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Beware the Buffalo Moth

Beware the Buffalo Moth


During a recent zoom call my father was retelling a story he learned as a young man from his father. Why he waited so long to tell me this story is a blog for another time. The story goes as follows. My Grandfather’s cousin was something of a real estate tycoon back in the late 1930s early 1940s. As young and fast-growing landlord he found himself butting heads with tenant attorneys on a regular basis. These encounters were expensive and time consuming. The cousin would lament how anytime you put two opposing attorneys in a room together they would invariably find something to argue about that would waste a lot of his money. He was determined to figure out a solution to this costly problem. After a few weeks of deliberation and few more tense negotiations, he decided to try the Buffalo Moth Solution.

The Buffalo Moth Solution was a very elegant and simple idea. He put into every lease a clause that said that the tenant was responsible for any, and all damages that were done by buffalo moths regardless of whether the tenant brought them in or were already there. This passage was of course highly objectionable to the tenant’s attorney and the prospective tenant. My cousin would then whisper something to his attorney and ask the prospective tenants attorney if he strikes this clause from the lease would they sign off right now. The tenant and lawyer were more than happy to sign the agreements knowing that this Landlord was willing to make such a big concession. This saved our cousin thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fee.


So, when you are reviewing a contract or enter into a negotiation, remember what the purpose of the Buffalo Moth Clause is designed to do. Its sole purpose is to get you to say yes. To change your perception of the relationship between yourself and the person on the other side. Once you recognize the Buffalo Moth, you will be better armed in your negotiations.



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