Some small-business owners in the Raleigh, N.C., area say they have learned to read their leases carefully and review them regularly. Antwan Harris, a former professional football player, says he had to shut down his restaurant after his landlord asked him to leave. "Check in with your lease just like you would check in with your financial statements [or] tax information," advises Michelle Rich Goode, president of Rich Commercial Realty.

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