0000945394-21-000011.txt : 20210301 0000945394-21-000011.hdr.sgml : 20210301 20210301163124 ACCESSION NUMBER: 0000945394-21-000011 CONFORMED SUBMISSION TYPE: 10-K PUBLIC DOCUMENT COUNT: 104 CONFORMED PERIOD OF REPORT: 20201231 FILED AS OF DATE: 20210301 DATE AS OF CHANGE: 20210301 FILER: COMPANY DATA: COMPANY CONFORMED NAME: Service Properties Trust CENTRAL INDEX KEY: 0000945394 STANDARD INDUSTRIAL CLASSIFICATION: REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS [6798] IRS NUMBER: 043262075 STATE OF INCORPORATION: MD FISCAL YEAR END: 1231 FILING VALUES: FORM TYPE: 10-K SEC ACT: 1934 Act SEC FILE NUMBER: 001-11527 FILM NUMBER: 21698336 BUSINESS ADDRESS: STREET 1: C/O THE RMR GROUP STREET 2: TWO NEWTON PL., 255 WASH. ST., STE. 300 CITY: NEWTON STATE: MA ZIP: 02458 BUSINESS PHONE: (617) 964-8389 MAIL ADDRESS: STREET 1: C/O THE RMR GROUP STREET 2: TWO NEWTON PL., 255 WASH. ST., STE. 300 CITY: NEWTON STATE: MA ZIP: 02458 FORMER COMPANY: FORMER CONFORMED NAME: HOSPITALITY PROPERTIES TRUST DATE OF NAME CHANGE: 19950517 10-K 1 svc-20201231.htm 10-K svc-20201231
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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 1-11527
SERVICE PROPERTIES TRUST
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
Maryland
04-3262075
(State or Other Jurisdiction of
Incorporation or Organization)
(IRS Employer Identification No.)
Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, Massachusetts 02458-1634
(Address of Principal Executive Offices) (Zip Code)
617-964-8389
(Registrant’s Telephone Number, Including Area Code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of Each ClassTrading SymbolName of each Exchange on which Registered
Common Shares of Beneficial InterestSVCThe 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 (§ 232.405 of this chapter) 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 $7.09 closing price per common share on The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC on June
30, 2020. For purposes of this calculation, an aggregate of 2,172,472 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 26, 2021: 164,823,833.
References in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to the Company, SVC, we, us or our include Service Properties 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.


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. 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 downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on us and our managers and tenants, and our and their ability to operate throughout the pandemic and its aftermath,
The implications of the terminations of our InterContinental Hotels Group, plc, or IHG, and Marriott International, Inc., or Marriott, agreements and our expectations about the ability of Sonesta Holdco Corporation and its subsidiaries, or Sonesta, to operate the hotels that have been or may be transferred and rebranded to it from IHG, Marriott, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc., or Wyndham, or Hyatt Hotels Corporation, or Hyatt,
The likelihood and extent to which our managers and tenants will pay the contractual amounts of returns, rents or other obligations due to us,
Our ability to maintain sufficient liquidity during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn,
•     Potential defaults on, or non-renewal of, leases by our tenants,
•     Decreased rental rates or increased vacancies,
•     Our sales and acquisitions of properties,
•     Our policies and plans regarding investments, financings and dispositions,
•     Our ability to pay interest on and principal of our debt,
Our ability to pay distributions to our shareholders and to sustain the amount of such distributions,
•     Our ability to raise or appropriately balance the use of debt or equity capital,
•     Our intent to make improvements to certain of our properties,
•     Our ability to engage and retain qualified managers and tenants for our hotels and net lease properties on satisfactory terms,
•     Our ability to diversify our sources of rents and returns that improve the security of our cash flows,
•     The future availability of borrowings under our revolving credit facility,
•     Our credit ratings,
•     Our expectation that we benefit from our relationships with The RMR Group LLC, or RMR LLC, Sonesta and TravelCenters of America Inc., or TA,
•     Our qualification for taxation as a real estate investment trust, or REIT,
•     Changes in federal or state tax laws, and
•     Other matters.
i

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, funds from operations, or FFO, Normalized FFO, cash flows, liquidity and prospects include, but are not limited to:
The impact of conditions in the economy, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, and the capital markets on us and our managers and tenants,
Competition within the real estate, hotel, transportation and travel center and other industries in which our managers and tenants operate, particularly in those markets in which our properties are located,
Compliance with, and changes to, federal, state and local laws and regulations, accounting rules, tax laws and similar matters,
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,
Acts of terrorism, outbreaks of pandemics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, or other manmade or natural disasters beyond our control, and
Actual and potential conflicts of interest with our related parties, including our Managing Trustees, TA, Sonesta, RMR LLC and others affiliated with them.
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 future earnings, the capital costs we incur to acquire and maintain our properties and our working capital requirements. We may be unable to pay our debt obligations or to increase or maintain our current rate of distributions on our common shares and future distributions may be reduced or eliminated,
We expect Sonesta to operate 256 of our 310 hotels after we rebrand certain additional Marriott hotels to Sonesta in the first quarter of 2021. Transitioning hotels to another operator is disruptive to the hotel’s operations and requires significant capital investments. Sonesta is a small privately held company with less resources and scale compared to IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham. If Sonesta were to fail to provide quality services and amenities or to maintain a quality brand, our income from these properties may be adversely affected. There can be no assurance that Sonesta can operate the hotels as effectively or for returns at levels that could otherwise be achieved by IHG, Marriott, and Wyndham. Further, if we were required to replace Sonesta, we could experience significant disruptions in operations at the applicable properties, which could reduce our income and cash flows from, and the value of, those properties. We have no guarantee or security deposit under our Sonesta agreements. Accordingly, the returns we receive from our hotels managed under our Sonesta agreements are dependent upon the financial results of those hotel operations and we may continue to receive amounts from Sonesta that are less than the contractual minimum returns stated in our agreements with Sonesta or we may be requested to fund operating losses for our Sonesta hotels. Further, we own an approximately 34% ownership interest in Sonesta. If Sonesta experiences losses, or requires additional capital, Sonesta may request we fund our share through the contribution of additional capital,

We cannot be sure of the future financial performance of our properties, or regarding our managers’, tenants’ or guarantors’ future actions or their abilities or willingness to pay contracted amounts owed to us. If other operators or guarantors do not honor their obligations, we may seek to terminate our arrangements with them or other actions to enforce our rights,
If general economic activity in the country declines, the operating results of certain of our properties may decline, the financial results of our managers and our tenants may suffer and these managers and tenants may be unable to pay our returns or rents. Also, depressed operating results from our properties for extended periods may result in the operators of some or all of our properties becoming unable or unwilling to meet their obligations,
Hotel and other competitive forms of temporary lodging supply have been increasing and may affect our hotel operators’ ability to grow average daily rate, or ADR, and occupancy, and ADR and occupancy could decline due to increased competition which may cause our hotel operators to become unable to pay our returns or rents,
ii

If the current level of commercial activity in the country declines, including as a result of the current economic downturn, if the price of diesel fuel increases significantly, if fuel conservation measures are increased, if freight business is directed away from trucking, if TA is unable to effectively compete or operate its business, if fuel efficiencies, the use of alternative fuels or transportation technologies reduce the demand for products and services TA sells or for various other reasons, TA may become unable to pay current and deferred rents due to us,
Our ability to grow our business and increase our distributions depends in large part upon our ability to buy properties that generate returns or can be leased for rents which exceed our operating and 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 do want to acquire. In addition, any properties we may acquire may not generate returns or rents which exceed our operating and capital costs,
We believe that our portfolio agreements include diverse groups of properties and that this diversity may improve operating results that might be realized from a more concentrated group of properties. However, our operator concentration with respect to our hotel operations has recently increased as a result of our transitioning of a majority of our hotels to Sonesta management, and our travel center properties continue to be concentrated with TA. As a result, our operating results may not improve,
Current market conditions may cause the process of selling properties to continue to take longer than previously expected. We may not complete the sales of any properties we currently plan to sell, and we may determine to sell fewer properties. Also, we may sell assets at prices that are less than we expect and less than their carrying values and we may incur losses on these sales or with respect to these assets,
Contingencies in our pending sale agreements may not be satisfied and any expected sales and any related management or lease arrangements we expect to enter may not occur, may be delayed or the terms of such transactions or arrangements may change,
As of February 26, 2021, we had approximately $957.7 million of cash or cash equivalents. This statement may imply that we have sufficient working capital and liquidity to meet our obligations for the next twelve months. The amounts we receive from our operators may be insufficient to operate our business profitably. Certain tenants have requested and we have granted certain rent relief and these requests could increase. In addition, our managers and tenants may not be able to fund minimum returns and rents due to us from operating our properties or from other resources. In the past and currently, certain of our tenants and managers have in fact not paid the minimum amounts due to us from their operations of our leased or managed properties and we may be required to fund hotel operating losses and working capital for our hotels. Further, our properties require significant funding for capital improvements and other matters. Accordingly, we may not have sufficient working capital or liquidity,
Continued availability of borrowings under our revolving credit facility is subject to our satisfying certain financial covenants and other credit facility conditions. If our operating results and financial condition continue to be significantly negatively impacted by the current economic conditions or otherwise, we may fail to satisfy covenants and conditions under our credit agreement or fail to satisfy our public debt covenants. We expect our ratio of income available from debt service to debt service could fall below the 1.5x requirement under our public debt covenants as of the end of the first quarter of 2021. We will not be allowed to incur additional debt while this ratio is below 1.5x. As a precautionary measure, we have fully drawn our $1.0 billion credit facility to maintain our financial flexibility. Our ability to incur debt may be limited for an extended period of time. We cannot be certain how long our ratio of income available for debt service to debt service may remain below 1.5x. If we cannot incur additional debt, we may be forced to raise additional sources of capital or take other measures to maintain adequate liquidity,
We expect the borrowings under our revolving credit facility to strengthen our financial position; however, we may not obtain the financial flexibility we expect due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or for other reasons. We can provide no assurance regarding the duration and severity of the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on us and our operators,
We may be unable to repay our debt obligations when they become due,
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, including due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. If challenging market conditions, including due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn, last for a long period or worsen, our managers and tenants may experience liquidity constraints and as a result may be unable or unwilling to pay returns or rents to us and our ability to operate our business effectively may be challenged,
iii

We currently expect to fund $192.0 million of capital expenditures in 2021. The cost of capital projects may be greater than we anticipate and operating results at our hotels may decline as a result of having rooms out of service to complete such improvements,
We may not successfully execute our intention to grow by acquisitions and our credit agreement currently restricts our ability to make acquisitions,
Actual costs under our revolving credit facility or other floating rate debt will be higher than LIBOR plus a premium because of fees and expenses associated with such debt,
The premiums used to determine the interest rate and facility fee payable on our revolving credit facility are based on our credit ratings. Changes in our credit ratings may cause the interest and fees we pay to increase,
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,
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, The RMR Group Inc., or RMR Inc., TA, Sonesta 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
Two of our subsidiaries have initiated arbitration proceedings against Marriott and several of its subsidiaries after Marriott challenged the efficacy of the termination of our agreement with them. The results of arbitration proceedings are difficult to predict and we can provide no assurances regarding such results. Even if we are successful in such proceedings, the pendency and conduct of such proceedings may be expensive and distracting to our management, and could be disruptive to our operations.
Currently unexpected results could occur due to many different circumstances, some of which are beyond our control, such as pandemics, including the COVID-19 pandemic, acts of terrorism, natural disasters, changes in our managers’ or tenants’ revenues or expenses, changes in our managers’ or tenants’ financial conditions, the market demand for hotel rooms or the goods and services provided at our properties 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 Service Properties Trust dated August 21, 1995, as amended and supplemented, as filed with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation of Maryland, provides that no trustee, officer, shareholder, employee or agent of Service Properties Trust shall be held to any personal liability, jointly or severally, for any obligation of, or claim against, Service Properties Trust. All persons dealing with Service Properties Trust in any way shall look only to the assets of Service Properties Trust for the payment of any sum or the performance of any obligation.
iv

SERVICE PROPERTIES TRUST
2020 FORM 10-K ANNUAL REPORT
Table of Contents
Page

v

PART I
Item 1. Business
The Company
We are a real estate investment trust, or REIT, formed in 1995 under the laws of the State of Maryland. As of December 31, 2020, we owned 310 hotels with 49,014 rooms or suites located in 39 states, Washington D.C., Ontario, Canada and San Juan, Puerto Rico and 799 service-oriented retail properties with 13,455,405 square feet located in 42 states. Our principal place of business is Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, Massachusetts 02458-1634, and our telephone number is (617) 964-8389.
Our principal internal growth strategy is to apply asset management strategies to aid our hotel operators in improving performance and operating income of our hotel properties. We actively manage our net lease portfolio by identifying asset recycling opportunities, monitoring the credit of our tenants and engaging in early lease renewal discussions. Our asset management teams also work closely with our operators to ensure our hotels and net lease properties are well maintained and that capital investments are well planned and executed efficiently in order to maximize the long term value of our properties.
Our external growth strategy is defined by our acquisition, disposition and financing policies as described below. Our investment, financing and disposition policies and business strategies are established by our Board of Trustees and may be changed by our Board of Trustees at any time without shareholder approval.
On September 20, 2019, we acquired a 767-property net lease portfolio located in 45 states from Spirit MTA REIT, a Maryland REIT (NYSE: SMTA), or SMTA, for an aggregate transaction value of $2.5 billion, or the SMTA Transaction. The portfolio consisted of 767 service-oriented retail properties net leased to tenants in 23 distinct industries and 163 brands that include quick service and casual dining restaurants, movie theaters, health and fitness centers, automotive parts and services, and other service-oriented and necessity-based industries.
Impact of COVID-19
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. The virus that causes COVID-19 has continued to spread throughout the United States and the world. Various governmental and market responses attempting to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have negatively impacted, and continue to negatively impact, the U.S. and global economies. 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 recently have reimposed certain restrictions in response to increases in COVID-19 infections. Despite some improvements in economic data in the second half of 2020, the U.S. gross domestic product remains below pre-pandemic levels. It is unclear whether the increases in the number of COVID-19 infection outbreaks will continue and/or amplify in the United States or elsewhere or if the availability and distributions of vaccines will curtail infection rates and, if so, what the impact of that would be on human health and safety, the economy, our operators or our business.
Our business is focused on lodging and service retail properties, which have been some of the industries most severely and negatively impacted by the effects of the pandemic. These conditions have materially and adversely impacted our business, operations, financial results and liquidity. In particular, a variety of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused, and are expected to continue to cause, a decline in the lodging industry, including, but not limited to, (i) restrictions on travel and public gatherings imposed by governmental entities and employers, (ii) the closure of hotels, restaurants and other venues, (iii) the postponement or cancellation of industry conventions and conferences, and other demand drivers of our hotels, (iv) the closure of amusement parks, museums and other tourist attractions, (v) the closure or the switch to online classes by colleges and universities, and (vi) negative public perceptions of the safety of travel and public gatherings in light of the perceived risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduced economic activity resulting from these factors has severely and negatively impacted our operations. As a result, our hotels have experienced a significant decline in occupancy, revenues and profitability.
1

We suspended operations at 19 hotels as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related declines in business activity (17 full-service hotels and two extended stay hotels) during March and April 2020. As of February 26, 2021, 17 of these 19 hotels have resumed operations. The remaining two hotels are currently expected to reopen in the second quarter of 2021. Hotel occupancies reached all-time lows during the second quarter of 2020 as a result of weak demand resulting from various forms of stay-at-home restrictions being enforced throughout the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotel performance gradually improved in the second half of 2020 from the lows experienced in April 2020 as travel demand slowly recovered, but performance remains well below pre-pandemic levels. Average occupancy at our 310 hotels was 42.0% in 2020 compared to 73.0% in 2019.
We continue to work with our operators to mitigate the impact on our hotel operations as a result of general economic and industry conditions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, including efforts to reduce operating expenses such as, but not limited to, staffing reductions and furloughs, utility consumption reductions, purchasing reductions and eliminations, service contract reductions and eliminations, food service and exercise facilities closures, and reduction and elimination of certain marketing expenditures. We have also agreed to suspend contributions of amounts which are escrowed as reserves established for the regular refurbishment of our hotels, or FF&E reserves, under certain of our agreements. These efforts to reduce operating expenses have been partially offset by additional expenses we and our hotel managers have incurred to change the operations and procedures at our hotels in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cleaning protocols, safety standards and other operational considerations have been modified that have resulted in, and which we expect will continue to result in, increased operating expenses and may require additional capital expenditures at our hotels.
As a result of the pandemic and the depressed activity at our hotels, we exhausted the security deposits and guarantees we held to cover shortfalls in hotel cash flows available to pay the minimum returns due to us under our InterContinental Hotels Group, plc, or IHG, Marriott International, Inc., or Marriott, and Hyatt Hotels Corporation, or Hyatt, agreements and we expect the remaining guarantee under our Radisson Hospitality Inc., or Radisson, agreement will be exhausted by the second quarter of 2021. We terminated our agreement with IHG covering 103 hotels for its failure to pay minimum returns and rents due to us upon exhausting the security deposit. We have terminated our agreement with Marriott covering 105 hotels as of December 31, 2020 for its failure to cover the cumulative shortfall between the payments we had received to date and 80% of the cumulative priority returns due to us. Hyatt has fully funded the limited guaranty it provided to us under its agreement for 22 hotels and has provided notice of its intent to terminate the agreement in April 2021. In February 2021, we transitioned the branding and management of 78 Marriott hotels to subsidiaries of Sonesta Holdco Corporation, or Sonesta, and we expect to transition the branding and management of 10 additional Marriott hotels to Sonesta in March 2021 under a management agreement that expires on December 31, 2021, subject to successive one year renewals unless terminated earlier. We are performing a strategic review of all the hotels in our portfolio and may determine to sell or repurpose some of these hotels in light of changing market conditions.
Our largest net lease tenant, TravelCenters of America Inc., or TA, is current on its rent obligations to us as of February 26, 2021. The travel centers operated by TA primarily provide goods and services to the trucking industry and demand for trucking services in the United States generally reflects the amount of commercial activity in the U.S. economy. When the U.S. economy declines, demand for goods moved by trucks declines, and in turn demand for the products and services provided at our travel centers typically declines. Although TA has been recognized as providing services to essential businesses by various governmental authorities, and as a result, all of our travel centers operated by TA are open and operating, TA has also experienced negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, including closing most of its full service restaurants (more than half of which have reopened as of December 31, 2020), and implementing social distancing and other measures at its travel center stores. However, as a result of the recent increase in COVID-19 infections in several states, TA has closed or plans to re-close certain of its restaurants.
In addition, some of our other net lease retail tenants have experienced closures and substantial declines in their businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these tenants have sought rent relief from us and we expect these closures, declines and requests to continue in the future. For information regarding our net lease tenants and our assessment of collectability of outstanding rent amounts, see Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and Note 5 to our consolidated financial statements in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We are continuing to closely monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all aspects of our business, including:
our operators and tenants and their ability to withstand the current economic conditions and continue to pay us returns and rents;
our operations, liquidity and capital needs and resources;
2

conducting financial modeling and sensitivity analyses;
actively communicating with our operators and tenants and other key constituents and stakeholders in order to help assess market conditions, opportunities, best practices and mitigate risks and potential adverse impacts; and
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 managers and tenants to enable us and them to operate through the current economic conditions and enhance our managers’ and tenants’ ability to pay us returns and rents.
Despite the circumstances outlined above, we believe that our current financial resources and our expectations as to the future performance of the lodging industry and the industries in which our net lease retail tenants operate will enable us to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. For further information regarding our financial resources and expectations, see Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Investment and Financing Liquidity and Capital Resources” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We do not have any employees and the personnel and various services we require to operate our business are provided to us by 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.
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 COVID-19 vaccine distribution and the levels among which the general public participates in receiving the vaccine;
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 operations and our operators and other stakeholders’ businesses, operations, financial results and financial position. For further information and risks relating to the COVID-19 pandemic on us and our business, see Part I, Item 1A, Risk Factors, in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Hotel Portfolio
As of December 31, 2020, we owned 310 hotels with 49,014 rooms or suites located in 39 states, Washington D.C., Ontario, Canada and Puerto Rico. We believe the scale, geographic diversity, strategic locations and the variety of service levels of our hotels gives us a competitive advantage. Our hotel properties are typically located in urban or high density suburban locations in the vicinity of major demand generators such as large suburban office parks, urban centers, airports, medical or educational facilities or major tourist attractions.
3

The following table summarizes the brand affiliations, service level and chain scale of our hotels, as characterized by STR Inc., or STR, a data benchmark and analytics provider for the lodging industry, under which our hotels operate as of December 31, 2020:
BrandManagerService Level
Chain Scale (1)
Number of PropertiesNumber of Rooms or Suites
Investment (in 000s) (2)
Royal Sonesta Hotels®SonestaFull ServiceLuxury154,947 $1,632,669 
Sonesta Hotels & Resorts®SonestaFull ServiceUpper Upscale237,349 1,132,146
Sonesta ES Suites®SonestaExtended StayUpscale607,326 1,016,111
Courtyard by Marriott®MarriottSelect ServiceUpscale629,115 933,621
Simply SuitesSonestaExtended StayMidscale617,553 606,899
Residence Inn by Marriott®MarriottExtended StayUpscale354,488 577,640
Hyatt Place®HyattSelect ServiceUpscale222,724 301,942
Radisson® Hotels & ResortsRadissonFull ServiceUpscale51,149 159,707
Radisson Blu®RadissonFull ServiceUpper Upscale1360 77,340
Marriott® HotelMarriottFull ServiceUpper Upscale2748 132,928
Crowne Plaza®IHGFull ServiceUpscale1495 123,283
Sonesta SelectSonestaSelect ServiceUpscale91,150 110,734
Country Inns & Suites® by RadissonRadissonFull ServiceUpper Midscale3430 54,076
TownePlace Suites by Marriott®MarriottExtended StayUpper Midscale4487 50,579
SpringHill Suites by Marriott®MarriottSelect ServiceUpscale2263 26,995
Other (3)
543025,078
Total Hotels31049,014$6,961,748 
(1)Chain scales are defined by STR. Chain scale segments are grouped primarily according to average room rates.
(2)Represents historical cost of our properties plus capital improvements funded by us less impairment write-downs, if any, and excludes capital improvements made from FF&E reserves funded from hotel operations that do not result in increases in minimum returns or rents.
(3)We have entered into an agreement to sell five hotels and we have entered a short-term lease of these properties with the buyer in anticipation of the sale.
Net Lease Portfolio
As of December 31, 2020, we owned 799 service-oriented retail properties with 13,455,405 square feet that are primarily subject to “triple net” leases, or leases where the tenant is generally responsible for the payment of operating expenses and capital expenditures of the property during the lease term. In general, our lease agreements include renewal terms, require the tenant to make rent payments to us and include future fixed rent increases, rent increases based on the consumer price index, or CPI, or percentage rent based on site level revenues. As of December 31, 2020, our net lease portfolio was occupied by 170 tenants with a weighted (by annual minimum rent) lease term of 10.9 years, operating under 127 brands in 23 distinct industries. The portfolio is leased to tenants that include travel centers, quick service and casual dining restaurants, movie theaters, health and fitness centers, grocery stores, automotive parts and services and other businesses in service-oriented and necessity-based industries across 42 states.
The following table summarizes the brand affiliation and industries under which our net lease properties operate as of December 31, 2020:
4

BrandIndustryNo. of BuildingsSquare Feet
Investment (in 000s) (1)
1.TravelCenters of AmericaTravel Centers1343,720,693 $2,281,589 
2.Petro Stopping CentersTravel Centers451,470,004 1,021,226 
3.AMC TheatresMovie Theaters11575,967 102,580 
4.The Great EscapeMiscellaneous Retail14542,666 98,242 
5.Life Time FitnessHealth and Fitness3420,335 92,617 
6.Buehler's Fresh FoodsGrocery5502,727 76,536 
7.Heartland DentalMedical/Dental Office59234,274 61,120 
8.Pizza HutRestaurants-Quick Service58189,609 58,312 
9.Express Oil ChangeAutomotive Parts and Service2383,825 49,724 
10.Regal CinemasMovie Theaters6266,546 44,476 
11.Flying J Travel PlazaTravel Centers348,069 41,681 
12.Courthouse Athletic ClubHealth and Fitness4193,659 39,688 
13.Fleet FarmSporting Goods1218,248 37,802 
14.Church's ChickenRestaurants-Quick Service4559,523 35,995 
15.America's Auto AuctionAutomotive Dealers672,338 34,314 
16.Burger KingRestaurants-Quick Service2168,710 34,289 
17.Hardee'sRestaurants-Quick Service1962,792 31,844 
18.Martin'sRestaurants-Quick Service1681,909 31,144 
19.Creme de la CremeEducational Services481,929 29,131 
20.Mister Car WashCar Washes541,456 28,658 
21.Popeye's Chicken & BiscuitsRestaurants-Quick Service2045,708 28,434 
22.United SupermarketsGrocery6236,178 26,121 
23.Golden CorralRestaurants-Casual Dining660,185 25,816 
24.Pike NurseryMiscellaneous Retail556,065 16,192 
25.Mealey's FurnitureHome Furnishings295,684 12,952 
26.
Other (2)
Various2784,026,306 816,943 
Total 79913,455,405 $5,157,426 
(1)Represents historical cost of our properties plus capital improvements funded by us less impairment write-downs, if any, and excludes capital improvements made from FF&E reserves funded from hotel operations that do not result in increases in minimum returns or rents. Includes six net lease properties with an aggregate carrying value of $2.8 million that we have classified as held for sale.
(2)Consists of 102 distinct brands with an average investment of $2.9 million per building.
For more information about our hotel agreements and net lease portfolio, see Notes 5 and 9 to our consolidated financial statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Principal Management Agreement or Lease Features
As of December 31, 2020, our 310 hotels were managed by subsidiaries of Sonesta, Marriott, Hyatt, Radisson and IHG and five additional hotels were short-term leased to a third party with whom we have entered into an agreement to sell the hotels. Our hotel operating agreements have initial terms expiring between 2021 and 2037. Each of these agreements is for between one and 168 of our hotels. The principal features of our hotel agreements are as follows:
Minimum Returns. Our hotel management agreements have stated minimum return amounts designed to provide us a return on investment greater than our cost of capital. The minimum returns are generally subject to available cash flow and we are not assured we will receive them in full or at any level.
Long Terms. Our hotel management agreements and leases generally have initial terms of 15 years or more. The weighted average term remaining for our hotel agreements (weighted by our investments as of December 31, 2020) is 10.2 years, without giving effect to any renewal options our managers and tenants may have. Our agreements with Sonesta for our recently rebranded hotels are on terms substantially consistent with our legacy management agreements, except that the management agreements for these rebranded hotels expire on December 31, 2021 and automatically renew for successive one-year terms unless terminated earlier. We entered these shorter term agreements to allow sufficient time to assess the capital needs or determine the highest and best use of the properties.
Pooled Agreements. Most of our hotel properties are included in one of five portfolio agreements. Each agreement in the portfolio is subject to cross default provisions, such that a tenant’s or manager’s default under one of the agreements would trigger defaults of the other agreements in that portfolio.
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All or None Renewals. Generally, manager renewal options for each portfolio agreement of our hotel properties may only be exercised on an all or none basis and not for separate properties. Our agreement with Sonesta for hotels that we recently rebranded allows either party to terminate the agreement with respect to individual properties. See Note 5 to our consolidated financial statements in Part IV, Item 15 for more information on these agreements.
Property Maintenance. Most of our hotel agreements require the deposit of 5% to 6.5% of annual gross hotel revenues into escrows to fund periodic renovations subject to available cash flow. In 2020, the deposit requirement under our agreements was temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If no escrowed cash is available, we are required to fund capital expenditures. Generally, as we fund capital expenditures, the contractual minimum returns increase.
Working capital. We are required to maintain working capital for each hotel and to fund the cost of certain operating supplies (for example, linen, china, glassware, silverware and uniforms). We also are responsible for funding hotel operations if at any time the funds available from working capital are insufficient to meet the financial requirements of the hotels. Generally, the working capital accounts which would otherwise be maintained by the operators for each of such hotels are maintained on a pooled basis, with operators being authorized to make withdrawals from such pooled account as otherwise contemplated with respect to working capital in accordance with the provisions of the management agreements.
Management Fees. Base fees are generally between 3% to 5% of gross revenues, as defined in the agreements. Certain base and all incentive management fees under our hotel management agreements are subordinate to payment of annual minimum returns due to us. Our hotel managers have the ability to earn incentive management fees generally based on excess cash flows after payment of hotel operating expenses, payment of base management fees, funding of the required FF&E reserve, if any, payment of our minimum returns, reimbursement of certain advances and in certain instances, replenishment of the security deposit or guarantee.
Historically, our hotel management agreements included various terms intended to secure payments to us. Due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the security features under our IHG, Marriott and Hyatt agreements were exhausted and we expect the remaining guarantee under our Radisson agreement will be exhausted by the end of the second quarter of 2021. In addition, we have no guarantee or security deposit under our agreements with Sonesta to which we transitioned most of these hotels and we do not expect to obtain any guarantee or security deposit from Sonesta in the future.
In general, our 799 net lease properties are subject to leases pursuant to which the tenants pay fixed annual rents on a monthly, quarterly or semi-annual basis, and also pay or reimburse us for all, or substantially all, property level operating and maintenance expenses, such as real estate taxes, insurance, utilities and repairs, including increases with respect thereto. Our net lease tenants are responsible to maintain the properties including structural and non-structural components. Certain of our net lease properties also have future rent increases included in the leases either at a fixed amount or based on changes in CPI. Certain of our lease agreements also require payment of percentage rent to us based on increases in certain gross property revenues over threshold amounts. Certain of our net lease properties, including all our TA properties, are subject to pooling agreements and include all or none renewal options.
TA is our largest tenant. As of December 31, 2020, we leased 179 travel centers to TA under five leases that expire between 2029 and 2035; 134 of our travel centers are operated under the TravelCenters of America®, or TA®, brand name and 45 are operated under the Petro Stopping Centers®, or Petro®, brand name. As of December 31, 2020, we have invested $2.3 billion in 134 TA® branded properties with 3,720,693 square feet and $1.0 billion in 45 Petro® branded properties with 1,470,004 square feet.
Substantially all our travel centers are full service sites located at or near an interstate highway exit and offer fuel and non-fuel products and services 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Our typical travel center includes over 24 acres of land with parking for approximately 200 tractor trailers and approximately 100 cars; a full service restaurant and one or more quick service restaurants which are operated under nationally recognized brands; a truck repair facility and parts store; multiple diesel and gasoline fueling points, including diesel exhaust fluid at the diesel lanes; a travel store; a game room; a lounge and other amenities for professional truck drivers and motorists.
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Investment and Operating Policies
Our investment objectives include increasing cash flows from operations from dependable and diverse sources in order to increase per-share distributions to our shareholders. To achieve these objectives, we seek to maintain a strong capital base of shareholders’ equity; invest in high quality properties operated by qualified operating companies; use moderate debt leverage to fund additional investments which increase cash flows from operations because of positive spreads between our cost of investment capital and investment yields; structure investments which generate a minimum return and provide an opportunity to participate in operating growth at our properties; when market conditions permit, refinance debt with additional equity or long term debt; and pursue diversification so that our cash flows from operations come from diverse properties and operators. Generally, we provide capital to owners and operators in service related industries who wish to expand their businesses or divest their properties while remaining in the service business.
Our first investment in travel centers was structured differently than all our other investments. We acquired an operating travel centers business, reorganized the business to retain substantially all of the real estate and then distributed a tenant operating company to our shareholders. We may in the future make investments in this fashion or in a manner different from our other investments.
One of our goals in completing the SMTA Transaction was to acquire single tenant, net lease service-oriented based properties to further diversify our sources of rents and returns with the intention of improving the security of our cash flows.
Because we are a REIT, we generally may not operate our properties. We or our tenants have entered into arrangements for operation of our properties. Under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the IRC, we may lease our hotels to one of our “taxable REIT subsidiaries,” as defined in Section 856(l) of the IRC, or TRSs, if the hotel is managed by a third party. As of December 31, 2020, 305 of our hotels were leased to our TRSs and managed by third parties. Any income realized by a TRS in excess of the rent paid to us by the subsidiary is subject to income tax at customary corporate rates. As and if the financial performance of the hotels operated for the account of our TRSs improves, these taxes may become material.
Acquisition Policies. We intend to pursue growth through the acquisition of additional properties; however, we are currently restricted under our credit agreement from making acquisitions. Generally, we prefer to purchase multiple properties in one transaction or individual properties that can be added to a pre-existing portfolio agreement because we believe a single management or lease agreement, cross default covenants and all or none renewal rights for multiple properties in diverse locations enhance the credit characteristics and the security of our investments. In implementing our acquisition strategy, we consider a range of factors relating to proposed property purchases including some or all of the following:
Historical and projected cash flows;
The competitive market environment and the current or potential market position of each property;
The tax and regulatory circumstances of the market area in which the property is located;
The availability of a qualified manager or lessee;
The financial strength of the proposed manager or lessee;
The property’s design, construction quality, physical condition and age and expected capital expenditures that may be needed to maintain the property or to enhance its operation;
The size of the property;
The location, type of property, market conditions and demographics of the area where it is located and surrounding demand generators;
The estimated replacement cost, capital improvement requirements and proposed acquisition price of the property;
Our weighted average long term cost of capital compared to projected returns we may realize by owning the property;
The reputation of any operator with which the property is or may become affiliated;
The amount and type of financial support available from the proposed manager or lessee;
The level of services and amenities offered at the property;
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The proposed management agreement or lease terms;
The brand under which the property operates or is expected to operate;
The strategic fit of the property or investment with the rest of our portfolio and our own plans;
The possibility that technological changes may affect the business operated at the property;
Other possible uses of the property if the current use is no longer viable; and
The existence of alternative sources, uses or needs for our capital and our debt leverage.
In determining the competitive position of a property, we examine the proximity and convenience of the property to its expected customer base, the number and characteristics of competitive properties within the property’s market area and the existence of barriers to entry for competitive properties within that market, including site availability and zoning restrictions. While we have historically focused on the acquisition of upscale limited service, extended stay and full service hotel properties, full service travel centers and necessity based retail properties, we consider acquisitions in all segments of the hospitality and necessity based retail industries. We expect most of our acquisition efforts will focus on hotel and net lease based properties; however, we may consider acquiring other types of properties, as well. An important part of our acquisition strategy is to identify and select or create qualified, experienced and financially stable operators.
Whenever we purchase an individual property or a small number of properties, we prefer arrangements in which these properties are added to agreements covering, and operated in combination with, properties we already own, but we may not always do so. We believe portfolios of diverse groups of properties may increase the security of our cash flows and likelihood our agreements will be renewed.
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 operated under any one brand, in properties managed by or leased to an affiliated group of entities or in securities of one or more persons.
Other Investments. We prefer wholly owned investments in fee interests. However, we may invest in leaseholds, joint ventures, mortgages and other real estate interests. We may invest or enter into real estate joint ventures if we conclude that we may benefit from the participation of co-venturers or that the opportunity to participate in the investment is contingent on the use of a joint venture structure. We may invest in participating, convertible or other types of mortgages if we conclude that we may benefit from the cash flows or appreciation in the value of the mortgaged property. Convertible mortgages are similar to equity participation because they permit lenders to either participate in increasing revenues from the property or convert some or all of that mortgage into equity ownership interests. At December 31, 2020, we owned no convertible mortgages or joint venture interests.
We have in the past considered, and may in the future consider, the possibility of entering into mergers or strategic combinations with other companies. Our principal goal of any such transactions will be to increase our cash flows from operations and to further diversify our revenue sources.
We own 8.1% of the outstanding common shares of TA and 34% of the outstanding common stock of Sonesta as of December 31, 2020. We may in the future acquire additional common shares of TA and Sonesta or securities of other entities, including entities engaged in real estate activities or we may sell these common shares. We may invest in the securities of other entities for the purpose of exercising control or otherwise, make loans to other persons or entities, engage in the sale of investments, offer securities in exchange for property or repurchase our securities.
We may not achieve some or all of our investment objectives.
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Disposition Policies. We generally consider ourselves to be a long term owner of properties and are more interested in the long term earnings potential of our properties than selling properties for short term gains. However, we seek to strategically sell assets from time to time as part of managing our leverage, capital recycling, highest and best use analysis, or as part of long term financing of other acquisitions. During 2020, we sold 18 hotels with 2,046 rooms for an aggregate sales price of $85.8 million. We also sold 21 net lease properties with 1,375,483 square feet for an aggregate sales price of $88.4 million. Since September 2020, we have rebranded 193 hotels to Sonesta and expect to rebrand 10 more in the first quarter of 2021 on terms substantially consistent with our legacy management agreements, except that the management agreements for these rebranded hotels expire on December 31, 2021 and automatically renew for successive one-year terms unless terminated earlier. We are evaluating these hotels to determine if we should sell or repurpose any of the hotels. As of December 31, 2020, we had five hotels and six net lease properties with an aggregate carrying value of $13.5 million classified as held for sale. For more information on these disposition activities, please refer to Note 4 in our consolidated financial statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We currently make decisions to dispose of properties based on factors including, but not limited to, the following:
The property’s current and expected future performance;
The competition and demand generators near the property;
The proposed or expected sale price;
The age and capital required to maintain the property;
The strategic fit of the property with the rest of our portfolio and with our plans;
The manager’s or tenant’s desire to operate or cease operation of the property;
The remaining agreement term of the property, including the likelihood of a manager or tenant exercising any renewal options;
Our intended use of the proceeds we may realize from the sale of a property;
The existence of alternative sources, uses or needs for our capital and our debt leverage; and
The tax implications to us and our shareholders of any proposed disposition.
Our Board of Trustees may change our investment and operating policies at any time without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders.
Financing Policies
To maintain our qualification for taxation as a REIT under 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 or redevelopment efforts. Instead, we expect to repay our debts, invest in our properties and fund acquisitions and development or redevelopment efforts with borrowings under our revolving credit facility, proceeds from equity or debt securities we may issue (domestically or in foreign markets), including in subsidiaries, proceeds from our asset sales, or retained cash from operations that may exceed distributions paid.
We believe our capital structure provides us with financial flexibility and we have historically had access to capital markets. We may seek to obtain other lines of credit or to issue securities senior to our common shares, including preferred shares of beneficial interest and debt securities, either of which may be convertible into common shares or be accompanied by warrants to purchase common shares, or to engage in transactions which may involve a sale or other conveyance or contribution of hotel, net lease or other properties or assets to subsidiaries or to other affiliates or unaffiliated entities. We may finance acquisitions, in whole or in part, by among other possible means, exchanging properties, issuing additional common shares or other securities or assuming outstanding mortgage debt on the acquired properties. We may also place new mortgages on our existing properties as a means of financing. 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 and expansions of existing or new properties, but our credit agreement currently requires such proceeds to be used to repay debt. For further information regarding our financing sources and activities, see Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Investment and Financing Liquidity and Capital Resources” and Note 6 of our consolidated financial statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
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Although there are no limitations in our organizational documents on the amount of indebtedness we may incur, our $1.0 billion revolving credit facility and our unsecured senior notes indentures and their supplements contain financial covenants which, among other things, restrict our ability to incur indebtedness and require us to maintain certain financial ratios. We and our lenders amended our credit agreement governing our $1.0 billion revolving credit facility and $400.0 million term loan on May 8, 2020 and we and our lenders further amended our credit agreement governing our $1.0 billion revolving credit facility on November 5, 2020. As a result of the November 5, 2020 amendment, we secured a waiver of all then existing financial covenants under our credit agreement through July 15, 2022. Also, on November 5, 2020, we repaid our $400.0 million term loan due in July 2023. We pledged certain equity interests of subsidiaries owning properties and we are providing first mortgage liens on 74 properties owned by the pledging subsidiaries with an undepreciated book value of $1.8 billion as of December 31, 2020 to secure our obligations under the credit agreement. However, we may seek additional amendments to 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 are required to maintain the ratio of income available for debt service to debt service above 1.5x under our credit agreement and public debt covenants. This ratio was 1.56x and 2.86x as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. We expect this ratio to continue to decline in 2021 as more quarters of historically weak operations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are reflected in the calculation. We expect the ratio could fall below the 1.5x requirement as of the end of the first quarter of 2021 and we will not be able to incur additional debt while the ratio is below this requirement. In January 2021, we drew down $972.8 million under our revolving credit facility as a precautionary measure in order to increase our cash position and preserve financial flexibility in light of continued uncertainty in the global markets resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. As of February 26, 2021, we are fully drawn under our revolving credit facility. For further information regarding our financing sources and activities, see Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Our Investment and Financing Liquidity and Capital Resources” and Note 6 of our consolidated financial statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Generally, we intend to manage our leverage in a way that may allow us to eventually regain “investment grade” ratings from nationally recognized statistical rating organizations; however, we cannot be sure that we will be able to regain our investment grade ratings.
Our Board of Trustees may change our financing policies at any time without a vote of, or notice to, our shareholders.
Other Information
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. Adam D. Portnoy, the Chair of our Board of Trustees and one of our Managing Trustees, 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. John G. Murray, our other Managing Trustee and our President and Chief Executive Officer, also serves as 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 is an alternative asset management company that is focused on commercial real estate and related businesses. RMR LLC or its subsidiaries also acts as a manager to other publicly traded real estate companies, privately held real estate funds and real estate related operating businesses. As of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, the executive officers of RMR LLC are: Adam 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 Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, Brian E. Donley, and our Chief Investment Officer and Vice President, Todd Hargreaves, are Vice Presidents of RMR LLC. Mr. Murray and other officers of RMR LLC also serve as officers of other companies to which RMR LLC or its subsidiaries provide management services.
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 has approximately 600 full time employees in its headquarters and regional offices located throughout the United States.
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Competition. The hotel industry is highly competitive. Generally, our hotels are located in areas that include other hotels. Our hotels compete for customers based on brand affiliation, reputation, location, pricing, amenities and the ability to earn reward program points and other competitive factors. Increases in the number of hotels in a particular area could have a material adverse effect on the occupancy and daily room rates at our hotels located in that area. Agreements with the operators of our hotels sometimes restrict the right of each operator and its affiliates for periods of time to own, build, operate, franchise or manage other hotels of the same brand within various specified areas around our hotels. Under these agreements, neither the operators nor their affiliates are usually restricted from operating other brands of hotels in the market areas of any of our hotels, and after such period of time, the operators and their affiliates may also compete with our hotels by opening, managing or franchising additional hotels under the same brand name in direct competition with our hotels. We also face competition from alternative lodging options such as cruise ships, timeshares, vacation rentals, or home sharing services in our markets.
The market for net lease properties is also highly competitive. As an owner and landlord of retail net lease properties, we compete in the multi-billion dollar commercial real estate market with numerous developers and owners of properties, many of which own properties similar to ours and are in the same markets in which our properties are located. In operating and managing our portfolio, we compete for tenants based on a number of factors, including location, rental rates and flexibility. Certain of our competitors have greater economies of scale, have lower cost of capital, have access to more capital and resources and have greater name recognition than we do. If our competitors offer space at rental rates below current market rates or below the rental rates we currently charge our tenants, our tenants may not renew their leases, we might not enter into new leases with prospective tenants and we may be pressured to reduce our rental rates or to offer substantial rent abatements, tenant improvement allowances, early termination rights or below-market renewal options in order to retain tenants when their leases expire. Our tenants may also face competition from on-line retailers or service providers, which may in turn negatively impact their ability to pay rents due to us.
We have a large concentration of net lease properties in the travel center industry which is highly competitive. Although there are approximately 6,300 travel centers and truck stops in the U.S., we believe that large, long haul trucking fleets tend to purchase the large majority of their fuel at the travel centers and truck stops that are located at or near interstate highway exits. Long haul truck drivers can obtain fuel and non-fuel products and services from a variety of sources, including regional full service travel centers and fuel only truck stop chains, independently owned and operated truck stops, some large gas stations and trucking company terminals that provide fuel and services to their own trucking fleets. In addition, our travel centers compete with other truck repair and maintenance facilities, full and quick service restaurants and travel stores, and could face additional competition from state owned interstate highway rest areas, if they are commercialized. The largest competitors of TA’s travel centers are travel centers owned by Pilot Flying J Inc. and Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, which we believe, together with TA, represent a majority of the market for fuel sales to long haul trucking fleets. Competitive pressure from Pilot Flying J Inc. and Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, especially for large trucking fleets and long haul trucking fleets, could negatively impact TA’s ability to pay rents due to us.
We expect to compete for property acquisition and financing opportunities with entities which may have substantially greater financial resources than us, including, without limitation, other REITs, operating companies in the hospitality industry, banks, insurance companies, pension plans and public and private partnerships. These entities may be able to accept more risk than we can prudently manage, including risks with respect to the creditworthiness of property operators and the extent of leverage used in their capital structure. Such competition may reduce the number of suitable property acquisition or financing opportunities available to us or increase the bargaining power of property owners seeking to sell or finance their properties.
Sustainability, Environmental and Climate Change Matters. In July 2020, our manager, RMR LLC, released its first annual Sustainability Report, which summarizes the environmental, social and governance initiatives RMR LLC and its client companies, including SVC, employ. RMR LLC’s Sustainability Report may be accessed on the RMR Inc. 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.
Ownership of real estate is subject to risks associated with environmental hazards. Under various laws, owners as well as tenants and managers 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 manage 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. 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 operators of our properties to incur costs to comply with.
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Our travel centers include fueling areas, truck repair and maintenance facilities and tanks for the storage of petroleum products and other hazardous substances and many of our net lease retail locations contain industrial machinery, including those related to automotive sales and service, all of which create a potential for environmental contamination. We review environmental surveys of the properties we acquire prior to their purchase. Based upon those surveys, other studies we may have reviewed and our understanding of the operations of these properties by our managers and tenants, we do not believe that there are environmental conditions at any of our properties that have had or will have a material adverse effect on us. Generally, under the terms of our management agreements and leases, our tenants and managers have agreed to indemnify us from all environmental liabilities we incur arising during the term of the agreements.
We cannot be sure that conditions are not present at our properties or that costs we may be required to incur in the future to remediate contamination will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. Moreover, our tenants and managers may not have sufficient resources to pay environmental liabilities.
When major weather or climate-related events, such as hurricanes, floods or wildfires, occur near our properties, our manager or tenant 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 operators 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 managers’ and tenants’ insurance may not adequately compensate us or them for these costs and losses.
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 hotel and net lease properties to increase. We do not expect the direct impact of these increases to be material to our results of operations, because the increased costs either would be the responsibility of our tenants or managers directly or in the longer term, passed through and paid by customers of our properties. Although we do not believe it is likely in the foreseeable future, laws enacted to mitigate climate change may make some of our buildings 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 or managers and their ability to pay rent or returns to us. For more information regarding climate change and other environmental matters and their possible adverse impact on us, see “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—Ownership of real estate is subject to environmental risks and liabilities,” “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—Ownership of real estate is subject to risks from adverse weather and climate events” and Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Impact of Climate Change” of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We are environmentally conscious and aware of the impact our properties have on the environment. We and our hotel managers have implemented numerous initiatives to encourage energy efficiencies, recycling of plastics, paper and metal or glass containers; our hotel managers have programs to encourage reduced water and energy use at a guest’s option by not laundering towels and linens every day. When we renovate our hotels we generally use energy efficient products including but not limited to lighting, windows and HVAC equipment and many of the appliances in our extended stay hotels are Energy Star rated. We or our tenants or hotel managers have also installed car battery charging stations at some of our properties to accommodate environmentally aware customers.
Insurance. We generally have insurance coverage for our properties and the operations conducted on them, including for casualty, liability, fire, flood, earthquake, extended coverage and rental or business interruption losses. Either we purchase the insurance ourselves and our managers or tenants are required to reimburse us, or our managers or tenants buy the insurance directly and are required to list us as an insured party.
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Internet Website. Our internet website address is www.svcreit.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, Service Properties 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 the SEC. Any material we file with or furnish to the SEC is also maintained on the SEC website, www.sec.gov. Security holders 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, Service Properties Trust, Two Newton Place, 255 Washington Street, Suite 300, Newton, Massachusetts 02458-1634 or by email at secretary@svcreit.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 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.
Segment Information. As of December 31, 2020, we had two operating segments, hotel investments and net lease investments. For more information, see Item 7, “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and our consolidated financial statements included in Part IV, Item 15 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
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);
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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 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 1995 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 1995 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
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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 1995 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 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.
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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 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 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.
Other countries (and, for this purpose, Puerto Rico is best thought of as a separate country) may impose taxes on our and our subsidiaries’ assets and operations within their jurisdictions. As a REIT, neither we nor our shareholders are expected to benefit from foreign tax credits arising from those taxes.
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;
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(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.
To help comply with condition (6), our declaration of trust and bylaws restrict 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 and bylaws, 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
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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 may in the future form or acquire an entity that is intended to qualify for taxation as a REIT, and we expect that any such subsidiary would so qualify at all times during which we intend for its REIT election to remain in effect. 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 may make protective TRS elections with respect to any subsidiary REIT that we form or acquire and may implement other protective arrangements intended to 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. Among other requirements, a TRS of ours must:
(1)not directly or indirectly operate or manage a lodging facility or a health care facility; and
(2)not directly or indirectly provide to any person, under a franchise, license or otherwise, rights to any brand name under which any lodging facility or health care facility is operated, except that in limited circumstances a subfranchise, sublicense or similar right can be granted to an independent contractor to operate or manage a lodging facility or a health care facility.
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. Additionally, while a REIT is generally limited in its ability to earn qualifying rental income from a TRS, a REIT can earn qualifying rental income from the lease of a qualified lodging facility to a TRS if an eligible independent contractor operates the facility, as discussed more fully below.
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
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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.
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. In this regard, we already own close to, but less than, 10% of the outstanding common shares of TA, and TA has undertaken to limit its redemptions and repurchases of outstanding common shares so that we do not come to own 10% or more of its outstanding common shares. Our declaration of trust and bylaws generally disallow 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.
There is an additional exception to the above prohibition on earning “rents from real property” from a 10% affiliated tenant. For this additional exception to apply, a real property interest in a “qualified lodging facility” must be leased by the REIT to its TRS, and the facility must be operated on behalf of the TRS by a person who is an “eligible independent contractor,” all as described in Sections 856(d)(8)-(9) of the IRC. As described below, we believe our leases with our TRSs have satisfied and will continue to satisfy these requirements.
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
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
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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, including if the fluctuations are caused by changes in the foreign currency exchange rate used to value any foreign 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 thirty 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 thirty 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.
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 thirty 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.
Our Relationship with TA. As of December 31, 2020, we owned a significant percentage (but less than 10%) of the outstanding common shares of TA. Our leases with TA, TA’s articles of incorporation, and other agreements collectively contain restrictions upon the ownership of TA common shares and require TA to refrain from taking any actions that may result in any affiliation with us that would jeopardize our qualification for taxation as a REIT under the IRC. Accordingly, from and after January 31, 2007 we expect that the rental income we have received and will receive from TA and its subsidiaries has been and will be “rents from real property” under Section 856(d) of the IRC, and therefore qualifying income under the 75% and 95% gross income tests described above.
Our Relationship with Sonesta. We own (directly and indirectly through one of our TRSs) approximately 34% of the outstanding common shares of Sonesta. We have not elected to treat Sonesta as a TRS, and it is not otherwise an automatic TRS because no TRS of ours owns more than 35% of Sonesta. This structure for our Sonesta ownership permits our continued engagement of a corporate subsidiary of Sonesta to manage qualified lodging facilities leased to our TRSs, as described below in greater detail.
Our Relationship with Our Taxable REIT Subsidiaries. We currently own hotels that we purchased to be leased to our TRSs or which are being leased to our TRSs as a result of modifications to, or expirations of, a prior lease, all as agreed to by applicable parties. For example, in connection with past lease defaults and expirations, we have terminated occupancy of some
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of our hotels by the defaulting or expiring tenants and immediately leased these hotels to our TRSs and entered into new third-party management agreements for these hotels. We may from time to time lease additional hotels to our TRSs.
In lease transactions involving our TRSs, our intent is for the rents paid to us by the TRS to qualify as “rents from real property” under the REIT gross income tests summarized above. In order for this to be the case, the manager operating the leased property on behalf of the applicable TRS must be an “eligible independent contractor” within the meaning of Section 856(d)(9)(A) of the IRC, and the hotels leased to the TRS must be “qualified lodging facilities” within the meaning of Section 856(d)(9)(D) of the IRC. Qualified lodging facilities are defined as hotels, motels or other establishments where more than half of the dwelling units are used on a transient basis, provided that legally authorized wagering or gambling activities are not conducted at or in connection with such facilities. Also included in the definition are the qualified lodging facility’s customary amenities and facilities.
For these purposes, a contractor qualifies as an “eligible independent contractor” if it is less than 35% affiliated with the REIT and, at the time the contractor enters into the agreement with the TRS to operate the qualified lodging facility, that contractor or any person related to that contractor is actively engaged in the trade or business of operating qualified lodging facilities for persons unrelated to the TRS or its affiliated REIT. For these purposes, an otherwise eligible independent contractor is not disqualified from that status on account of (a) the TRS bearing the expenses of the operation of the qualified lodging facility, (b) the TRS receiving the revenues from the operation of the qualified lodging facility, net of expenses for that operation and fees payable to the eligible independent contractor, or (c) the REIT receiving income from the eligible independent contractor pursuant to a preexisting or otherwise grandfathered lease of another property.
We have engaged as an intended eligible independent contractor a particular corporate subsidiary of Sonesta. This contractor and its affiliates are actively engaged in the trade or business of operating qualified lodging facilities for their own accounts, including pursuant to management contracts among themselves; however, this contractor and its affiliates have few if any management contracts for qualified lodging facilities with third parties other than us and our TRSs. Based on a plain reading of the statute as well as applicable legislative history, our counsel, Sullivan & Worcester LLP, is of the opinion that this intended eligible independent contractor should in fact so qualify. If the IRS or a court determines that this opinion is incorrect, then the rental income we receive from our TRSs in respect of properties managed by this particular contractor would be nonqualifying income for purposes of the 75% and 95% gross income tests, possibly jeopardizing our compliance with one or both of these gross income tests. Under those circumstances, however, we expect we would qualify for the gross income tests’ relief provision described above, and thereby would preserve our qualification for taxation as a REIT. If the relief provision were to apply to us, we would be subject to tax at a 100% rate 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; even though we have little or no nonqualifying income from other sources in a typical taxable year, imposition of this 100% tax in this circumstance would be material because to date most of the properties leased to our TRSs are managed for the TRSs by this contractor.
As explained above, we will be subject to a 100% tax on the rents paid to us by any of our TRSs if the IRS successfully asserts that those rents exceed an arm’s length rental rate. Although there is no clear precedent to distinguish for federal income tax purposes among leases, management contracts, partnerships, financings, and other contractual arrangements, we believe that our leases and our TRSs’ management agreements will be respected for purposes of the requirements of the IRC discussed above. Accordingly, we expect that the rental income from our current and future TRSs will qualify as “rents from real property,” and that the 100% tax on excessive rents from a TRS will not apply.
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
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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, or the CARES 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, and we intend to make an election to be treated as a real property trade or business effective for our 2020 taxable year. Accordingly, we do not expect the foregoing interest deduction limitations to apply to us or to the calculation of our “real estate investment trust taxable income” beginning in 2020.
Distributions must be paid in the taxable year to which they relate, or in the following taxable year if declared bef