qualify. Foreclosure property is generally any real property, including interests in real property, and any personal property incident to such real property:
that is acquired by a REIT as a result of the REIT having bid on such property at foreclosure, or having otherwise reduced such property to ownership or possession by agreement or process of law, after there was a default or when default was imminent on a lease of such property or on indebtedness that such property secured;
for which any related loan acquired by the REIT was acquired at a time when the default was not imminent or anticipated; and
for which the REIT makes a proper election to treat the property as foreclosure property.
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Any gain that a REIT recognizes on the sale of foreclosure property held as inventory or primarily for sale to customers, plus any income it receives from foreclosure property that would not otherwise qualify under the 75% gross income test in the absence of foreclosure property treatment, reduced by expenses directly connected with the production of those items of income, would be subject to income tax at the highest regular corporate income tax rate under the foreclosure property income tax rules of Section 857(b)(4) of the IRC. Thus, if a REIT should lease foreclosure property in exchange for rent that qualifies as “rents from real property” as described above, then that rental income is not subject to the foreclosure property income tax.
Property generally ceases to be foreclosure property at the end of the third taxable year following the taxable year in which the REIT acquired the property, or longer if an extension is obtained from the IRS. However, this grace period terminates and foreclosure property ceases to be foreclosure property on the first day:
on which a lease is entered into for the property that, by its terms, will give rise to income that does not qualify for purposes of the 75% gross income test (disregarding income from foreclosure property), or any nonqualified income under the 75% gross income test is received or accrued by the REIT, directly or indirectly, pursuant to a lease entered into on or after such day;
on which any construction takes place on the property, other than completion of a building or any other improvement where more than 10% of the construction was completed before default became imminent and other than specifically exempted forms of maintenance or deferred maintenance; or
which is more than 90 days after the day on which the REIT acquired the property and the property is used in a trade or business which is conducted by the REIT, other than through an independent contractor from whom the REIT itself does not derive or receive any income or a TRS.
Other than sales of foreclosure property, any gain that we realize on the sale of property held as inventory or other property held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business, together known as dealer gains, may be treated as income from a prohibited transaction that is subject to a penalty tax at a 100% rate. The 100% tax does not apply to gains from the sale of property that is held through a TRS, although such income will be subject to tax in the hands of the TRS at regular corporate income tax rates; we may therefore utilize our TRSs in transactions in which we might otherwise recognize dealer gains. Whether property is held as inventory or primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of a trade or business is a question of fact that depends on all the facts and circumstances surrounding each particular transaction. Sections 857(b)(6)(C) and (E) of the IRC provide safe harbors pursuant to which limited sales of real property held for at least two years and meeting specified additional requirements will not be treated as prohibited transactions. However, compliance with the safe harbors is not always achievable in practice. We attempt to structure our activities to avoid transactions that are prohibited transactions, or otherwise conduct such activities through TRSs; but, we cannot be sure whether or not the IRS might successfully assert that one or more of our dispositions is subject to the 100% penalty tax. Gains subject to the 100% penalty tax are excluded from the 75% and 95% gross income tests, whereas real property gains that are not dealer gains or that are exempted from the 100% penalty tax on account of the safe harbors are considered qualifying gross income for purposes of the 75% and 95% gross income tests.
We believe that any gain from dispositions of assets that we have made, or that we might make in the future, including through any partnerships, will generally qualify as income that satisfies the 75% and 95% gross income tests, and will not be dealer gains or subject to the 100% penalty tax. This is because our general intent has been and is to: (a) own our assets for investment with a view to long-term income production and capital appreciation; (b) engage in the business of developing, owning, leasing and managing our existing properties and acquiring, developing, owning, leasing and managing new properties; and (c) make occasional dispositions of our assets consistent with our long-term investment objectives.
If we fail to satisfy one or both of the 75% gross income test or the 95% gross income test in any taxable year, we may nevertheless qualify for taxation as a REIT for that year if we satisfy the following requirements: (a) our failure to meet the test is due to reasonable cause and not due to willful neglect; and (b) after we identify the failure, we file a schedule describing each item of our gross income included in the 75% gross income test or the 95% gross income test for that taxable year. Even if this relief provision does apply, a 100% tax is imposed upon the greater of the amount by which we failed the 75% gross income test or the amount by which we failed the 95% gross income test, with adjustments, multiplied by a fraction intended to reflect our profitability for the taxable year. This relief provision may apply to a failure of the applicable income tests even if the failure first occurred in a year prior to the taxable year in which the failure was discovered.
Based on the discussion above, we believe that we have satisfied, and will continue to satisfy, the 75% and 95% gross income tests outlined above on a continuing basis beginning with our first taxable year as a REIT.
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Asset Tests. At the close of each calendar quarter of each taxable year, we must also satisfy the following asset percentage tests in order to qualify for taxation as a REIT for federal income tax purposes:
At least 75% of the value of our total assets must consist of “real estate assets,” defined as real property (including interests in real property and interests in mortgages on real property or on interests in real property), ancillary personal property to the extent that rents attributable to such personal property are treated as rents from real property in accordance with the rules described above, cash and cash items, shares in other REITs, debt instruments issued by “publicly offered REITs” as defined in Section 562(c)(2) of the IRC, government securities and temporary investments of new capital (that is, any stock or debt instrument that we hold that is attributable to any amount received by us (a) in exchange for our stock or (b) in a public offering of our five-year or longer debt instruments, but in each case only for the one-year period commencing with our receipt of the new capital).
Not more than 25% of the value of our total assets may be represented by securities other than those securities that count favorably toward the preceding 75% asset test.
Of the investments included in the preceding 25% asset class, the value of any one non-REIT issuer’s securities that we own may not exceed 5% of the value of our total assets. In addition, we may not own more than 10% of the vote or value of any one non-REIT issuer’s outstanding securities, unless the securities are “straight debt” securities or otherwise excepted as discussed below. Our stock and other securities in a TRS are exempted from these 5% and 10% asset tests.
Not more than 20% of the value of our total assets may be represented by stock or other securities of our TRSs.
Not more than 25% of the value of our total assets may be represented by “nonqualified publicly offered REIT debt instruments” as defined in Section 856(c)(5)(L)(ii) of the IRC.
Our counsel, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, is of the opinion that, although the matter is not free from doubt, our investments in the equity or debt of a TRS of ours, to the extent that and during the period in which they qualify as temporary investments of new capital, will be treated as real estate assets, and not as securities, for purposes of the above REIT asset tests.
The above REIT asset tests must be satisfied at the close of each calendar quarter of each taxable year as a REIT. After a REIT meets the asset tests at the close of any quarter, it will not lose its qualification for taxation as a REIT in any subsequent quarter solely because of fluctuations in the values of its assets. This grandfathering rule may be of limited benefit to a REIT such as us that makes periodic acquisitions of both qualifying and nonqualifying REIT assets. When a failure to satisfy the above asset tests results from an acquisition of securities or other property during a quarter, the failure can be cured by disposition of sufficient nonqualifying assets within 30 days after the close of that quarter.
In addition, if we fail the 5% asset test, the 10% vote test or the 10% value test at the close of any quarter and we do not cure such failure within 30 days after the close of that quarter, that failure will nevertheless be excused if (a) the failure is de minimis and (b) within six months after the last day of the quarter in which we identify the failure, we either dispose of the assets causing the failure or otherwise satisfy the 5% asset test, the 10% vote test and the 10% value test. For purposes of this relief provision, the failure will be de minimis if the value of the assets causing the failure does not exceed $10,000,000. If our failure is not de minimis, or if any of the other REIT asset tests have been violated, we may nevertheless qualify for taxation as a REIT if (a) we provide the IRS with a description of each asset causing the failure, (b) the failure was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect, (c) we pay a tax equal to the greater of (1) $50,000 or (2) the highest regular corporate income tax rate imposed on the net income generated by the assets causing the failure during the period of the failure, and (d) within six months after the last day of the quarter in which we identify the failure, we either dispose of the assets causing the failure or otherwise satisfy all of the REIT asset tests. These relief provisions may apply to a failure of the applicable asset tests even if the failure first occurred in a year prior to the taxable year in which the failure was discovered.
The IRC also provides an excepted securities safe harbor to the 10% value test that includes among other items (a) “straight debt” securities, (b) specified rental agreements in which payment is to be made in subsequent years, (c) any obligation to pay “rents from real property,” (d) securities issued by governmental entities that are not dependent in whole or in part on the profits of or payments from a nongovernmental entity, and (e) any security issued by another REIT. In addition, any debt instrument issued by an entity classified as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, and not otherwise excepted from the definition of a security for purposes of the above safe harbor, will not be treated as a security for purposes of the 10% value test if at least 75% of the partnership’s gross income, excluding income from prohibited transactions, is qualifying income for purposes of the 75% gross income test.
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We have maintained and will continue to maintain records of the value of our assets to document our compliance with the above asset tests and intend to take actions as may be required to cure any failure to satisfy the tests within 30 days after the close of any quarter or within the six month periods described above.
Based on the discussion above, we believe that we have satisfied, and will continue to satisfy, the REIT asset tests outlined above on a continuing basis beginning with our first taxable year as a REIT.
Annual Distribution Requirements. In order to qualify for taxation as a REIT under the IRC, we are required to make annual distributions other than capital gain dividends to our shareholders in an amount at least equal to the excess of:
(1)the sum of 90% of our “real estate investment trust taxable income” and 90% of our net income after tax, if any, from property received in foreclosure, over
(2)the amount by which our noncash income (e.g., imputed rental income or income from transactions inadvertently failing to qualify as like-kind exchanges) exceeds 5% of our “real estate investment trust taxable income.”
For these purposes, our “real estate investment trust taxable income” is as defined under Section 857 of the IRC and is computed without regard to the dividends paid deduction and our net capital gain and will generally be reduced by specified corporate-level income taxes that we pay (e.g., taxes on built-in gains or foreclosure property income).
The IRC generally limits the deductibility of net interest expense paid or accrued on debt properly allocable to a trade or business to 30% of “adjusted taxable income,” subject to specified exceptions. Any deduction in excess of the limitation is carried forward and may be used in a subsequent year, subject to that year’s 30% limitation. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act changed the limitation on adjusted taxable income, increasing it from 30% to 50%, but only for 2019 and 2020. Moreover, taxpayers can elect to use their adjusted taxable income from their 2019 tax year for their adjusted taxable income in their 2020 tax year for purposes of calculating the limitation. Provided a taxpayer makes an election (which is irrevocable), the applicable limitation on the deductibility of net interest expense does not apply to a trade or business involving real property development, redevelopment, construction, reconstruction, acquisition, conversion, rental, operation, management, leasing, or brokerage, within the meaning of Section 469(c)(7)(C) of the IRC. Treasury regulations provide that a real property trade or business includes a trade or business conducted by a REIT. We have made an election to be treated as a real property trade or business and accordingly do not expect the foregoing interest deduction limitations to apply to us or to the calculation of our “real estate investment trust taxable income.”
Distributions must be paid in the taxable year to which they relate, or in the following taxable year if declared before we timely file our federal income tax return for the earlier taxable year and if paid on or before the first regular distribution payment after that declaration. If a dividend is declared in October, November or December to shareholders of record during one of those months and is paid during the following January, then for federal income tax purposes such dividend will be treated as having been both paid and received on December 31 of the prior taxable year to the extent of any undistributed earnings and profits.
The 90% distribution requirements may be waived by the IRS if a REIT establishes that it failed to meet them by reason of distributions previously made to meet the requirements of the 4% excise tax discussed below. To the extent that we do not distribute all of our net capital gain and all of our “real estate investment trust taxable income,” as adjusted, we will be subject to federal income tax at regular corporate income tax rates on undistributed amounts. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax to the extent we fail within a calendar year to make required distributions to our shareholders of 85% of our ordinary income and 95% of our capital gain net income plus the excess, if any, of the “grossed up required distribution” for the preceding calendar year over the amount treated as distributed for that preceding calendar year. For this purpose, the term “grossed up required distribution” for any calendar year is the sum of our taxable income for the calendar year without regard to the deduction for dividends paid and all amounts from earlier years that are not treated as having been distributed under the provision. We will be treated as having sufficient earnings and profits to treat as a dividend any distribution by us up to the amount required to be distributed in order to avoid imposition of the 4% excise tax.
If we do not have enough cash or other liquid assets to meet our distribution requirements, or if we so choose, we may find it necessary or desirable to arrange for new debt or equity financing to provide funds for required distributions in order to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT. We cannot be sure that financing would be available for these purposes on favorable terms, or at all.
We may be able to rectify a failure to pay sufficient dividends for any year by paying “deficiency dividends” to shareholders in a later year. These deficiency dividends may be included in our deduction for dividends paid for the earlier year, but an interest charge would be imposed upon us for the delay in distribution. While the payment of a deficiency dividend will
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apply to a prior year for purposes of our REIT distribution requirements and our dividends paid deduction, it will be treated as an additional distribution to the shareholders receiving it in the year such dividend is paid.
In addition to the other distribution requirements above, to preserve our qualification for taxation as a REIT we are required to timely distribute all C corporation earnings and profits that we inherit from acquired corporations, as described below.
Acquisitions of C Corporations
We may in the future engage in transactions where we acquire all of the outstanding stock of a C corporation. Upon these acquisitions, except to the extent we make an applicable TRS election, each of our acquired entities and their various wholly-owned corporate and noncorporate subsidiaries will become our QRSs. Thus, after such acquisitions, all assets, liabilities and items of income, deduction and credit of the acquired and then disregarded entities will be treated as ours for purposes of the various REIT qualification tests described above. In addition, we generally will be treated as the successor to the acquired (and then disregarded) entities’ federal income tax attributes, such as those entities’ (a) adjusted tax bases in their assets and their depreciation schedules; and (b) earnings and profits for federal income tax purposes, if any. The carryover of these attributes creates REIT implications such as built-in gains tax exposure and additional distribution requirements, as described below. However, when we make an election under Section 338(g) of the IRC with respect to corporations that we acquire, we generally will not be subject to such attribute carryovers in respect of attributes existing prior to such election.
Built-in Gains from C Corporations. Notwithstanding our qualification and taxation as a REIT, under specified circumstances we may be subject to corporate income taxation if we acquire a REIT asset where our adjusted tax basis in the asset is determined by reference to the adjusted tax basis of the asset as owned by a C corporation. For instance, we may be subject to federal income taxation on all or part of the built-in gain that was present on the last date an asset was owned by a C corporation, if we succeed to a carryover tax basis in that asset directly or indirectly from such C corporation and if we sell the asset during the five year period beginning on the day the asset ceased being owned by such C corporation. To the extent of our income and gains in a taxable year that are subject to the built-in gains tax, net of any taxes paid on such income and gains with respect to that taxable year, our taxable dividends paid in the following year will be potentially eligible for taxation to noncorporate U.S. shareholders at the preferential tax rates for “qualified dividends” as described below under the heading “—Taxation of Taxable U.S. Shareholders”. We generally do not expect to sell assets if doing so would result in the imposition of a material built-in gains tax liability; but if and when we do sell assets that may have associated built-in gains tax exposure, then we expect to make appropriate provision for the associated tax liabilities on our financial statements.
Earnings and Profits. Following a corporate acquisition, we must generally distribute all of the C corporation earnings and profits inherited in that transaction, if any, no later than the end of our taxable year in which the transaction occurs, in order to preserve our qualification for taxation as a REIT. However, if we fail to do so, relief provisions would allow us to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT provided we distribute any subsequently discovered C corporation earnings and profits and pay an interest charge in respect of the period of delayed distribution. C corporation earnings and profits that we inherit are, in general, specially allocated under a priority rule to the earliest possible distributions following the event causing the inheritance, and only then is the balance of our earnings and profits for the taxable year allocated among our distributions to the extent not already treated as a distribution of C corporation earnings and profits under the priority rule. The distribution of these C corporation earnings and profits is potentially eligible for taxation to noncorporate U.S. shareholders at the preferential tax rates for “qualified dividends” as described below under the heading “—Taxation of Taxable U.S. Shareholders”.
Our Acquisitions
On December 31, 2018, we acquired SIR in a transaction that was intended to qualify as a “reorganization” within the meaning of Section 368(a) of the IRC, and our counsel, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, so opined. We believe that SIR qualified for taxation as a REIT for the period prior to the date we acquired it. As a result of this acquisition, we are generally liable for unpaid taxes, including penalties and interest (if any), of SIR. If SIR is deemed to have lost its qualification for taxation as a REIT prior to the date of our acquisition and no relief is available, we would face the following tax consequences:
as a successor, we would generally inherit any corporate income tax liabilities of SIR, including penalties and interest;
we would be subject to tax on the built-in gain on each asset of SIR existing at the time we acquired it if we were to dispose of such an asset during the five-year period following the date that we acquired SIR; and
we could be required to pay a special distribution and/or employ applicable deficiency dividend procedures (including interest payments to the IRS) to eliminate any earnings and profits accumulated by SIR for taxable periods that it did not qualify for taxation as a REIT.
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Finally, if there is an adjustment to SIR’s real estate investment trust taxable income or dividends paid deductions, we could elect to use the deficiency dividend procedure described above to preserve our predecessor SIR’s qualification for taxation as a REIT. If and to the extent the remedial provisions are available to us to address SIR’s REIT qualification and taxation for the applicable periods prior to or including our acquisition of it, we may incur significant cash outlays in connection with such remediation, possibly including (a) required distribution payments to shareholders and associated interest payments to the IRS and (b) tax and interest payments to the IRS and state and local tax authorities.
Depreciation and Federal Income Tax Treatment of Leases
Our initial tax bases in our assets will generally be our acquisition cost. We will generally depreciate our depreciable real property on a straight-line basis over 40 years and our personal property over the applicable shorter periods. These depreciation schedules, and our initial tax bases, may vary for properties that we acquire through tax-free or carryover basis acquisitions (for example, the properties we acquired from SIR), or that are the subject of cost segregation analyses.
We are entitled to depreciation deductions from our properties only if we are treated for federal income tax purposes as the owner of the properties. This means that the leases of our properties must be classified for U.S. federal income tax purposes as true leases, rather than as sales or financing arrangements, and we believe this to be the case.
Distributions to our Shareholders
As described above, we expect to make distributions to our shareholders from time to time. These distributions may include cash distributions, in kind distributions of property, and deemed or constructive distributions resulting from capital market activities. The U.S. federal income tax treatment of our distributions will vary based on the status of the recipient shareholder as more fully described below under the headings “—Taxation of Taxable U.S. Shareholders,” “—Taxation of Tax-Exempt U.S. Shareholders,” and “—Taxation of Non-U.S. Shareholders.”
Section 302 of the IRC treats a redemption of our shares for cash only as a distribution under Section 301 of the IRC, and hence taxable as a dividend to the extent of our available current or accumulated earnings and profits, unless the redemption satisfies one of the tests set forth in Section 302(b) of the IRC enabling the redemption to be treated as a sale or exchange of the shares. The redemption for cash only will be treated as a sale or exchange if it (a) is “substantially disproportionate” with respect to the surrendering shareholder’s ownership in us, (b) results in a “complete termination” of the surrendering shareholder’s entire share interest in us, or (c) is “not essentially equivalent to a dividend” with respect to the surrendering shareholder, all within the meaning of Section 302(b) of the IRC. In determining whether any of these tests have been met, a shareholder must generally take into account shares considered to be owned by such shareholder by reason of constructive ownership rules set forth in the IRC, as well as shares actually owned by such shareholder. In addition, if a redemption is treated as a distribution under the preceding tests, then a shareholder’s tax basis in the redeemed shares generally will be transferred to the shareholder’s remaining shares in us, if any, and if such shareholder owns no other shares in us, such basis generally may be transferred to a related person or may be lost entirely. Because the determination as to whether a shareholder will satisfy any of the tests of Section 302(b) of the IRC depends upon the facts and circumstances at the time that our shares are redeemed, we urge you to consult your own tax advisor to determine the particular tax treatment of any redemption.
Taxation of Taxable U.S. Shareholders
For noncorporate U.S. shareholders, to the extent that their total adjusted income does not exceed applicable thresholds, the maximum federal income tax rate for long-term capital gains and most corporate dividends is generally 15%. For those noncorporate U.S. shareholders whose total adjusted income exceeds the applicable thresholds, the maximum federal income tax rate for long-term capital gains and most corporate dividends is generally 20%. However, because we are not generally subject to federal income tax on the portion of our “real estate investment trust taxable income” distributed to our shareholders, dividends on our shares generally are not eligible for these preferential tax rates, except that any distribution of C corporation earnings and profits and taxed built-in gain items will potentially be eligible for these preferential tax rates. As a result, our ordinary dividends generally are taxed at the higher federal income tax rates applicable to ordinary income (subject to the lower effective tax rates applicable to qualified REIT dividends via the deduction-without-outlay mechanism of Section 199A of the IRC, which is generally available to our noncorporate U.S. shareholders that meet specified holding period requirements for taxable years before 2026). To summarize, the preferential federal income tax rates for long-term capital gains and for qualified dividends generally apply to:
(1)long-term capital gains, if any, recognized on the disposition of our shares;
(2)our distributions designated as long-term capital gain dividends (except to the extent attributable to real estate depreciation recapture, in which case the distributions are subject to a maximum 25% federal income tax rate);
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(3)our dividends attributable to dividend income, if any, received by us from C corporations such as TRSs;
(4)our dividends attributable to earnings and profits that we inherit from C corporations; and
(5)our dividends to the extent attributable to income upon which we have paid federal corporate income tax (such as taxes on foreclosure property income or on built-in gains), net of the corporate income taxes thereon.
As long as we qualify for taxation as a REIT, a distribution to our U.S. shareholders that we do not designate as a capital gain dividend generally will be treated as an ordinary income dividend to the extent of our available current or accumulated earnings and profits (subject to the lower effective tax rates applicable to qualified REIT dividends via the deduction-without-outlay mechanism of Section 199A of the IRC, which is generally available to our noncorporate U.S. shareholders that meet specified holding period requirements for taxable years before 2026). Distributions made out of our current or accumulated earnings and profits that we properly designate as capital gain dividends generally will be taxed as long-term capital gains, as discussed below, to the extent they do not exceed our actual net capital gain for the taxable year. However, corporate shareholders may be required to treat up to 20% of any capital gain dividend as ordinary income under Section 291 of the IRC.
In addition, we may elect to retain net capital gain income and treat it as constructively distributed. In that case:
(1)we will be taxed at regular corporate capital gains tax rates on retained amounts;
(2)each of our U.S. shareholders will be taxed on its designated proportionate share of our retained net capital gains as though that amount were distributed and designated as a capital gain dividend;
(3)each of our U.S. shareholders will receive a credit or refund for its designated proportionate share of the tax that we pay;
(4)each of our U.S. shareholders will increase its adjusted basis in our shares by the excess of the amount of its proportionate share of these retained net capital gains over the U.S. shareholder’s proportionate share of the tax that we pay; and
(5)both we and our corporate shareholders will make commensurate adjustments in our respective earnings and profits for federal income tax purposes.
If we elect to retain our net capital gains in this fashion, we will notify our U.S. shareholders of the relevant tax information within 60 days after the close of the affected taxable year.
If for any taxable year we designate capital gain dividends for our shareholders, then a portion of the capital gain dividends we designate will be allocated to the holders of a particular class of shares on a percentage basis equal to the ratio of the amount of the total dividends paid or made available for the year to the holders of that class of shares to the total dividends paid or made available for the year to holders of all outstanding classes of our shares. We will similarly designate the portion of any dividend that is to be taxed to noncorporate U.S. shareholders at preferential maximum rates (including any qualified dividend income and any capital gains attributable to real estate depreciation recapture that are subject to a maximum 25% federal income tax rate) so that the designations will be proportionate among all outstanding classes of our shares.
Distributions in excess of our current or accumulated earnings and profits will not be taxable to a U.S. shareholder to the extent that they do not exceed the shareholder’s adjusted tax basis in our shares, but will reduce the shareholder’s basis in such shares. To the extent that these excess distributions exceed a U.S. shareholder’s adjusted basis in such shares, they will be included in income as capital gain, with long-term gain generally taxed to noncorporate U.S. shareholders at preferential maximum rates. No U.S. shareholder may include on its federal income tax return any of our net operating losses or any of our capital losses. In addition, no portion of any of our dividends is eligible for the dividends received deduction for corporate shareholders.
If a dividend is declared in October, November or December to shareholders of record during one of those months and is paid during the following January, then for federal income tax purposes the dividend will be treated as having been both paid and received on December 31 of the prior taxable year.
A U.S. shareholder will generally recognize gain or loss equal to the difference between the amount realized and the shareholder’s adjusted basis in our shares that are sold or exchanged. This gain or loss will be capital gain or loss, and will be long-term capital gain or loss if the shareholder’s holding period in our shares exceeds one year. In addition, any loss upon a sale or exchange of our shares held for six months or less will generally be treated as a long-term capital loss to the extent of any long-term capital gain dividends we paid on such shares during the holding period.
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U.S. shareholders who are individuals, estates or trusts are generally required to pay a 3.8% Medicare tax on their net investment income (including dividends on our shares (without regard to any deduction allowed by Section 199A of the IRC) and gains from the sale or other disposition of our shares), or in the case of estates and trusts on their net investment income that is not distributed, in each case to the extent that their total adjusted income exceeds applicable thresholds. U.S. shareholders are urged to consult their tax advisors regarding the application of the 3.8% Medicare tax.
If a U.S. shareholder recognizes a loss upon a disposition of our shares in an amount that exceeds a prescribed threshold, it is possible that the provisions of Treasury regulations involving “reportable transactions” could apply, with a resulting requirement to separately disclose the loss-generating transaction to the IRS. These Treasury regulations are written quite broadly, and apply to many routine and simple transactions. A reportable transaction currently includes, among other things, a sale or exchange of our shares resulting in a tax loss in excess of (a) $10 million in any single year or $20 million in a prescribed combination of taxable years in the case of our shares held by a C corporation or by a partnership with only C corporation partners or (b) $2 million in any single year or $4 million in a prescribed combination of taxable years in the case of our shares held by any other partnership or an S corporation, trust or individual, including losses that flow through pass through entities to individuals. A taxpayer discloses a reportable transaction by filing IRS Form 8886 with its federal income tax return and, in the first year of filing, a copy of Form 8886 must be sent to the IRS’s Office of Tax Shelter Analysis. The annual maximum penalty for failing to disclose a reportable transaction is generally $10,000 in the case of a natural person and $50,000 in any other case.
Noncorporate U.S. shareholders who borrow funds to finance their acquisition of our shares could be limited in the amount of deductions allowed for the interest paid on the indebtedness incurred. Under Section 163(d) of the IRC, interest paid or accrued on indebtedness incurred or continued to purchase or carry property held for investment is generally deductible only to the extent of the investor’s net investment income. A U.S. shareholder’s net investment income will include ordinary income dividend distributions received from us and, only if an appropriate election is made by the shareholder, capital gain dividend distributions and qualified dividends received from us; however, distributions treated as a nontaxable return of the shareholder’s basis will not enter into the computation of net investment income.
Taxation of Tax-Exempt U.S. Shareholders
The rules governing the federal income taxation of tax-exempt entities are complex, and the following discussion is intended only as a summary of material considerations of an investment in our shares relevant to such investors. If you are a tax-exempt shareholder, we urge you to consult your own tax advisor to determine the impact of federal, state, local and foreign tax laws, including any tax return filing and other reporting requirements, with respect to your acquisition of or investment in our shares.
Our distributions made to shareholders that are tax-exempt pension plans, individual retirement accounts or other qualifying tax-exempt entities should not constitute UBTI, provided that the shareholder has not financed its acquisition of our shares with “acquisition indebtedness” within the meaning of the IRC, that the shares are not otherwise used in an unrelated trade or business of the tax-exempt entity, and that, consistent with our present intent, we do not hold a residual interest in a real estate mortgage investment conduit or otherwise hold mortgage assets or conduct mortgage securitization activities that generate “excess inclusion” income.
Taxation of Non-U.S. Shareholders
The rules governing the U.S. federal income taxation of non-U.S. shareholders are complex, and the following discussion is intended only as a summary of material considerations of an investment in our shares relevant to such investors. If you are a non-U.S. shareholder, we urge you to consult your own tax advisor to determine the impact of U.S. federal, state, local and foreign tax laws, including any tax return filing and other reporting requirements, with respect to your acquisition of or investment in our shares.
We expect that a non-U.S. shareholder’s receipt of (a) distributions from us, and (b) proceeds from the sale of our shares, will not be treated as income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business and a non-U.S. shareholder will therefore not be subject to the often higher federal tax and withholding rates, branch profits taxes and increased reporting and filing requirements that apply to income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. This expectation and a number of the determinations below are predicated on our shares being listed on a U.S. national securities exchange, such as The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC, or Nasdaq. Each class of our shares has been listed on a U.S. national securities exchange; however, we cannot be sure that our shares will continue to be so listed in future taxable years or that any class of our shares that we may issue in the future will be so listed.
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Distributions. A distribution by us to a non-U.S. shareholder that is not designated as a capital gain dividend will be treated as an ordinary income dividend to the extent that it is made out of our current or accumulated earnings and profits. A distribution of this type will generally be subject to U.S. federal income tax and withholding at the rate of 30%, or at a lower rate if the non-U.S. shareholder has in the manner prescribed by the IRS demonstrated to the applicable withholding agent its entitlement to benefits under a tax treaty. Because we cannot determine our current and accumulated earnings and profits until the end of the taxable year, withholding at the statutory rate of 30% or applicable lower treaty rate will generally be imposed on the gross amount of any distribution to a non-U.S. shareholder that we make and do not designate as a capital gain dividend. Notwithstanding this potential withholding on distributions in excess of our current and accumulated earnings and profits, these excess portions of distributions are a nontaxable return of capital to the extent that they do not exceed the non-U.S. shareholder’s adjusted basis in our shares, and the nontaxable return of capital will reduce the adjusted basis in these shares. To the extent that distributions in excess of our current and accumulated earnings and profits exceed the non-U.S. shareholder’s adjusted basis in our shares, the distributions will give rise to U.S. federal income tax liability only in the unlikely event that the non-U.S. shareholder would otherwise be subject to tax on any gain from the sale or exchange of these shares, as discussed below under the heading “—Dispositions of Our Shares.” A non-U.S. shareholder may seek a refund from the IRS of amounts withheld on distributions to it in excess of such shareholder’s allocable share of our current and accumulated earnings and profits.
For so long as a class of our shares is listed on a U.S. national securities exchange, capital gain dividends that we declare and pay to a non-U.S. shareholder on those shares, as well as dividends to a non-U.S. shareholder on those shares attributable to our sale or exchange of “United States real property interests” within the meaning of Section 897 of the IRC, or USRPIs, will not be subject to withholding as though those amounts were effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business, and non-U.S. shareholders will not be required to file U.S. federal income tax returns or pay branch profits tax in respect of these dividends. Instead, these dividends will generally be treated as ordinary dividends and subject to withholding in the manner described above.
Tax treaties may reduce the withholding obligations on our distributions. Under some treaties, however, rates below 30% that are applicable to ordinary income dividends from U.S. corporations may not apply to ordinary income dividends from a REIT or may apply only if the REIT meets specified additional conditions. A non-U.S. shareholder must generally use an applicable IRS Form W-8, or substantially similar form, to claim tax treaty benefits. If the amount of tax withheld with respect to a distribution to a non-U.S. shareholder exceeds the shareholder’s U.S. federal income tax liability with respect to the distribution, the non-U.S. shareholder may file for a refund of the excess from the IRS. Treasury regulations also provide special rules to determine whether, for purposes of determining the applicability of a tax treaty, our distributions to a non-U.S. shareholder that is an entity should be treated as paid to the entity or to those owning an interest in that entity, and whether the entity or its owners are entitled to benefits under the tax treaty.
If, contrary to our expectation, a class of our shares was not listed on a U.S. national securities exchange and we made a distribution on those shares that was attributable to gain from the sale or exchange of a USRPI, then a non-U.S. shareholder holding those shares would be taxed as if the distribution was gain effectively connected with a trade or business in the United States conducted by the non-U.S. shareholder. In addition, the applicable withholding agent would be required to withhold from a distribution to such a non-U.S. shareholder, and remit to the IRS, up to 21% of the maximum amount of any distribution that was or could have been designated as a capital gain dividend. The non-U.S. shareholder also would generally be subject to the same treatment as a U.S. shareholder with respect to the distribution (subject to any applicable alternative minimum tax and a special alternative minimum tax in the case of a nonresident alien individual), would be subject to fulsome U.S. federal income tax return reporting requirements, and, in the case of a corporate non-U.S. shareholder, may owe the up to 30% branch profits tax under Section 884 of the IRC (or lower applicable tax treaty rate) in respect of these amounts.
Dispositions of Our Shares. If as expected our shares are not USRPIs, then a non-U.S. shareholder’s gain on the sale of these shares generally will not be subject to U.S. federal income taxation or withholding. We expect that our shares will not be USRPIs because one or both of the following exemptions will be available at all times.
First, for so long as a class of our shares is listed on a U.S. national securities exchange, a non-U.S. shareholder’s gain on the sale of those shares will not be subject to U.S. federal income taxation as a sale of a USRPI. Second, our shares will not constitute USRPIs if we are a “domestically controlled” REIT. We will be a “domestically controlled” REIT if less than 50% of the value of our shares (including any future class of shares that we may issue) is held, directly or indirectly, by non-U.S. shareholders at all times during the preceding five years, after applying specified presumptions regarding the ownership of our shares as described in Section 897(h)(4)(E) of the IRC. For these purposes, we believe that the statutory ownership presumptions apply to validate our status as a “domestically controlled” REIT. Accordingly, we believe that we are and will remain a “domestically controlled” REIT.
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If, contrary to our expectation, a gain on the sale of our shares is subject to U.S. federal income taxation (for example, because neither of the above exemptions were then available, i.e., that class of our shares were not then listed on a U.S. national securities exchange and we were not a “domestically controlled” REIT), then (a) a non-U.S. shareholder would generally be subject to the same treatment as a U.S. shareholder with respect to its gain (subject to any applicable alternative minimum tax and a special alternative minimum tax in the case of nonresident alien individuals), (b) the non-U.S. shareholder would also be subject to fulsome U.S. federal income tax return reporting requirements, and (c) a purchaser of that class of our shares from the non-U.S. shareholder may be required to withhold 15% of the purchase price paid to the non-U.S. shareholder and to remit the withheld amount to the IRS.
Information Reporting, Backup Withholding, and Foreign Account Withholding
Information reporting, backup withholding, and foreign account withholding may apply to distributions or proceeds paid to our shareholders under the circumstances discussed below. If a shareholder is subject to backup or other U.S. federal income tax withholding, then the applicable withholding agent will be required to withhold the appropriate amount with respect to a deemed or constructive distribution or a distribution in kind even though there is insufficient cash from which to satisfy the withholding obligation. To satisfy this withholding obligation, the applicable withholding agent may collect the amount of U.S. federal income tax required to be withheld by reducing to cash for remittance to the IRS a sufficient portion of the property that the shareholder would otherwise receive or own, and the shareholder may bear brokerage or other costs for this withholding procedure.
Amounts withheld under backup withholding are generally not an additional tax and may be refunded by the IRS or credited against the shareholder’s federal income tax liability, provided that such shareholder timely files for a refund or credit with the IRS. A U.S. shareholder may be subject to backup withholding when it receives distributions on our shares or proceeds upon the sale, exchange, redemption, retirement or other disposition of our shares, unless the U.S. shareholder properly executes, or has previously properly executed, under penalties of perjury an IRS Form W-9 or substantially similar form that:
provides the U.S. shareholder’s correct taxpayer identification number;
certifies that the U.S. shareholder is exempt from backup withholding because (a) it comes within an enumerated exempt category, (b) it has not been notified by the IRS that it is subject to backup withholding, or (c) it has been notified by the IRS that it is no longer subject to backup withholding; and
certifies that it is a U.S. citizen or other U.S. person.
If the U.S. shareholder has not provided and does not provide its correct taxpayer identification number and appropriate certifications on an IRS Form W-9 or substantially similar form, it may be subject to penalties imposed by the IRS, and the applicable withholding agent may have to withhold a portion of any distributions or proceeds paid to such U.S. shareholder. Unless the U.S. shareholder has established on a properly executed IRS Form W-9 or substantially similar form that it comes within an enumerated exempt category, distributions or proceeds on our shares paid to it during the calendar year, and the amount of tax withheld, if any, will be reported to it and to the IRS.
Distributions on our shares to a non-U.S. shareholder during each calendar year and the amount of tax withheld, if any, will generally be reported to the non-U.S. shareholder and to the IRS. This information reporting requirement applies regardless of whether the non-U.S. shareholder is subject to withholding on distributions on our shares or whether the withholding was reduced or eliminated by an applicable tax treaty. Also, distributions paid to a non-U.S. shareholder on our shares will generally be subject to backup withholding, unless the non-U.S. shareholder properly certifies to the applicable withholding agent its non-U.S. shareholder status on an applicable IRS Form W-8 or substantially similar form. Information reporting and backup withholding will not apply to proceeds a non-U.S. shareholder receives upon the sale, exchange, redemption, retirement or other disposition of our shares, if the non-U.S. shareholder properly certifies to the applicable withholding agent its non-U.S. shareholder status on an applicable IRS Form W-8 or substantially similar form. Even without having executed an applicable IRS Form W-8 or substantially similar form, however, in some cases information reporting and backup withholding will not apply to proceeds that a non-U.S. shareholder receives upon the sale, exchange, redemption, retirement or other disposition of our shares if the non-U.S. shareholder receives those proceeds through a broker’s foreign office.
Non-U.S. financial institutions and other non-U.S. entities are subject to diligence and reporting requirements for purposes of identifying accounts and investments held directly or indirectly by U.S. persons. The failure to comply with these additional information reporting, certification and other requirements could result in a 30% U.S. withholding tax on applicable payments to non-U.S. persons, notwithstanding any otherwise applicable provisions of an income tax treaty. In particular, a payee that is a foreign financial institution that is subject to the diligence and reporting requirements described above must enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Treasury requiring, among other things, that it undertake to identify accounts held
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by “specified United States persons” or “United States owned foreign entities” (each as defined in the IRC and administrative guidance thereunder), annually report information about such accounts, and withhold 30% on applicable payments to noncompliant foreign financial institutions and account holders. Foreign financial institutions located in jurisdictions that have an intergovernmental agreement with the United States with respect to these requirements may be subject to different rules. The foregoing withholding regime generally applies to payments of dividends on our shares. In general, to avoid withholding, any non-U.S. intermediary through which a shareholder owns our shares must establish its compliance with the foregoing regime, and a non-U.S. shareholder must provide specified documentation (usually an applicable IRS Form W-8) containing information about its identity, its status, and if required, its direct and indirect U.S. owners. Non-U.S. shareholders and shareholders who hold our shares through a non-U.S. intermediary are encouraged to consult their own tax advisors regarding foreign account tax compliance.
Other Tax Considerations
Our tax treatment and that of our shareholders may be modified by legislative, judicial or administrative actions at any time, which actions may have retroactive effect. The rules dealing with federal income taxation are constantly under review by the U.S. Congress, the IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and statutory changes, new regulations, revisions to existing regulations and revised interpretations of established concepts are issued frequently. Likewise, the rules regarding taxes other than U.S. federal income taxes may also be modified. No prediction can be made as to the likelihood of passage of new tax legislation or other provisions, or the direct or indirect effect on us and our shareholders. Revisions to tax laws and interpretations of these laws could adversely affect our ability to qualify and be taxed as a REIT, as well as the tax or other consequences of an investment in our shares. We and our shareholders may also be subject to taxation by state, local or other jurisdictions, including those in which we or our shareholders transact business or reside. These tax consequences may not be comparable to the U.S. federal income tax consequences discussed above.
ERISA PLANS, KEOGH PLANS AND INDIVIDUAL RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
General Fiduciary Obligations
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended, or ERISA, the IRC and similar provisions to those described below under applicable foreign or state law, individually and collectively, impose certain duties on persons who are fiduciaries of any employee benefit plan subject to Title I of ERISA, or an ERISA Plan, or an individual retirement account or annuity, or an IRA, a Roth IRA, a tax-favored account (such as an Archer MSA, Coverdell education savings account or health savings account), a Keogh plan or other qualified retirement plan not subject to Title I of ERISA, each a Non-ERISA Plan. Under ERISA and the IRC, any person who exercises any discretionary authority or control over the administration of, or the management or disposition of the assets of, an ERISA Plan or Non-ERISA Plan, or who renders investment advice for a fee or other compensation to an ERISA Plan or Non-ERISA Plan, is generally considered to be a fiduciary of the ERISA Plan or Non-ERISA Plan.
Fiduciaries of an ERISA Plan must consider whether:
their investment in our shares or other securities satisfies the diversification requirements of ERISA;
the investment is prudent in light of possible limitations on the marketability of our shares;
they have authority to acquire our shares or other securities under the applicable governing instrument and Title I of ERISA; and
the investment is otherwise consistent with their fiduciary responsibilities.
Fiduciaries of an ERISA Plan may incur personal liability for any loss suffered by the ERISA Plan on account of a violation of their fiduciary responsibilities. In addition, these fiduciaries may be subject to a civil penalty of up to 20% of any amount recovered by the ERISA Plan on account of a violation. Fiduciaries of any Non-ERISA Plan should consider that the Non-ERISA Plan may only make investments that are authorized by the appropriate governing instrument and applicable law.
Fiduciaries considering an investment in our securities should consult their own legal advisors if they have any concern as to whether the investment is consistent with the foregoing criteria or is otherwise appropriate. The sale of our securities to an ERISA Plan or Non-ERISA Plan is in no respect a representation by us or any underwriter of the securities that the investment meets all relevant legal requirements with respect to investments by the arrangements generally or any particular arrangement, or that the investment is appropriate for arrangements generally or any particular arrangement.
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Prohibited Transactions
Fiduciaries of ERISA Plans and persons making the investment decision for Non-ERISA Plans should consider the application of the prohibited transaction provisions of ERISA and the IRC in making their investment decision. Sales and other transactions between an ERISA Plan or a Non-ERISA Plan and disqualified persons or parties in interest, as applicable, are prohibited transactions and result in adverse consequences absent an exemption. The particular facts concerning the sponsorship, operations and other investments of an ERISA Plan or Non-ERISA Plan may cause a wide range of persons to be treated as disqualified persons or parties in interest with respect to it. A non-exempt prohibited transaction, in addition to imposing potential personal liability upon ERISA Plan fiduciaries, may also result in the imposition of an excise tax under the IRC or a penalty under ERISA upon the disqualified person or party in interest. If the disqualified person who engages in the transaction is the individual on behalf of whom an IRA, Roth IRA or other tax-favored account is maintained (or his beneficiary), the IRA, Roth IRA or other tax-favored account may lose its tax-exempt status and its assets may be deemed to have been distributed to the individual in a taxable distribution on account of the non-exempt prohibited transaction, but no excise tax will be imposed. Fiduciaries considering an investment in our securities should consult their own legal advisors as to whether the ownership of our securities involves a non-exempt prohibited transaction.
“Plan Assets” Considerations
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a regulation defining “plan assets.” The regulation, as subsequently modified by ERISA, generally provides that when an ERISA Plan or a Non-ERISA Plan otherwise subject to Title I of ERISA and/or Section 4975 of the IRC acquires an interest in an entity that is neither a “publicly offered security” nor a security issued by an investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended, the assets of the ERISA Plan or Non-ERISA Plan include both the equity interest and an undivided interest in each of the underlying assets of the entity, unless it is established either that the entity is an operating company or that equity participation in the entity by benefit plan investors is not significant. We are not an investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended.
Each class of our equity (that is, our common shares and any other class of equity that we may issue) must be analyzed separately to ascertain whether it is a publicly offered security. The regulation defines a publicly offered security as a security that is “widely held,” “freely transferable” and either part of a class of securities registered under the Exchange Act, or sold under an effective registration statement under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, provided the securities are registered under the Exchange Act within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year of the issuer during which the offering occurred. Each class of our outstanding shares has been registered under the Exchange Act within the necessary time frame to satisfy the foregoing condition.
The regulation provides that a security is “widely held” only if it is part of a class of securities that is owned by 100 or more investors independent of the issuer and of one another. However, a security will not fail to be “widely held” because the number of independent investors falls below 100 subsequent to the initial public offering as a result of events beyond the issuer’s control. Although we cannot be sure, we believe our common shares have been and will remain widely held, and we expect the same to be true of any future class of equity that we may issue.
The regulation provides that whether a security is “freely transferable” is a factual question to be determined on the basis of all relevant facts and circumstances. The regulation further provides that, where a security is part of an offering in which the minimum investment is $10,000 or less, some restrictions on transfer ordinarily will not, alone or in combination, affect a finding that these securities are freely transferable. The restrictions on transfer enumerated in the regulation as not affecting that finding include:
any restriction on or prohibition against any transfer or assignment that would result in a termination or reclassification for federal or state tax purposes, or would otherwise violate any state or federal law or court order;
any requirement that advance notice of a transfer or assignment be given to the issuer and any requirement that either the transferor or transferee, or both, execute documentation setting forth representations as to compliance with any restrictions on transfer that are among those enumerated in the regulation as not affecting free transferability, including those described in the preceding clause of this sentence;
any administrative procedure that establishes an effective date, or an event prior to which a transfer or assignment will not be effective; and
any limitation or restriction on transfer or assignment that is not imposed by the issuer or a person acting on behalf of the issuer.
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We believe that the restrictions imposed under our declaration of trust on the transfer of shares do not result in the failure of our shares to be “freely transferable.” Furthermore, we believe that there exist no other facts or circumstances limiting the transferability of our shares that are not included among those enumerated as not affecting their free transferability under the regulation, and we do not expect or intend to impose in the future, or to permit any person to impose on our behalf, any limitations or restrictions on transfer that would not be among the enumerated permissible limitations or restrictions.
Assuming that each class of our shares will be “widely held” and that no other facts and circumstances exist that restrict transferability of these shares, our counsel, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, is of the opinion that our shares will not fail to be “freely transferable” for purposes of the regulation due to the restrictions on transfer of our shares in our declaration of trust and that under the regulation each class of our currently outstanding shares is publicly offered and our assets will not be deemed to be “plan assets” of any ERISA Plan or Non-ERISA Plan that acquires our shares in a public offering. This opinion is conditioned upon certain assumptions and representations, as discussed above under the heading “Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations—Taxation as a REIT.”
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Summary of Risk Factors
Our business is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. The summary below provides an overview of many of the risks we face that are described in this section. Additional risks, beyond those summarized below or discussed in this section, may also materially and adversely impact our business, operations or financial results. Consistent with the foregoing, the risks we face include, but are not limited to, the following:
the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic impact may materially adversely affect our and our tenants’ businesses, operations, financial results and liquidity;
the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and may continue to have, significant impacts on workplace practices and those changes, together with current office space utilization trends, could impact our business;
we may be unable to renew our leases with current tenants when our leases expire or lease our properties to new tenants without decreasing rents, incurring significant costs, providing certain concessions or otherwise;
our tenants may be unable to satisfy their lease obligations to us, which could materially and adversely affect us;
some of our properties depend upon a private sector single tenant for all or a majority of their rental income, and, therefore, we may be adversely affected by the bankruptcy or insolvency, the downturn in the business or a lease termination of a single private sector tenant;
government budgetary pressures and priorities and trends in government employment and office leasing may adversely impact our business;
we currently have a concentration of properties in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. market area and are exposed to changes in market conditions in this area;
our capital recycling program may not be successful, we may be unable to grow our business by acquisitions of additional properties and we face significant competition for acquisition opportunities and tenants;
REIT distribution requirements and any limitations on our ability to access reasonably priced capital may adversely impact our ability to carry out our business plan and we are subject to risks associated with our qualification for taxation as a REIT;
some tenants have the right to terminate their leases prior to their lease expiration date and changes in our tenants’ demands and requirements for leased space may adversely affect us;
we have debt and may incur additional debt, and we are subject to the covenants and conditions contained in the agreements governing our debt, which may restrict our operations and ability to make investments and distributions;
changes in market interest rates, including changes that may result from the expected phase out of LIBOR, may adversely affect us;
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ownership of real estate is subject to environmental risks and liabilities as well as risks from adverse weather, natural disasters and climate events;
insurance may not adequately cover our losses, and insurance costs may continue to increase;
we depend upon RMR LLC to manage our business and implement our growth strategy and RMR LLC has broad discretion in operating our day to day business;
we rely on RMR LLC’s information technology and systems and the failure of the security or functioning of such technology or systems could materially and adversely affect us;
our management structure and agreements with RMR LLC and our relationships with our related parties, including our Managing Trustees, RMR LLC and others affiliated with them, may create conflicts of interest;
ownership limitations and certain provisions in our declaration of trust, bylaws and agreements as well as certain provisions of Maryland law, may deter, delay or prevent a change in our control or unsolicited acquisition proposals;
our rights and the rights of our shareholders to take action against our Trustees and officers are limited, and our declaration of trust and bylaws contain provisions that could limit our shareholders’ ability to obtain a judicial forum they deem favorable for certain disputes;
we may change our operational, financing and investment policies without shareholder approval and we may become more highly leveraged, which may increase our risk of default under our debt obligations and/or result in downgrades in our credit ratings, and any such downgrades may increase our cost of capital;
our distributions to our shareholders may be reduced or eliminated and the form of payment could change; and
our public debt is structurally subordinated to the indebtedness and other liabilities of our subsidiaries and is effectively subordinated to our existing and future secured indebtedness to the extent of the value of the assets securing such indebtedness.
The risks described below may not be the only risks we face but are risks we believe may be material at this time. Other risks of which we are not yet aware, or that we currently believe are not material, may also materially and adversely impact our business operations or financial results. If any of the events or circumstances described below occurs, our business, financial condition, results of operations or ability to make distributions to our shareholders could be adversely affected and the value of an investment in our securities could decline. Investors and prospective investors should consider the risks described below and the information contained under the caption “Warning Concerning Forward-Looking Statements” and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K before deciding whether to invest in our securities.
Risks Related to Our Business
The COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic impact may materially adversely affect our business, operations, financial results and liquidity.
The strain of coronavirus that causes the viral disease known as COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary has declared a public health emergency in the United States in response to the outbreak. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial adverse impact on the global economy, including the U.S. economy.
Economic downturns and recessions in the United States have historically negatively impacted the commercial office real estate market, including by causing increased tenant defaults, decreased occupancies and reduced rental rates. Although, to date, we have not been materially adversely affected by the pandemic and the current economic conditions, we may experience those effects if the pandemic and current economic conditions continue or worsen for a substantial period or the demand for leasing office space at our properties declines as a result. The ultimate impact may have similar negative impacts on our business and the extent of any negative consequences will depend to a large extent on the duration and depth of the pandemic and economic conditions in the United States.
Additionally, we conduct leasing activities at our properties. Reductions in the ability and willingness of prospective tenants to visit our properties due to the COVID-19 outbreak, or the extent to which federal, state and municipal orders limit our manager’s employees visiting our properties, could have an impact on our leasing activity which could reduce rental income and tenant reimbursements and other income produced by our properties. We experienced a slowdown in our leasing
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activity in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and expect this slowdown may continue until market conditions improve for a sustained period. Concerns relating to such an outbreak could also cause on-site personnel not to report for work at our properties, which could adversely affect the management of our properties. It is unclear whether the availability and distribution of vaccines will curtail infection rates and, if so, what the impact of that would be on human health and safety, the economy or our business.
We cannot predict the extent and duration of the COVID-19 pandemic or the severity and duration of its economic impact. Potential consequences of the current unprecedented measures taken in response to the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, and current market disruptions and volatility affecting us include, but are not limited to:
increased risk of default or bankruptcy of our tenants;
our tenants exercising rights to terminate our leases;
possible significant declines in the value of our properties;
our inability to sell properties we may identify for sale due to a general decline in business activity and demand for real estate transactions and, as a result, our inability to redeploy our capital into investments we believe are more beneficial to us;
our inability to comply with certain financial covenants that could result in our defaulting under our debt agreements;
our inability to access debt and equity capital on attractive terms, or at all;
declines in the market price of our common shares;
downgrades of our credit ratings by nationally recognized credit rating agencies;
our need to reduce or eliminate the distributions we pay to our shareholders and our need to maintain such reduction or elimination for an extended period of time;
our failure to pay interest or principal when due under our outstanding debt, which may result in the acceleration of payment for our outstanding debt and our possible loss of our revolving credit facility; and
reduced economic demand resulting from mass employee layoffs or furloughs in response to governmental action taken to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, which could impact the continued viability of our tenants and the demand for office space at our properties.
Further, the extent and strength of any economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic ends or otherwise, are uncertain and subject to various factors and conditions. Our business, operations and financial position may continue to be negatively impacted after the COVID-19 pandemic ends and may remain at depressed levels compared to prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and those conditions may continue for an extended period.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had, and may continue to have, significant impacts on workplace practices and those changes, or other office space utilization trends, could impact our business.
Temporary closures of businesses and stay in place orders and the resulting remote working arrangements for non-essential personnel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic may result in long-term changed work practices that could negatively impact us and our business. For example, the increased adoption of and familiarity with remote work practices, and the recent increase in tenants seeking to sublease their leased space, could result in decreased demand for office space. Further, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a general trend in office real estate for tenants to decrease the space they occupy per employee. If either or both of those trends were to continue or accelerate, our tenants may elect to not renew their leases, or to renew them for less space than they currently occupy, which could increase the vacancy and decrease rental income at our properties. The need to reconfigure leased office space, either in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to new tenants’ needs, to modify utilization or for other reasons, may impact space requirements and also may require us to spend increased amounts for tenant improvements. If substantial reconfiguration of the tenant’s space is required, the tenant may find it more advantageous to relocate than to renew its lease and renovate the existing space. If so, our business, operating results, financial condition and prospects may be materially adversely impacted.
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We may be unable to renew our leases with current tenants or lease our properties to new tenants when our leases expire.
The weighted average remaining term of our leases in effect as of December 31, 2020 is 5.1 years based upon annualized rental income and 5.0 years based upon occupied square footage. As of December 31, 2020, leases representing approximately 12.1% of our annualized rental income and 16.1% of our occupied square footage will expire by December 31, 2021 and leases representing approximately 34.8% of our annualized rental income and 35.3% of our occupied square footage will expire by December 31, 2023. Our leases with government tenants typically have shorter terms than our leases with nongovernment tenants, although the terms of our leases with government contractor tenants tend to be for terms consistent with the tenants’ with government contracts, which are generally three to five years. These shorter terms require more frequent lease renewal or releasing.
Although we typically will seek to renew our leases with current tenants when they expire, we cannot be sure that we will be successful in doing so. If our tenants do not renew their leases, we may be unable to obtain new tenants to maintain or increase the historical occupancy rates of, or rents from, our properties.
We may experience declining rents or incur significant costs to renew our leases with current tenants or lease our properties to new tenants.
When we renew our leases with current tenants or lease to new tenants, we may experience rent decreases, and we may have to spend substantial amounts for leasing commissions, tenant improvements or other tenant inducements. Moreover, many of our properties have been specially designed for the particular businesses of our tenants; if the current leases for such properties are terminated or are not renewed, we may be required to renovate such properties at substantial costs, decrease the rents we charge or provide other concessions in order to lease such properties to new tenants. Further, laws and regulations applicable to government leasing often require public solicitations of bids when new or renewal leases are being considered. Market conditions may require us to lower our rents to retain government or other tenants. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic impact may cause the office leasing market to become more favorable to tenants, and we may be required to decrease the rents we charge or provide other tenant concessions. In addition, some of our current rents include payments to amortize the cost of tenant improvements which government or other tenants may be unwilling to pay or contractually allowed to eliminate when leases are renewed.
Some of our properties depend upon a private sector single tenant for all or a majority of their rental income; therefore, our financial condition, including our ability to make distributions to shareholders, may be adversely affected by the bankruptcy or insolvency, a downturn in the business, or a lease termination of such a single tenant.
As of December 31, 2020, 47.2% of our annualized rental revenue was from our properties leased to private sector single tenants. The value of our private sector single tenant properties is materially dependent on the performance of those tenants under their respective leases. These tenants face competition within their industries and other factors that could reduce their ability to pay us rent. Lease payment defaults by such tenants could cause us to reduce the amount of distributions that we pay to our shareholders. A default by a single or major tenant, the failure of a guarantor to fulfill its obligations or other premature termination of a lease to such a tenant or such tenant’s election not to extend a lease upon its expiration could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations, liquidity and ability to pay distributions to our shareholders.
Government budgetary pressures and priorities and trends in government employment and office leasing may adversely impact our business.
We believe that recent government budgetary and spending priorities and enhancements in technology have resulted in a decrease in government office use for employees. Furthermore, over the past several years, government tenants have reduced their space utilization per employee and consolidated government tenants into existing government owned properties. This activity has reduced the demand for government leased space. Our historical experience with respect to properties of the type we own that are majority leased to government tenants has been that government tenants frequently renew leases to avoid the costs and disruptions that may result from relocating their operations. However, efforts to manage space utilization rates may result in our tenants exercising early termination rights under our leases, vacating our properties upon expiration of our leases in order to relocate, or renewing their leases for less space than they currently occupy. Also, our government tenants’ desire to reconfigure leased office space to manage utilization per employee may require us to spend significant amounts for tenant improvements, and tenant relocations are often more prevalent in those circumstances. Increasing uncertainty with respect to government agency budgets and funding to implement relocations, consolidations and reconfigurations has resulted in delayed decisions by some of our government tenants and their reliance on short term lease renewals; however, recent activity prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic suggested that the U.S. government had begun to shift its leasing strategy to include longer term leases and was actively exploring 10 to 20 year lease terms at renewal, in some instances. It is also possible that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, government tenants may seek to manage space utilization rates in order to provide greater
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physical distancing for employees, which may require us to spend significant amounts for tenant improvements, mostly with lease renewals. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have had negative impacts on government budgets and resources and it is unclear what the effect of these impacts will be on government demand for leasing office space. In addition, the new presidential administration may result in a change in the federal government’s policy priorities, which may impact leasing at our government leased properties. Given the significant uncertainties, including as to the COVID-19 pandemic, its economic impact and its aftermath and the new presidential administration, we are unable to reasonably project what the financial impact of market conditions or changing government circumstances will be on our financial results for future periods.
We currently have a concentration of properties in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. market area and are exposed to changes in market conditions in this area.
As of December 31, 2020, we derived approximately 23.5% of our annualized rental income from our consolidated properties located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. market area. In addition, the three properties owned by two joint ventures in which we own 51% and 50% interests are also located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. market area. A downturn in economic conditions in this area, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, could result in reduced demand from tenants for our properties, reduced rents that our tenants in this area are willing to pay when our leases expire and increased lease concessions for new leases and renewals. Additionally, in recent years there has been a decrease in demand for new leased space by the U.S. government in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. market area, and that could increase competition for government tenants and adversely affect our ability to retain government tenants when our leases expire. Thus, adverse developments and/or conditions in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. market area could reduce demand for space, impact the credit worthiness of our tenants or force our tenants to curtail operations, which could impair their ability to meet their rent obligations to us and, accordingly, could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations, liquidity and ability to pay distributions to our shareholders.
Our capital recycling program may not be successful.
Through our capital recycling program, we seek to selectively sell certain properties from time to time to fund future acquisitions and to maintain leverage consistent with our current investment grade ratings with a goal of (1) improving the asset quality of our portfolio by reducing the average age of our properties, lengthening the weighted average lease term of our leases and increasing the likelihood of retaining our tenants and (2) increasing our cash available for distribution. However, our ability to sell our properties we identify for sale, and the prices we receive upon a sale, may be affected by many factors, and we may be unable to execute our strategy. In particular, these factors could arise from weakness in or the lack of an established market for a property, changes in the financial condition or prospects of prospective purchasers and the availability of financing to potential purchasers on reasonable terms, the number of prospective purchasers, the number of competing properties on the market, unfavorable local, national or international economic conditions, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry trends, and changes in laws, regulations or fiscal policies of jurisdictions in which the property is located. We may not succeed in selling properties that we identify for sale, the terms of any such sales may not meet our expectations and we may incur losses in connection with those sales. Further, we may not succeed in identifying and acquiring properties that improve the asset quality of our portfolio and enable us to increase our cash available for distribution or maintain leverage consistent with our current investment grade ratings. As a result, our capital recycling program may not be successful.
We may be unable to grow our business by acquisitions of additional properties, and we might encounter unanticipated difficulties and expenditures relating to our acquired properties.
Our business plans involve the acquisition of additional properties. Our ability to make profitable acquisitions is subject to risks, including, but not limited to, risks associated with:
competition from other investors, including publicly traded and private REITs, numerous financial institutions, individuals, foreign investors and other public and private companies;
our long term cost of capital;
contingencies in our acquisition agreements; and
the availability and terms of financing.
We might encounter unanticipated difficulties and expenditures relating to our acquired properties. For example:
we do not believe that it is possible to understand fully a property before it is owned and operated for a reasonable period of time, and, notwithstanding pre-acquisition due diligence, we could acquire a property that contains undisclosed defects in design or construction;
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an acquired property may be located in a new market where we may face risks associated with investing in an unfamiliar market;
the market in which an acquired property is located may experience unexpected changes that adversely affect the property’s value;
the occupancy of and rents from properties that we acquire may decline during our ownership;
property operating costs for our acquired properties may be higher than anticipated and our acquired properties may not yield expected returns;
we may acquire properties subject to unknown liabilities and without any recourse, or with limited recourse, such as liability for the cleanup of undisclosed environmental contamination or for claims by tenants, vendors or other persons related to actions taken by former owners of the properties; and
acquired properties might require significant management attention that would otherwise be devoted to our other business activities.
For these reasons, among others, we might not realize the anticipated benefits of our acquisitions, and our business plan to acquire additional properties may not succeed or may cause us to experience losses.
REIT distribution requirements and limitations on our ability to access reasonably priced capital may adversely impact our ability to carry out our business plan.
To maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT under the IRC, we are required to satisfy distribution requirements imposed by the IRC. See “Material United States Federal Income Tax Considerations—REIT Qualification Requirements—Annual Distribution Requirements” included in Part I, Item 1 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Accordingly, we may not be able to retain sufficient cash to fund our operations, repay our debts, invest in our properties or fund our acquisitions or development or redevelopment efforts. Our business strategies therefore depend, in part, upon our ability to raise additional capital at reasonable costs. The volatility in the availability of capital to businesses on a global basis in most debt and equity markets generally may limit our ability to raise reasonably priced capital. We may also be unable to raise reasonably priced capital because of reasons related to our business, market perceptions of our prospects, the terms of our indebtedness, the extent of our leverage or for reasons beyond our control, such as market conditions. Because the earnings we are permitted to retain are limited by the rules governing REIT qualification and taxation, if we are unable to raise reasonably priced capital, we may not be able to carry out our business plan.
We face significant competition.
We face significant competition for acquisition opportunities from other investors, including publicly traded and private REITs, numerous financial institutions, individuals, foreign investors and other public and private companies. Some of our competitors may have greater financial and other resources than us. Because of competition for acquisitions, we may be unable to acquire desirable properties or we may pay higher prices for, and realize lower net cash flows than we hope to achieve from, acquisitions.
We also face competition for tenants at our properties. Some competing properties may be newer, better located or more attractive to tenants. Competing properties may have lower rates of occupancy than our properties, which may result in competing owners offering available space at lower rents than we offer at our properties. Development activities may increase the supply of properties of the type we own in the leasing markets in which we own properties and increase the competition we face. Competition may make it difficult for us to attract and retain tenants and may reduce the rents we are able to charge and the values of our properties.
The U.S. government’s “green lease” policies may adversely affect us.
In recent years, the U.S. government has instituted “green lease” policies which allow a government tenant to require Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for commercial interiors, or LEED®-CI, designation in selecting new premises or renewing leases at existing premises. In addition, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 allows the GSA to give preference to buildings for lease that have received an “Energy Star” label. Obtaining and maintaining such designation and labels may be costly and time consuming, but our failure to do so may result in our competitive disadvantage in acquiring new or retaining existing government tenants.
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Some tenants have the right to terminate their leases prior to their lease expiration date and changes in our tenants’ requirements for leased space may adversely affect us.
Some of our leases allow the tenants to vacate the leased premises before the stated terms of the leases expire with little or no liability. In particular:
Tenants occupying approximately 7.4% of our rentable square feet and responsible for approximately 9.2% of our annualized rental income as of December 31, 2020 have currently exercisable rights to terminate their leases before the stated term of their leases expire.
In 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028, 2029 and 2035, early termination rights become exercisable by tenants who currently occupy an additional approximately 1.3%, 2.8%, 1.5%, 1.1%, 2.1%, 1.0%, 0.6%, 1.1%, 0.1% and 0.3%, of our rentable square feet, respectively, and contribute an additional approximately 1.6%, 2.9%, 1.7%, 1.7%, 3.5%, 1.3%, 1.1%, 1.3%, 0.2% and 0.4% of our annualized rental income, respectively, as of December 31, 2020.
As of December 31, 2020, pursuant to leases with 13 of our tenants, these tenants have rights to terminate their leases if their respective legislature or other funding authority does not appropriate rent amounts in their respective annual budgets. These 13 tenants represented approximately 5.0% of our rentable square feet and 5.9% of our annualized rental income as of December 31, 2020.
For various reasons, some or all of our tenants may decide to exercise early termination rights under our leases or vacate our properties upon expiration of our leases. Also, our tenants may seek to reduce the space they occupy at our properties in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to modify their space utilization or for other reasons. See “—The COVID-19 pandemic has had, and may continue to have, significant impacts on workplace practices and those changes, or other office space utilization trends, could impact our business” and “—Government budgetary pressures and priorities and trends in government employment and office leasing may adversely impact our business” included in Part I, Item 1A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. If a significant number of such events occur, our income and cash flow may materially decline and our ability to make or sustain distributions to our shareholders may be jeopardized.
We have debt and we may incur additional debt.
As of December 31, 2020, our consolidated indebtedness was $2.2 billion. We had no amounts outstanding under our revolving credit facility and $750.0 million available for borrowing as of December 31, 2020 and February 18, 2021. Our credit agreement includes a feature under which the maximum aggregate borrowing availability may be increased to up to $1.95 billion in certain circumstances.
We are subject to numerous risks associated with our debt, including the risk that our cash flows could be insufficient for us to make required payments on our debt. There are no limits in our organizational documents on the amount of debt we may incur, and we may incur substantial debt. Our debt obligations could have important consequences to our securityholders. Our incurrence of debt may increase our vulnerability to adverse economic, market and industry conditions, limit our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business, and place us at a disadvantage in relation to competitors that have lower debt levels. Our incurrence of debt could also increase the costs to us of incurring additional debt, increase our exposure to floating interest rates or expose us to potential events of default (if not cured or waived) under covenants contained in debt instruments that could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results. Excessive debt could reduce the available cash flow to fund, or limit our ability to obtain financing for, working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, construction projects, refinancing, lease obligations or other purposes, and hinder our ability to maintain investment grade ratings from nationally recognized credit rating agencies or to make or sustain distributions to our shareholders.
If we default under any of our debt obligations, we may be in default under the agreements governing other debt obligations of ours which have cross default provisions, including our credit agreement and our senior unsecured notes indentures and their supplements. In such case, our lenders or bondholders may demand immediate payment of any outstanding indebtedness and we could be forced to liquidate our assets for less than the values we would receive in a more orderly process.
We may fail to comply with the terms of our credit agreement and our senior unsecured notes indentures and their supplements, which could adversely affect our business and may prevent our making distributions to our shareholders.
Our credit agreement and our senior unsecured notes indentures and their supplements include various conditions, covenants and events of default. We may not be able to satisfy all of these conditions or may default on some of these
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covenants for various reasons, including for reasons beyond our control. For example, our credit agreement and our senior unsecured notes indentures and their supplements require us to comply with certain financial and other covenants. Our ability to comply with such covenants will depend upon the net rental income we receive from our properties. If the occupancy at our properties declines or if our rents decline, we may be unable to borrow under our revolving credit facility. Complying with these covenants may limit our ability to take actions that may be beneficial to us and our securityholders.
If we are unable to borrow under our revolving credit facility, we may be unable to meet our obligations or grow our business by acquiring additional properties. If we default under our credit agreement, our lenders may demand immediate payment and may elect not to fund future borrowings. During the continuance of any event of default under our credit agreement, we may be limited or in some cases prohibited from making distributions to our shareholders. Any default under our credit agreement that results in acceleration of our obligations to repay outstanding indebtedness or in our no longer being permitted to borrow under our revolving credit facility would likely have serious adverse consequences to us and would likely cause the value of our securities to decline.
In the future, we may obtain additional debt financing, and the covenants and conditions which apply to any such additional debt may be more restrictive than the covenants and conditions that are contained in our credit agreement or our senior unsecured notes indentures and their supplements.
Changes in market interest rates, including changes that may result from the expected phase out of LIBOR, may adversely affect us.
Interest rates have remained at relatively low levels on a historical basis, and the U.S. Federal Reserve System, or the U.S. Federal Reserve, has indicated that it does not expect to raise interest rates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and current market conditions until at least the end of 2023. There can be no assurance, however, that the U.S. Federal Reserve will not raise rates prior to that time. Low market interest rates, particularly if they remain over a sustained period, may increase our use of debt capital to fund property acquisitions, lower capitalization rates for property purchases and increase competition for property purchases, which may reduce our ability to acquire new properties.
In addition, as noted in Part II, Item 7A of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, LIBOR is currently expected to be phased out for new contracts by December 31, 2021 and for pre-existing contracts by June 30, 2023. Although the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted, and may continue to impact, this phase out, it is unclear if after June 30, 2023 LIBOR will cease to exist or if new methods of calculating LIBOR will be established such that it continues to exist after June 30, 2023.
The interest rate under our revolving credit facility is based on LIBOR and the interest we may pay on any future debt we may incur may also be based on LIBOR. We currently expect that the determination of interest under our revolving credit facility would be based on the alternative rates provided under our credit agreement or would be revised as provided under our credit agreement or amended as necessary to provide for an interest rate that approximates the existing interest rate as calculated in accordance with LIBOR. Despite our current expectations, we cannot be sure that, if LIBOR is phased out or transitioned, the changes to the determination of interest under our credit agreement would approximate the current calculation in accordance with LIBOR. An alternative interest rate index that may replace LIBOR may result in our paying increased interest. Interest rate increases may materially and negatively affect us in several ways, including:
Investors may consider whether to buy or sell our common shares based upon the distribution rate on our common shares relative to the then prevailing market interest rates. If market interest rates go up, investors may expect a higher distribution rate than we are able to pay, which may increase our cost of capital, or they may sell our common shares and seek alternative investments that offer higher distribution rates. Sales of our common shares may cause a decline in the value of our common shares.
Amounts outstanding under our revolving credit facility require interest to be paid at floating interest rates. When interest rates increase, our interest costs will increase, which could adversely affect our cash flows, our ability to pay principal and interest on our debt, our cost of refinancing our fixed rate debts when they become due and our ability to make or sustain distributions to our shareholders. Additionally, if we choose to hedge our interest rate risk, we cannot be sure that the hedge will be effective or that our hedging counterparty will meet its obligations to us.
Property values are often determined, in part, based upon a capitalization of rental income formula. When market interest rates increase, property investors often demand higher capitalization rates and that causes property values to decline. Increases in interest rates could lower the value of our properties and cause the value of our securities to decline.
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Ownership of real estate is subject to environmental risks and liabilities.
Ownership of real estate is subject to risks associated with environmental hazards. Under various laws, owners as well as tenants of real estate may be required to investigate and clean up or remove hazardous substances present at or migrating from properties they own, lease or operate and may be held liable for property damage or personal injuries that result from hazardous substances. These laws also expose us to the possibility that we may become liable to government agencies or third parties for costs and damages they incur in connection with hazardous substances. The costs and damages that may arise from environmental hazards may be substantial and are difficult to assess and estimate for numerous reasons, including uncertainty about the extent of contamination, alternative treatment methods that may be applied, the location of the property which subjects it to differing local laws and regulations and their interpretations, as well as the time it may take to remediate contamination. In addition, these laws also impose various requirements regarding the operation and maintenance of properties and recordkeeping and reporting requirements relating to environmental matters that require us or the tenants of our properties to incur costs to comply with. While our leases with non-government tenants generally require our tenants to operate in compliance with applicable law and to indemnify us against any environmental liabilities arising from their activities on our properties, applicable law may make us subject to strict liability by virtue of our ownership interests. Also, our tenants may have insufficient financial resources to satisfy their indemnification obligations under our leases or they may resist doing so. The U.S. government is not required to indemnify us for environmental hazards they create at our properties and therefore could hold us liable for environmental hazards they create at our properties and we could have no recourse to them. We may incur substantial liabilities and costs for environmental matters.
Ownership of real estate is subject to risks from adverse weather, natural disasters and climate events.
Severe weather may have an adverse effect on certain properties we own. Flooding caused by rising sea levels and severe weather events, including hurricanes, tornadoes and widespread fires, may have an adverse effect on properties we own and result in significant losses to us and interruption of our business. When major weather, natural disasters or climate-related events, such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires, occur at or near our properties, our tenants may need to suspend operations of the impacted property until the event has ended and the property is then ready for operation. We or the tenants of our properties may incur significant costs and losses as a result of these activities, both in terms of operating, preparing and repairing our properties in anticipation of, during and after a severe weather or climate-related event and in terms of potential lost business due to the interruption in operating our properties. Our insurance and our tenants’ insurance may not adequately compensate us or them for these costs and losses.
Also, concerns about climate change have resulted in various treaties, laws and regulations that are intended to limit carbon emissions and address other environmental concerns. These and other laws may cause energy or other costs at our properties to increase. Laws enacted to mitigate climate change may make some of our properties obsolete or cause us to make material investments in our properties, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition or the financial condition of our tenants and their ability to pay rent to us and cause the value of our properties to decline. In addition, concerns about climate change and increasing storm intensities may increase the cost of insurance for our properties or potentially render it unavailable to obtain.
Bankruptcy law may adversely impact us.
The occurrence of a tenant bankruptcy could reduce the rent we receive from that tenant. In addition, the continued existence of the COVID-19 pandemic may increase the risk of our tenants filing for bankruptcy. If a tenant becomes bankrupt, federal law may prohibit us from evicting that tenant based solely upon its bankruptcy. In addition, a bankrupt tenant may be authorized to reject and terminate its lease with us. Any claims against a bankrupt tenant for unpaid future rent would be subject to statutory limitations that may be substantially less than the contractually specified rent we are owed under the lease, and any claim we have for unpaid past rent, may not be paid in full.
Real estate construction and redevelopment creates risks.
We may develop new properties or redevelop some of our existing properties as the existing leases expire, as our tenants’ needs change or to pursue any other opportunities that we believe are desirable. The development and redevelopment of new and existing buildings involves significant risks in addition to those involved in the ownership and operation of leased properties, including the risks that construction may not be completed on schedule or within budget, resulting in increased construction costs and delays in leasing such properties and generating cash flows. Development activities are also subject to risks relating to the inability to obtain, or delays in obtaining, all necessary zoning, land use, building, occupancy, and other required government permits and authorizations. Once completed, any new properties may perform below anticipated financial results. The occurrence of one or more of these circumstances in connection with our development or redevelopment activities could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and the values of our properties.
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RMR LLC relies on information technology and systems in its provision of services to us, and any material failure, inadequacy, interruption or security failure of that technology or those systems could materially and adversely affect us.
RMR LLC relies on information technology and systems, including the Internet and cloud-based infrastructures, commercially available software and its internally developed applications, to process, transmit, store and safeguard information and to manage or support a variety of its business processes (including managing our building systems), including financial transactions and maintenance of records, which may include personal identifying information of employees and tenants and lease data. If these systems experience material security or other failures, inadequacies or interruptions of its information technology, we could incur material costs and losses and our operations could be disrupted as a result. Further, third party vendors could experience similar events with respect to their information technology and systems that impact the products and services they provide to RMR LLC or us. RMR LLC relies on commercially available systems, software, tools and monitoring, as well as its internally developed applications and internal procedures and personnel, to provide security for processing, transmitting, storing and safeguarding confidential tenant, customer and vendor information, such as personally identifiable information related to its employees and others and information regarding its and our financial accounts. RMR LLC takes various actions, and incurs significant costs, to maintain and protect the operation and security of its information technology and systems, including the data maintained in those systems. However, it is possible that these measures will not prevent the systems’ improper functioning or a compromise in security, such as in the event of a cyberattack or the improper disclosure of personally identifiable information.
Security breaches, computer viruses, attacks by hackers, online fraud schemes and similar breaches can create significant system disruptions, shutdowns, fraudulent transfer of assets or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. Our cybersecurity risks are heightened by, among other things, the evolving nature of the threats faced, advances in computer capabilities, new discoveries in the field of cryptography and new and increasingly sophisticated methods used to perpetrate illegal or fraudulent activities, including cyberattacks, email or wire fraud and other attacks exploiting security vulnerabilities in RMR LLC’s or other third parties’ information technology networks and systems or operations. Any failure to maintain the security, proper function and availability of RMR LLC’s information technology and systems, or certain third party vendors’ failure to similarly protect their information technology and systems that are relevant to RMR LLC’s or our operations, or to safeguard RMR LLC’s or our business processes, assets and information could result in financial losses, interrupt our operations, damage our reputation, cause us to be in default of material contracts and subject us to liability claims or regulatory penalties, any of which could materially and adversely affect our business and the value of our securities.
Insurance may not adequately cover our losses, and insurance costs may continue to increase.
We or our tenants are responsible for the costs of insurance, including for casualty, liability, fire, extended coverage and rental or business interruption loss insurance. In the past few years, we have experienced increases in the costs of providing such insurance, and these increased costs have had an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. In the future, we may acquire additional properties for which we are responsible for the costs of insurance. Losses of a catastrophic nature, such as those caused by hurricanes, flooding, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, among other things, losses as a result of outbreaks of pandemics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, or losses from terrorism, may be covered by insurance policies with limitations such as large deductibles or co-payments that we or a responsible tenant may not be able to pay. Insurance proceeds may not be adequate to restore an affected property to its condition prior to a loss or to compensate us for our losses, including the loss of future revenues from an affected property. Similarly, our other insurance, including our general liability insurance, may not provide adequate insurance to cover our losses. In addition, we do not have any insurance to limit losses that we may incur as a result of known or unknown environmental conditions. Further, we cannot be sure that certain types of risks that are currently insurable will continue to be insurable on an economically feasible basis, and we may discontinue, or agree to a tenant discontinuing, certain insurance coverage on some or all of our properties in the future if we determine that the cost of premiums for any of these policies exceeds the value of the coverage. If an uninsured loss or a loss in excess of insured limits occurs and if we are not able to recover amounts from our applicable tenants for those losses, we may have to incur uninsured costs to mitigate such losses or lose all or a portion of the capital invested in a property, as well as the anticipated future revenue from the property. We might also remain obligated for any financial obligations related to the property, even if the property is irreparably damaged. In addition, future changes in the insurance industry’s risk assessment approach and pricing structure could further increase the cost of insuring our properties or decrease the scope of insurance coverage, either of which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations, liquidity and ability to pay distributions to our shareholders.
A prolonged U.S. government shutdown may adversely impact our business and cash position.
Under our leases with the U.S. government, the tenants pay us rent monthly in arrears. If the U.S. government experiences a prolonged shutdown, these tenants may not pay us rent during the pendency of the shutdown. Although we expect that these tenants would pay us any outstanding rents after the shutdown ends, our available cash and leverage targets may be adversely
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impacted during the period we do not receive rents from these tenants. In addition, the impact of a prolonged government shutdown on government personnel resources could hinder our ability to renew expiring leases or initiate or complete renovation, construction and other capital maintenance of the affected properties. During the pendency of any shutdown, we may need to borrow amounts under our revolving credit facility or seek alternative financing, which we may not be able to receive timely or on reasonable terms. A failure to receive rents from our government tenants during a government shutdown may impair our ability to fund our operations and investments, pay our debt obligations, make capital expenditures and pay distributions to our shareholders. Moreover, some of our tenants are government contractors that rely on government business. If a government shutdown results in our government contractor tenants not paying us rent, the negative impact on us from a government shutdown may be compounded.
Risks Related to Our Relationships with RMR LLC
We are dependent upon RMR LLC to manage our business and implement our growth strategy.
We have no employees. Personnel and services that we require are provided to us by RMR LLC pursuant to our management agreements with RMR LLC. Our ability to achieve our business objectives depends on RMR LLC and its ability to effectively manage our properties, to appropriately identify and complete our acquisitions and dispositions and to execute our growth strategy. Accordingly, our business is dependent upon RMR LLC’s business contacts, its ability to successfully hire, train, supervise and manage its personnel and its ability to maintain its operating systems. If we lose the services provided by RMR LLC or its key personnel, our business and growth prospects may decline. We may be unable to duplicate the quality and depth of management available to us by becoming internally managed or by hiring another manager. In the event RMR LLC is unwilling or unable to continue to provide management services to us, our cost of obtaining substitute services may be greater than the fees we pay RMR LLC under our management agreements, and as a result our expenses may increase.
RMR LLC has broad discretion in operating our day to day business.
Our manager, RMR LLC, is authorized to follow broad operating and investment guidelines and, therefore, has discretion in identifying the properties that will be appropriate investments for us, as well as our individual operating and investment decisions. Our Board of Trustees periodically reviews our operating and investment guidelines and our operating activities and investments but it does not review or approve each decision made by RMR LLC on our behalf. In addition, in conducting periodic reviews, our Board of Trustees relies primarily on information provided to it by RMR LLC. RMR LLC may exercise its discretion in a manner that results in investment returns that are substantially below expectations or that results in losses.
Our management structure and agreements and relationships with RMR LLC and RMR LLC’s and its controlling shareholder’s relationships with others may create conflicts of interest, or the perception of such conflicts, and may restrict our investment activities.
RMR LLC is a majority-owned subsidiary of RMR Inc. The Chair of our Board of Trustees and one of our Managing Trustees, Adam Portnoy, as the sole trustee of ABP Trust, is the controlling shareholder of RMR Inc. and is a managing director and the president and chief executive officer of RMR Inc. and an officer and employee of RMR LLC. RMR LLC or its subsidiary also acts as the manager to four other Nasdaq listed REITs: ILPT, which owns industrial and logistics properties; DHC, which primarily owns senior living communities, medical office and life science buildings and other healthcare related properties; SVC, which owns a diverse portfolio of hotels and net lease service and necessity-based retail properties; and TRMT, which focuses on originating and investing in first mortgage whole loans secured by middle market and transitional commercial real estate. RMR LLC also provides services to other publicly and privately owned companies, including: Five Star, which operates senior living communities and provides rehabilitation and wellness services; TA, which operates and franchises travel centers, standalone truck service facilities and restaurants; and Sonesta, which operates, manages and franchises hotels, resorts and cruise boats. A subsidiary of RMR LLC is an investment adviser to RMRM, which recently converted from a registered investment company to a publicly traded mortgage REIT. Mr. Portnoy serves as chair of the board of trustees or board of directors, as applicable, of DHC, ILPT, SVC, Five Star and TA and as managing director, managing trustee, director or trustee, as applicable, of the companies managed by RMR LLC or its subsidiaries.
Christopher Bilotto, our President and Chief Operating Officer, and Matthew Brown, our Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, are also officers and employees of RMR LLC and David Blackman, our other Managing Trustee and, until December 31, 2020, our President and Chief Executive Officer, is also an employee of RMR LLC. Messrs. Bilotto, Brown and Blackman have duties to RMR LLC, as well as to us, and we do not have their undivided attention. They and other RMR LLC personnel may have conflicts in allocating their time and resources between us and RMR LLC and other companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide services. Some of our Independent Trustees also serve as independent directors or independent trustees of other public companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide management services.
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In addition, we may in the future enter into additional transactions with RMR LLC, its affiliates, or entities managed by it or its subsidiaries. In addition to his investments in RMR Inc. and RMR LLC, Adam Portnoy holds equity investments in other companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide management services and some of these companies have significant cross ownership interests, including, for example: as of December 31, 2020, Mr. Portnoy beneficially owned, in aggregate, 1.5% of our outstanding common shares, 6.3% of Five Star’s outstanding common stock (including through ABP Trust), 1.2% of ILPT’s outstanding common shares, 1.1% of DHC’s outstanding common shares, 2.3% of RMRM’s outstanding common shares, 1.1% of SVC’s outstanding common shares, 4.5% of TA’s outstanding common shares (including through RMR LLC) and 19.4% of TRMT’s outstanding common shares (including through Tremont Realty Advisors LLC). Our executive officers may also own equity investments in other companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide management services. These multiple responsibilities, relationships and cross ownerships may give rise to conflicts of interest or the perception of such conflicts of interest with respect to matters involving us, RMR Inc., RMR LLC, our Managing Trustees, the other companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide management services and their related parties. Conflicts of interest or the perception of conflicts of interest could have a material adverse impact on our reputation, business and the market price of our common shares and other securities and we may be subject to increased risk of litigation as a result.
In our management agreements with RMR LLC, we acknowledge that RMR LLC may engage in other activities or businesses and act as the manager to any other person or entity (including other REITs) even though such person or entity has investment policies and objectives similar to our policies and objectives and we are not entitled to preferential treatment in receiving information, recommendations and other services from RMR LLC. Accordingly, we may lose investment opportunities to, and may compete for tenants with, other businesses managed by RMR LLC or its subsidiaries. We cannot be sure that our Code of Conduct or our governance guidelines, or other procedural protections we adopt will be sufficient to enable us to identify, adequately address or mitigate actual or alleged conflicts of interest or ensure that our transactions with related persons are made on terms that are at least as favorable to us as those that would have been obtained with an unrelated person.
Our management agreements with RMR LLC were not negotiated on an arm’s length basis and their fee and expense structure may not create proper incentives for RMR LLC, which may increase the risk of an investment in our common shares.
As a result of our relationships with RMR LLC and its current and former controlling shareholder(s), our management agreements with RMR LLC were not negotiated on an arm’s length basis between unrelated parties, and therefore, while such agreements were negotiated with the use of a special committee and disinterested Trustees, the terms, including the fees payable to RMR LLC, may not be as favorable to us as they would have been if they were negotiated on an arm’s length basis between unrelated parties. Our property management fees are calculated based on rents we receive and construction supervision fees for construction at our properties overseen and managed by RMR LLC, and our base business management fee is calculated based upon the lower of the historical costs of our real estate investments and our market capitalization. We pay RMR LLC substantial base management fees regardless of our financial results. These fee arrangements could incentivize RMR LLC to pursue acquisitions, capital transactions, tenancies and construction projects or to avoid disposing of our assets in order to increase or maintain its management fees and might reduce RMR LLC’s incentive to devote its time and effort to seeking investments that provide attractive returns for us. If we do not effectively manage our investment, disposition and capital transactions and leasing, construction and other property management activities, we may pay increased management fees without proportional benefits to us. In addition, we are obligated under our management agreements to reimburse RMR LLC for employment and related expenses of RMR LLC’s employees assigned to work exclusively or partly at our properties, our share of the wages, benefits and other related costs of RMR LLC’s centralized accounting personnel and our share of RMR LLC’s costs for providing our internal audit function. We are also required to pay for third party costs incurred with respect to us. Our obligation to reimburse RMR LLC for certain of its costs and to pay third party costs may reduce RMR LLC’s incentive to efficiently manage those costs, which may increase our costs.
The termination of our management agreements with RMR LLC may require us to pay a substantial termination fee, including in the case of a termination for unsatisfactory performance, which may limit our ability to end our relationship with RMR LLC.
The terms of our management agreements with RMR LLC automatically extend on December 31 of each year so that such terms thereafter end on the 20th anniversary of the date of the extension. We have the right to terminate these agreements: (1) at any time on 60 days’ written notice for convenience, (2) immediately upon written notice for cause, as defined in the agreements, (3) on written notice given within 60 days after the end of any applicable calendar year for a performance reason, as defined in the agreements, and (4) by written notice during the 12 months following a manager change of control, as defined in the agreements. However, if we terminate a management agreement for convenience, or if RMR LLC terminates a management agreement with us for good reason, as defined in such agreement, we are obligated to pay RMR LLC a termination
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fee in an amount equal to the sum of the present values of the monthly future fees, as defined in the applicable agreement, payable to RMR LLC for the term that was remaining before such termination, which, depending on the time of termination, would be between 19 and 20 years. Additionally, if we terminate a management agreement for a performance reason, as defined in the agreement, we are obligated to pay RMR LLC the termination fee calculated as described above, but assuming a remaining term of 10 years. These provisions substantially increase the cost to us of terminating the management agreements without cause, which may limit our ability to end our relationship with RMR LLC as our manager. The payment of the termination fee could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, including our ability to pay dividends to our shareholders.
Our management arrangements with RMR LLC may discourage a change of control of us.
Our management agreements with RMR LLC have continuing 20 year terms that renew annually. As noted in the preceding risk factor, if we terminate either of these management agreements other than for cause or upon a change of control of our manager, we are obligated to pay RMR LLC a substantial termination fee. For these reasons, our management agreements with RMR LLC may discourage a change of control of us, including a change of control which might result in payment of a premium for our common shares.
We are and have been party to transactions with related parties that may increase the risk of allegations of conflicts of interest, and such allegations may impair our ability to realize the benefits we expect from these transactions.
We are and have been party to transactions with related parties, including with entities controlled by Adam Portnoy or to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide or provided management services. Our agreements with related parties or in respect of transactions among related parties may not be or have been on terms as favorable to us as they would have been if they had been negotiated among unrelated parties. We are subject to the risk that our shareholders or the shareholders of RMR Inc. or other related parties may challenge any such related party transactions and the agreements entered into as part of them. If such a challenge were to be successful, we might not realize the benefits expected from the transactions being challenged. Moreover, any such challenge could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our management’s attention, could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business and growth and could adversely affect our ability to realize the benefits expected from the transactions, whether or not the allegations have merit or are substantiated.
We may be at an increased risk for dissident shareholder activities due to perceived conflicts of interest arising from our management structure and relationships.
Companies with business dealings with related persons and entities may more often be the target of dissident shareholder trustee nominations, dissident shareholder proposals and shareholder litigation alleging conflicts of interest in their business dealings. Our relationships with RMR LLC, the other companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide management services, Adam Portnoy and other related persons of RMR LLC have precipitated and may precipitate such activities. Certain proxy advisory firms which have significant influence over the voting by shareholders of public companies have in the past recommended, and in the future may recommend, that shareholders withhold votes for the election of our incumbent Trustees, vote against our say on pay vote or other management proposals or vote for shareholder proposals that we oppose. These recommendations by proxy advisory firms in the future would likely affect the outcome of future Board of Trustees elections and votes on our say on pay, which may increase shareholder activism and litigation. These activities, if instituted against us, could result in substantial costs, and diversion of our management’s attention and could have a material adverse impact on our reputation and business.
Risks Related to Our Organization and Structure
Ownership limitations and certain provisions in our declaration of trust, bylaws and agreements as well as certain provisions of Maryland law, may deter, delay or prevent a change in our control or unsolicited acquisition proposals.
Our declaration of trust prohibits any shareholder, other than RMR LLC and its affiliates (as defined under Maryland law) and certain persons who have been exempted by our Board of Trustees, from owning, directly and by attribution, more than 9.8% of the number or value of shares (whichever is more restrictive) of any class or series of our outstanding shares of beneficial interest, including our common shares. This provision of our declaration of trust is intended to, among other purposes, assist with our REIT compliance under the IRC and otherwise promote our orderly governance. However, this provision may also inhibit acquisitions of a significant stake in us and may deter, delay or prevent a change in control of us or unsolicited acquisition proposals that a shareholder may consider favorable. Additionally, provisions contained in our
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declaration of trust and bylaws or under Maryland law may have a similar impact, including, for example, provisions relating to:
the current division of our Trustees into classes until our 2023 annual meeting of shareholders, with three classes remaining with terms expiring in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively, (although effective at our 2021 annual meeting of shareholders, Trustees of the class of trustees whose term expires at that meeting or expires at a subsequent annual meeting of shareholders will be elected annually, with all of our Trustees being elected annually as of our 2023 annual meeting of shareholders, and with a majority of our current Trustees having terms expiring at our 2022 annual meeting of shareholders);
limitations on shareholder voting rights with respect to certain actions that are not approved by our Board of Trustees;
the authority of our Board of Trustees, and not our shareholders, to adopt, amend or repeal our bylaws and to fill vacancies on our Board of Trustees;
shareholder voting standards which require a supermajority of shares for approval of certain actions;
the fact that only our Board of Trustees, or, if there are no Trustees, our officers, may call shareholder meetings and that shareholders are not entitled to act without a meeting;
required qualifications for an individual to serve as a Trustee and a requirement that certain of our Trustees be “Managing Trustees” and other Trustees be “Independent Trustees,” as defined in our governing documents;
limitations on the ability of our shareholders to propose nominees for election as Trustees and propose other business to be considered at a meeting of our shareholders;
limitations on the ability of our shareholders to remove our Trustees;
the authority of our Board of Trustees to create and issue new classes or series of shares (including shares with voting rights and other rights and privileges that may deter a change in control) and issue additional common shares;
restrictions on business combinations between us and an interested shareholder that have not first been approved by our Board of Trustees (including a majority of Trustees not related to the interested shareholder); and
the authority of our Board of Trustees, without shareholder approval, to implement certain takeover defenses.
As changes occur in the marketplace for corporate governance policies, the above provisions may change, be removed, or new ones may be added.
Our rights and the rights of our shareholders to take action against our Trustees and officers are limited.
Our declaration of trust limits the liability of our Trustees and officers to us and our shareholders for money damages to the maximum extent permitted under Maryland law. Under current Maryland law, our Trustees and officers will not have any liability to us and our shareholders for money damages other than liability resulting from:
actual receipt of an improper benefit or profit in money, property or services; or
active and deliberate dishonesty by the Trustee or officer that was established by a final judgment as being material to the cause of action adjudicated.
Our declaration of trust authorizes us, and our bylaws and indemnification agreements require us, to indemnify, to the maximum extent permitted by Maryland law, any present or former Trustee or officer who is made or threatened to be made a party to a proceeding by reason of his or her service in these and certain other capacities. In addition, we may be obligated to pay or reimburse the expenses incurred by our present and former Trustees and officers without requiring a preliminary determination of their ultimate entitlement to indemnification. As a result, we and our shareholders may have more limited rights against our present and former Trustees and officers than might otherwise exist absent the provisions in our declaration of trust, bylaws and indemnification agreements or that might exist with other companies, which could limit our shareholders’ recourse in the event of actions not in their best interest.
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Shareholder litigation against us or our Trustees, officers, manager, other agents or employees may be referred to mandatory arbitration proceedings, which follow different procedures than in-court litigation and may be more restrictive to shareholders asserting claims than in-court litigation.
Our shareholders agree, by virtue of becoming shareholders, that they are bound by our governing documents, including the arbitration provisions of our declaration of trust and bylaws, as they may be amended from time to time. Our governing documents provide that certain actions by one or more of our shareholders against us or any of our Trustees, officers, manager or other agents or employees, other than disputes, or any portion thereof, regarding the meaning, interpretation or validity of any provision of our declaration of trust or bylaws, will be referred to mandatory, binding and final arbitration proceedings if we, or any other party to such dispute, including any of our Trustees, officers, manager, other agents or employees unilaterally so demands. As a result, we and our shareholders would not be able to pursue litigation in state or federal court against us or our Trustees, officers, manager, other agents or employees, including, for example, claims alleging violations of federal securities laws or breach of fiduciary duties or similar director or officer duties under Maryland law, if we or any of our Trustees, officers, manager, other agents or employees against whom the claim is made unilaterally demands the matter be resolved by arbitration. Instead, our shareholders would be required to pursue such claims through binding and final arbitration.
Our governing documents provide that such arbitration proceedings would be conducted in accordance with the procedures of the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association, as modified in our bylaws. These procedures may provide materially more limited rights to our shareholders than litigation in a federal or state court. For example, arbitration in accordance with these procedures does not include the opportunity for a jury trial, document discovery is limited, arbitration hearings generally are not open to the public, there are no witness depositions in advance of arbitration hearings and arbitrators may have different qualifications or experiences than judges. In addition, although our governing documents’ arbitration provisions contemplate that arbitration may be brought in a representative capacity or on behalf of a class of our shareholders, the rules governing such representation or class arbitration may be different from, and less favorable to shareholders than, the rules governing representative or class action litigation in courts. Our governing documents also generally provide that each party to such an arbitration is required to bear its own costs in the arbitration, including attorneys’ fees, and that the arbitrators may not render an award that includes shifting of such costs or, in a derivative or class proceeding, award any portion of our award to any shareholder or such shareholder’s attorneys. The arbitration provisions of our governing documents may discourage our shareholders from bringing, and attorneys from agreeing to represent our shareholders wishing to bring, litigation against us or our Trustees, officers, manager, other agents or employees. Our agreements with RMR LLC have similar arbitration provisions to those in our governing documents.
We believe that the arbitration provisions in our governing documents are enforceable under both state and federal law, including with respect to federal securities laws claims. We are a Maryland real estate investment trust and Maryland courts have upheld the enforceability of arbitration provisions in governing documents. In addition, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld agreements to arbitrate other federal statutory claims, including those that implicate important federal policies. However, some academics, legal practitioners and others are of the view that charter or bylaw provisions mandating arbitration are not enforceable with respect to federal securities laws claims. It is possible that the arbitration provisions of our governing documents may ultimately be determined to be unenforceable.
By agreeing to the arbitration provisions of our governing documents, shareholders will not be deemed to have waived compliance by us with federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder.
Our bylaws designate the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland as the sole and exclusive forum for certain actions and proceedings that may be initiated by our shareholders, which could limit our shareholders’ ability to obtain a judicial forum they deem favorable for disputes with us or our Trustees, officers, manager, agents or employees.
Our bylaws currently provide that, unless the dispute has been referred to binding arbitration, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland will be the sole and exclusive forum for: (1) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf; (2) any action asserting a claim for breach of a fiduciary duty owed by any Trustee, officer, manager, agent or employee of ours to us or our shareholders; (3) any action asserting a claim against us or any Trustee, officer, manager, agent or employee of ours arising pursuant to Maryland law, our declaration of trust or bylaws brought by or on behalf of a shareholder, either on his, her or its own behalf, on our behalf or on behalf of any series or class of shares of beneficial interest of ours or shareholders against us or any Trustee, officer, manager, agent or employee of ours, including any disputes, claims or controversies relating to the meaning, interpretation, effect, validity, performance or enforcement of our declaration of trust or bylaws; or (4) any action asserting a claim against us or any Trustee, officer, manager, agent or employee of ours that is governed by the internal affairs doctrine. Our bylaws currently also provide that the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland will be the sole and exclusive forum for any dispute, or portion thereof, regarding the meaning, interpretation or validity of any provision of our declaration of trust or bylaws. The exclusive forum provision of our bylaws does not apply to any action for which the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland does not have jurisdiction or to a dispute that has been referred to binding arbitration in
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accordance with our bylaws. The exclusive forum provision of our bylaws does not establish exclusive jurisdiction in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland for claims that arise under the Securities Act, the Exchange Act or other federal securities laws if there is exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction in the federal courts. Any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring or holding any interest in our shares of beneficial interest shall be deemed to have notice of and to have consented to these provisions of our bylaws, as they may be amended from time to time. The arbitration and exclusive forum provisions of our bylaws may limit a shareholder’s ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that the shareholder believes is favorable for disputes with us or our Trustees, officers, manager, other agents or employees, which may discourage lawsuits against us and our Trustees, officers, manager, other agents or employees. SIR’s former bylaws had similar exclusive forum provisions to those in our bylaws.
We may change our operational, financing and investment policies without shareholder approval and we may become more highly leveraged, which may increase our risk of default under our debt obligations.
Our Board of Trustees determines our operational, financing and investment policies and may amend or revise our policies, including our policies with respect to our intention to remain qualified for taxation as a REIT, acquisitions, dispositions, growth, operations, indebtedness, capitalization and distributions, or approve transactions that deviate from these policies, without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders. Policy changes could adversely affect the market price of our common shares and our ability to make distributions to our shareholders. Further, our organizational documents do not limit the amount or percentage of indebtedness, funded or otherwise, that we may incur. Our Board of Trustees may alter or eliminate our current policy on borrowing at any time without shareholder approval. If this policy changes, we could become more highly leveraged, which could result in an increase in our debt service costs. Higher leverage also increases the risk of default on our obligations. In addition, a change in our investment policies, including the manner in which we allocate our resources across our portfolio or the types of assets in which we seek to invest, may increase our exposure to interest rate risk, real estate market fluctuations and liquidity risk.
Risks Related to Our Taxation
Our failure to remain qualified for taxation as a REIT under the IRC could have significant adverse consequences.
As a REIT, we generally do not pay federal or most state income taxes as long as we distribute all of our REIT taxable income and meet other qualifications set forth in the IRC. However, actual qualification for taxation as a REIT under the IRC depends on our satisfying complex statutory requirements, for which there are only limited judicial and administrative interpretations. We believe that we have been organized and have operated, and will continue to be organized and to operate, in a manner that qualified and will continue to qualify us to be taxed as a REIT under the IRC. However, we cannot be sure that the IRS, upon review or audit, will agree with this conclusion. Furthermore, we cannot be sure that the federal government, or any state or other taxation authority, will continue to afford favorable income tax treatment to REITs and their shareholders.
Maintaining our qualification for taxation as a REIT under the IRC will require us to continue to satisfy tests concerning, among other things, the nature of our assets, the sources of our income and the amounts we distribute to our shareholders. In order to meet these requirements, it may be necessary for us to sell or forgo attractive investments.
If we cease to qualify for taxation as a REIT under the IRC, then our ability to raise capital might be adversely affected, we will be in breach under our credit agreement, we may be subject to material amounts of federal and state income taxes, our cash available for distribution to our shareholders could be reduced, and the market price of our common shares could decline. In addition, if we lose or revoke our qualification for taxation as a REIT under the IRC for a taxable year, we will generally be prevented from requalifying for taxation as a REIT for the next four taxable years.
Distributions to shareholders generally will not qualify for reduced tax rates applicable to “qualified dividends.”
Dividends payable by U.S. corporations to noncorporate shareholders, such as individuals, trusts and estates, are generally eligible for reduced federal income tax rates applicable to “qualified dividends.” Distributions paid by REITs generally are not treated as “qualified dividends” under the IRC and the reduced rates applicable to such dividends do not generally apply. However, for tax years beginning before 2026, REIT dividends paid to noncorporate shareholders are generally taxed at an effective tax rate lower than applicable ordinary income tax rates due to the availability of a deduction under the IRC for specified forms of income from passthrough entities. More favorable rates will nevertheless continue to apply to regular corporate “qualified” dividends, which may cause some investors to perceive that an investment in a REIT is less attractive than an investment in a non-REIT entity that pays dividends, thereby reducing the demand and market price of our common shares.
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REIT distribution requirements could adversely affect us and our shareholders.
We generally must distribute annually at least 90% of our REIT taxable income, subject to specified adjustments and excluding any net capital gain, in order to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT under the IRC. To the extent that we satisfy this distribution requirement, federal corporate income tax will not apply to the earnings that we distribute, but if we distribute less than 100% of our REIT taxable income, then we will be subject to federal corporate income tax on our undistributed taxable income. We intend to make distributions to our shareholders to comply with the REIT requirements of the IRC. In addition, we will be subject to a 4% nondeductible excise tax if the actual amount that we pay out to our shareholders in a calendar year is less than a minimum amount specified under federal tax laws.
From time to time, we may generate taxable income greater than our income for financial reporting purposes prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, or differences in timing between the recognition of taxable income and the actual receipt of cash may occur. If we do not have other funds available in these situations, among other things, we may borrow funds on unfavorable terms, sell investments at disadvantageous prices or distribute amounts that would otherwise be invested in future acquisitions in order to make distributions sufficient to enable us to pay out enough of our taxable income to satisfy the REIT distribution requirement and to avoid corporate income tax and the 4% excise tax in a particular year. These alternatives could increase our costs or reduce our shareholders’ equity. Thus, compliance with the REIT distribution requirements may hinder our ability to grow, which could cause the market price of our common shares to decline.
Even if we remain qualified for taxation as a REIT under the IRC, we may face other tax liabilities that reduce our cash flow.
Even if we remain qualified for taxation as a REIT under the IRC, we may be subject to federal, state and local taxes on our income and assets, including taxes on any undistributed income, excise taxes, state or local income, property and transfer taxes, and other taxes. Also, some jurisdictions may in the future limit or eliminate favorable income tax deductions, including the dividends paid deduction, which could increase our income tax expense. In addition, in order to meet the requirements for qualification and taxation as a REIT under the IRC, prevent the recognition of particular types of non-cash income, or avert the imposition of a 100% tax that applies to specified gains derived by a REIT from dealer property or inventory, we may hold or dispose of some of our assets and conduct some of our operations through our TRSs or other subsidiary corporations that will be subject to corporate level income tax at regular rates. In addition, while we intend that our transactions with our TRSs will be conducted on arm’s length bases, we may be subject to a 100% excise tax on a transaction that the IRS or a court determines was not conducted at arm’s length. Any of these taxes would decrease cash available for distribution to our shareholders.
We may incur adverse tax consequences as a result of our merger and acquisition transactions.
As a successor, we may face liability stemming from the tax liabilities (including penalties and interest) of the entities that we have acquired. These liabilities and our efforts to remedy any tax dispute relating to acquired entities could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Legislative or other actions affecting REITs could materially and adversely affect us and our shareholders.
The rules dealing with U.S. federal, state, and local taxation are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the IRS, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and other taxation authorities. Changes to the tax laws, with or without retroactive application, could materially and adversely affect us and our shareholders. We cannot predict how changes in the tax laws might affect us or our shareholders. New legislation, Treasury regulations, administrative interpretations or court decisions could significantly and negatively affect our ability to remain qualified for taxation as a REIT or the tax consequences of such qualification to us and our shareholders.
Risks Related to Our Securities
Our distributions to our shareholders may be reduced or eliminated and the form of payment could change.
We intend to continue to make regular quarterly distributions to our shareholders. However:
our ability to make or sustain the rate of distributions may be adversely affected if any of the risks described in this Annual Report on Form 10-K occur, including any negative impact caused by the prolonged duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath on our business, results of operations and liquidity;
our making of distributions is subject to restrictions contained in the agreements governing our debt and may be subject to restrictions in future debt obligations we may incur; during the continuance of any event of default under the
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agreements governing our debt, we may be limited or in some cases prohibited from making distributions to our shareholders; and
the timing and amount of any distributions will be determined at the discretion of our Board of Trustees and will depend on various factors that our Board of Trustees deems relevant, including our FFO, our Normalized FFO, requirements to maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT, limitations in our credit agreement and public debt covenants, the availability to us of debt and equity capital, our expectation of our future capital requirements and operating performance and our expected needs for and availability of cash to pay our obligations.
For these reasons, among others, our distribution rate may decline or we may cease making distributions to our shareholders.
Further, in order to preserve liquidity, we may elect to pay distributions to our shareholders in part in a form other than cash, such as issuing additional common shares of ours to our shareholders, as permitted by the applicable tax rules.
Changes in market conditions could adversely affect the value of our securities.
As with other publicly traded equity securities and REIT securities, the value of our common shares and other securities depends on various market conditions that are subject to change from time to time, including:
the extent of investor interest in our securities;
the general reputation of REITs and externally managed companies and the attractiveness of our equity securities in comparison to other equity securities, including securities issued by other real estate based companies or by other issuers less sensitive to rises in interest rates;
our underlying asset value;
investor confidence in the stock and bond markets, generally;
market interest rates;
national economic conditions;
changes in tax laws;
changes in our credit ratings;
general market conditions, including factors unrelated to our operating performance; and
perception of our environmental, social and governance policies relative to other companies.
We believe that one of the factors that investors consider important in deciding whether to buy or sell equity securities of a REIT is the distribution rate, considered as a percentage of the price of the equity securities, relative to market interest rates. Interest rates have been at historically low levels for an extended period of time. There is a general market perception that REIT shares outperform in low interest rate environments and underperform in rising interest rate environments when compared to the broader market. The U.S. Federal Reserve has indicated that it does not expect to raise interest rates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and current market conditions until at least the end of 2023. There can be no assurance, however, that the U.S. Federal Reserve will not raise rates prior to that time. If the U.S. Federal Reserve increases interest rates or if there is a market expectation of such increases, prospective purchasers of REIT equity securities may want to achieve a higher distribution rate. Thus, higher market interest rates, or the expectation of higher interest rates, could cause the value of our securities to decline.
Further issuances of debt or equity securities may adversely affect our shareholders.
As a REIT, we generally will not be able to retain sufficient cash to fund our operations, repay our debts, invest in our properties and fund acquisitions and development or redevelopment efforts, and therefore, our ability to execute our business strategy depends on our access to an appropriate blend of debt financing, which may include secured and unsecured debt, and equity financing, which may include common and preferred shares. The interests of our existing shareholders could be diluted if we issue additional equity securities. In addition, if we decide in the future to issue debt or equity securities that rank senior to our common shares, it is likely that they will be governed by an indenture or other instrument containing covenants restricting our operating flexibility. Also, any convertible or exchangeable securities that we issue in the future may have rights,
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preferences and privileges more favorable than those of our common shares and may result in further dilution to our shareholders. Because our decision to issue debt or equity securities in any future offering will depend on market conditions and other factors beyond our control, we cannot predict or even estimate the amount, timing or nature of our future capital offerings. Thus, our shareholders will bear the risk of our future offerings reducing the market price of our common shares and diluting the value of their common shares.
The Notes are structurally subordinated to the payment of all indebtedness and other liabilities and any preferred equity of our subsidiaries.
We are the sole obligor on our outstanding senior unsecured notes, and our outstanding senior unsecured notes and any notes or other debt securities we may issue in the future, or, together with our outstanding senior unsecured notes, or the Notes, and such Notes are not, and any Notes we may issue in the future may not be guaranteed by any of our subsidiaries. Our subsidiaries are separate and distinct legal entities and have no obligation, contingent or otherwise, to pay any amounts due on the Notes, or to make any funds available therefor, whether by dividend, distribution, loan or other payments. The rights of holders of Notes to benefit from any of the assets of our subsidiaries are subject to the prior satisfaction of claims of our subsidiaries’ creditors and any preferred equity holders. As a result, the Notes are, and, except to the extent that future Notes are guaranteed by our subsidiaries, will be, structurally subordinated to all of the debt and other liabilities and obligations of our subsidiaries, including guarantees of other indebtedness of ours, payment obligations under lease agreements, trade payables and preferred equity. As of December 31, 2020, our subsidiaries had total indebtedness and other liabilities (excluding security and other deposits and guaranties) of $247.1 million.
The Notes are unsecured and effectively subordinated to all of our existing and future secured indebtedness to the extent of the value of the assets securing such indebtedness.
The outstanding Notes are not secured and any Notes we may issue in the future may not be secured. Upon any distribution to our creditors in a bankruptcy, liquidation, reorganization or similar proceeding relating to us or our property, the holders of our secured debt will be entitled to exercise the remedies available to a secured lender under applicable law and pursuant to the instruments governing such debt and to be paid in full from the assets securing that secured debt before any payment may be made with respect to Notes that are not secured by those assets. In that event, because such Notes will not be secured by any of our assets, it is possible that there will be no assets from which claims of holders of such Notes can be satisfied or, if any assets remain, that the remaining assets will be insufficient to satisfy those claims in full. If the value of such remaining assets is less than the aggregate outstanding principal amount of such Notes and accrued interest and all future debt ranking equally with such Notes, we will be unable to fully satisfy our obligations under such Notes. In addition, if we fail to meet our payment or other obligations under our secured debt, the holders of that secured debt would be entitled to foreclose on our assets securing that secured debt and liquidate those assets. Accordingly, we may not have sufficient funds to pay amounts due on such Notes. As a result, noteholders may lose a portion or the entire value of their investment in such Notes. Further, the terms of the outstanding Notes permit, and the terms of any Notes we may issue in the future may permit us to incur additional secured indebtedness subject to compliance with certain debt ratios. The Notes that are not secured will be effectively subordinated to any such additional secured indebtedness. As of December 31, 2020, we had $170.8 million in mortgage debt.
There may be no public market for certain of the Notes, and one may not develop, be maintained or be liquid.
We have not applied for listing of certain of the Notes on any securities exchange or for quotation on any automatic dealer quotation system, and we may not do so for Notes issued in the future. We cannot be sure that the liquidity of any market that may develop for such Notes, the ability of any holder to sell such Notes or the price at which holders would be able to sell such Notes. If a market for such Notes does not develop, holders may be unable to resell such Notes for an extended period of time, if at all. If a market for such Notes does develop, it may not continue or it may not be sufficiently liquid to allow holders to resell such Notes. Consequently, holders of the Notes may not be able to liquidate their investment readily, and lenders may not readily accept such Notes as collateral for loans.
The Notes may trade at a discount from their initial issue price or principal amount, depending upon many factors, including prevailing interest rates, the ratings assigned by rating agencies, the market for similar securities and other factors, including general economic conditions and our financial condition, performance and prospects. Any decline in market prices, regardless of cause, may adversely affect the liquidity and trading markets for the Notes.
A downgrade in credit ratings could materially adversely affect the market price of the Notes and may increase our cost of capital.
The outstanding Notes are rated by two rating agencies and any Notes we may issue in the future may be rated by one or more rating agencies. These credit ratings are continually reviewed by rating agencies and may change at any time based upon,
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among other things, our results of operations and financial condition. Negative changes in the ratings assigned to our debt securities could have an adverse effect on the market price of the Notes and our cost and availability of capital, including the interest rate on our revolving credit facility, which could in turn have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and our ability to satisfy our debt service obligations.
Redemption may adversely affect noteholders’ return on the Notes.
We have the right to redeem some or all of the outstanding Notes prior to maturity and may have such a right with respect to any Notes we issue in the future. We may redeem such Notes at times when prevailing interest rates may be relatively low compared to the interest rate of such Notes. Accordingly, noteholders may not be able to reinvest the redemption proceeds in a comparable security at an effective interest rate as high as that of the Notes.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
None.
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Item 2. Properties
As of December 31, 2020, our wholly owned properties were comprised of 181 properties located in 34 states and the District of Columbia containing approximately 24.9 million rentable square feet and we had noncontrolling ownership interests in three properties totaling approximately 444,000 rentable square feet through two unconsolidated joint ventures in which we own 51% and 50% interests. The following table provides certain information about our wholly owned properties as of December 31, 2020 (dollars in thousands):
StateNumber of
Properties
Undepreciated Carrying Value (1)
Depreciated Carrying Value (1)
Annualized Rental Income
Alabama7$89,798 $82,234 $11,578 
Arizona530,350 27,947 4,569 
California24483,503 410,459 70,978 
Colorado798,057 75,752 20,208 
District of Columbia7548,385 479,094 62,997 
Florida356,886 46,185 9,890 
Georgia10206,614 165,019 30,884 
Hawaii (2)
12,001 2,001 — 
Idaho333,441 27,199 4,489 
Illinois498,979 92,656 28,481 
Indiana599,556 80,758 13,446 
Iowa110,646 10,203 3,283 
Kentucky218,020 15,460 3,918 
Maryland14255,011 222,485 37,847 
Massachusetts8129,071 108,686 21,407 
Michigan227,663 22,499 4,274 
Minnesota18,243 4,197 1,126 
Mississippi126,243 20,820 4,001 
Missouri385,411 75,001 23,362 
Nebraska219,477 18,784 4,201 
New Jersey348,817 46,866 14,573 
New York437,738 31,043 8,422 
North Carolina222,397 21,156 6,817 
Ohio11,134 1,103 829 
Oregon129,692 24,676 4,989 
Pennsylvania129,584 28,319 6,902 
South Carolina231,334 31,157 3,776 
Tennessee114,682 11,995 3,406 
Texas16260,241 243,771 48,206 
Utah364,339 61,182 12,626 
Vermont19,256 6,949 1,121 
Virginia26498,308 451,723 71,088 
Washington7129,772 111,681 18,576 
Wisconsin15,587 4,471 787 
Wyoming111,907 6,698 2,007 
Subtotal1803,522,143 3,070,229 565,064 
Properties Held for Sale
Missouri (3)
988 790 83 
Virginia (4)
154,101 51,822 12,871 
Subtotal155,089 52,612 12,954 
       Grand Total181$3,577,232 $3,122,841 $578,018 
(1)Excludes value assigned to real estate intangibles in purchase price allocations.
(2)Property is a leasable land parcel.
(3)Consists of a warehouse facility adjacent to a property we own in Kansas City, MO that was sold in January 2021.
(4)This property was sold in January 2021.
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At December 31, 2020, seven of our properties with an aggregate undepreciated carrying value, excluding value assigned to real estate intangibles in purchase price allocations, of $276.9 million, were encumbered by mortgages totaling $170.8 million. The three properties owned by our two unconsolidated joint ventures in which we own 51% and 50% interests were encumbered by two mortgages totaling $82.0 million at December 31, 2020. For more information regarding our mortgages and our two unconsolidated joint ventures, see Notes 3 and 8 to the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
From time to time, we may become involved in litigation matters incidental to the ordinary course of our business. Although we are unable to predict with certainty the eventual outcome of any litigation, we are currently not a party to any litigation which we expect to have a material adverse effect on our business.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
Not applicable.
PART II
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Our common shares are traded on Nasdaq (symbol: OPI).
As of February 10, 2021, there were 2,088 shareholders of record of our common shares.
Item 6. [Reserved.]
Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The following information should be read in conjunction with our Consolidated Financial Statements and accompanying notes included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
OVERVIEW (dollars in thousands, except per share and per square foot data)
We are a REIT organized under Maryland law. As of December 31, 2020, our wholly owned properties were comprised of 181 properties and we had noncontrolling ownership interests in three properties totaling approximately 444,000 rentable square feet through two unconsolidated joint ventures in which we own 51% and 50% interests. As of December 31, 2020, our properties are located in 34 states and the District of Columbia and contain approximately 24,889,000 rentable square feet. As of December 31, 2020, our properties were leased to 349 different tenants, with a weighted average remaining lease term (based on annualized rental income) of approximately 5.1 years. The U.S. government is our largest tenant, representing approximately 25.2% of our annualized rental income as of December 31, 2020.
COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic and the various governmental and market responses intended to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus and its detrimental public health impact, as well as the general uncertainty surrounding the dangers and impact of the pandemic, continue to have a significant impact on the global economy, including the U.S. economy. To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has not had a significant impact on our business and we believe that our current financial resources, the characteristics of our portfolio, including the diversity of our tenant base, both geographically and by industry, and the financial strength and resources of our tenants, will enable us to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have received requests from some of our tenants for rent assistance. As of February 16, 2021, we have granted temporary rent assistance totaling $2,546 to 19 tenants who represent approximately 3.3% of our annualized rental income as of December 31, 2020. This assistance generally entails a deferral of, in most cases, one month of rent pursuant to deferred payment plans which require the deferred rent amounts be payable over a 12-month period, certain of which commenced in 2020. The deferred amounts did not impact our operating results for the year ended December 31, 2020. As of February 16, 2021, we have collected $1,999, or 78.5%, of our granted rent deferrals.
For more information and risks relating to the COVID-19 pandemic on us and our business, see elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including “Warning Concerning Forward-Looking Statements”, Part I, Item1, “Business”, Part I, Item
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1A, “Risk Factors” and Note 4 to the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Property Operations
Unless otherwise noted, the data presented in this section includes properties classified as held for sale as of December 31, 2020 and excludes three properties owned by two unconsolidated joint ventures in which we own 51% and 50% interests. For more information regarding our properties classified as held for sale and our two unconsolidated joint ventures, see Note 3 to the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Occupancy data for our properties as of December 31, 2020 and 2019 was as follows (square feet in thousands):
 
All Properties (1)
Comparable Properties (2)
 December 31,December 31,
 2020201920202019
Total properties (3)
181 189 177 177 
Total rentable square feet (4)
24,889 25,726 24,130 24,224 
Percent leased (5)
91.2 %92.4 %92.1 %93.3 %
(1)Based on properties we owned on December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively.
(2)Based on properties we owned continuously since January 1, 2019; excludes properties classified as held for sale, properties undergoing significant redevelopment, if any, and three properties owned by two unconsolidated joint ventures in which we own 51% and 50% interests.
(3)Includes one leasable land parcel.
(4)Subject to changes when space is remeasured or reconfigured for tenants.
(5)Percent leased includes (i) space being fitted out for tenant occupancy pursuant to our lease agreements, if any, and (ii) space which is leased, but is not occupied or is being offered for sublease by tenants, if any, as of the measurement date.
The average effective rental rate per square foot for our properties for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 are as follows:
 Year Ended December 31,
Average effective rental rate per square foot (1):
20202019
  All properties (2)