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ATLANTA-Locally based Morris, Manning & Martin LLP has launched a commercial real estate debt management practice in order to help borrowers with existing debt issues. The firms says owners who are facing maturing mortgage loans may have trouble refinancing and is expanding its services to offer legal advice to companies around the country.

“Anything that CMBS debt was lent into faces these challenges,” Tom Gryboski, a partner in the firm’s real estate group, tells GlobeSt.com. “There is a whole pile of CMBS debt [$33 billion maturing in 2009] that people cannot refinance and their property may have declined in value. Between there not being very many loans available and the requirements of lenders having less leverage, there is a market where many people cannot refinance their debt.”

The firm’s new practice group aims to help owners negotiate extensions on existing debt and can also help if they choose to give property back to a lender. “Non-recourse loans have a lot of pitfalls and if people aren’t careful those loans could become recourse and the guarantors become obligated under them,” warns Gryboski.

The firm advises real estate owners to be proactive and reach out to their lenders when they see issues arising with maturing debt. “Lenders generally want to work with the borrower and don’t want to own the properties in this economy,” says Gryboski. If approached with problems early, lenders can extend maturity dates, change covenants or agree not to foreclose for a period of time while the borrower tries to refinance. In some instances lenders can accept reduced pay-off amounts rather than take property back, he explains.

The full-service legal commercial firm is also offering services to help members of the real estate industry “look ahead and take advantage of new opportunities afforded by the economic crisis,” says MMM partner Nick Sears, who heads the new practice group. “We have experience helping people acquire debt at discounts from lenders or working with lenders in acquiring distressed assets,” adds Gryboski. The firm also has offices in Raleigh-Durham, NC, Savannah, GA and Washington, DC.

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