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A right of first refusal, or option to purchase, must be exercised during a lease term

The court held that the trial court did not err by granting summary disposition for the defendants-bank and buyer in the plaintiffs-lessees' action to enforce a right of first refusal to purchase the leased property. The bank initiated foreclosure proceedings on the property. The lease was later amended and the amendment included a right of first refusal to purchase the property. The bank purchased the property at a sheriff's sale, and then sold it to defendant-Verstraete, who tried to evict plaintiffs. The trial court held that he was not a bona fide purchaser because he had notice of plaintiffs' lease with the prior owner, and was bound by the terms of the lease. Plaintiffs sued, alleging the bank breached the lease by failing to provide them with notice of any purchase offer to allow them to exercise their right of first refusal. The trial court found that there was "nothing in the express terms of the lease preventing the bank from selling the property" during the original lease term, and that the claims against Verstraete "were based on the flawed premise that the sale of the property to him by" the bank violated the right of first refusal. On appeal, the court held that the lease only granted plaintiffs "an option to purchase the 'residence during the lease term period,'" and did not "restrict the owner's right to sell" the property, or "give plaintiffs an interest in the land under which they could deny the sale of the property to others." Further, "the lease provides that it 'if the Lessee fails to exercise his or her option within lease term, the Option to Purchase shall lapse.' Plaintiffs allegedly only attempted to exercise the option to purchase months after the property was sold to" Verstraete, and the right of first refusal "states that this right only exists 'during the extended (but not the original) term,' which at all times relevant was not yet in effect." By "specifying that the right does not arise during the original term of the lease, the contract clearly evidences an intent that no such right exists or should be implied." The court rejected plaintiffs' claim that "where the lease states, 'OWNER has option to market and sell at end of lease term,' it indicates that owners may not market or sell the property before the end of" the original lease term. "Again, there is no language prohibiting the owner from selling the property prior to this time." Affirmed. 

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