Commercial sublease obligations can make or break your company financially. When subleasing a commercial space, the sublessee is motivated to reduce expenses, so the rent price can be attractive, but the sublessee will probably make some business concessions, including being bound by the original lease that may not have been negotiated properly or reviewed by an attorney. When negotiating a sublease, there are some important questions to ask. 

Q: Does the landlord need to consent to sublease?

A: The answer is almost always yes, but refer to the original lease agreement confirm.  Get the landlord’s consent in writing! 

Q: What is the landlord’s ability to terminate the lease or kick out the sublessor out of the space if the sublessee defaults?

A: It should be in the master lease, but a sublesse can modify these rights in the sublease, with everyone’s agreement. Negotiate so that the defaulting party is responsible for the costs and any damages incurred because of a default or eviction. 

Q: What is covered in the use clause

A: There may be restrictions on business terms, or what the space can be used for.  Make sure the landlord waives any of these restrictions that apply to sublessee’s business before signing the sublease!  Think about anything that is specific to your particular business, such as 24-hour access to and use of your space, parking access, delivery times and climate control.

Q: Why does the sublessor need to provide financials? 

A: When subleasing, the sublessee is essentially taking over the commercial real estate lease from the sublessor. The sublessor is usually required to prove to the landlord that the sublessee is a good business risk, because they are taking on the financial responsibility for the lease.  A traditional way to prove this is for the sublessee to provide financial information to the landlord to demonstrate that he or she can afford the rent.

Q: What about the section on attornment, right to cure and right to notice

A: Attornment means that if there is a new landlord, because the building ownership is transferred, then the sublessor and sublessee will agree to treat the new landlord like the old one, including paying rent. 

If the sublessor or sublessee does something wrong, whether it be monetary, such as not paying rent, or non-monetary, such as not fixing something, the right to cure comes into play. They defaulting party should receive legal notice about the issue and then be given a chance to fix the issue – the right to cure. 

How the landlord will tell the sublessee that something is wrong is typically described near the end of the lease. This is known as the right to notice.

The sublease might be a shorter document, but it’s important that it is drafted properly, or the sublessee might lose valuable legal rights upon signature. It doesn’t matter what’s fair, it matters what is in the lease. A smart sublessee will make sure that all of the documents that are needed (it might be more than one!) to make the sublease legal are reviewed by a knowledgeable commercial real estate attorney. Give me a call to set up an appointment today to discuss your sublease concerns!

Disclaimer
The transmission and receipt of information contained on this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Persons should not act upon information found on this website without first seeking professional legal counsel.

An office lease agreement is a contract between the landlord and tenant to rent space. The tenant pays the rent and uses the space to conduct business ,and benefits because there is no capital expenditure to purchase the property. The landlord benefits because there is a steady stream of income.

About the Office Lease Agreement

A standard multi-tenant office lease agreement will either be a triple net (NNN) lease or a gross (all -inclusive) lease. If there are lots of smaller tenants in the office building and there is only one rental payment, it’s probably a gross lease

All of the operating costs of the building, like taxes, insurance, and common area costs, are included in the rental payment. If there are additional payments beyond rent and utilities, it’s probably a triple net lease. The tenant will pay its proportionate share of the costs of operating and maintaining the property in addition to the lease cost.

The office lease agreement draft is usually provided by the landlord and contains language that favors the landlord. It may be a standard office lease agreement or a boilerplate contract, but it still needs to be read and understood. It’s important that all of the negotiated changes are in the document and that the tenant understands what he/she is agreeing to. 

The landlord may state that the lease contains common or standard language, but that doesn’t mean the tenant has to accept it as-is. The landlord has a team representing his/her interests, so the tenant should have a team in place, too. A good commercial real estate attorney with experience can read the lease document and make sure the negotiated items are there, that you are protected both financially and legally, and that you understand the rights and obligations you are taking on when you sign the lease.

Single-Tenant vs. Multi-Tenant Locations

One thing to consider is if there are many tenants in the building or just one. If the tenant is the only occupant, then there is only one source of income for the landlord. The landlord will want to protect against the tenant’s default because mortgage, tax and insurance obligations don’t go away just because the building is vacant. 

A multi-tenant building means the risk is spread out, so there’s a diversification of income sources. The landlord might be willing to make concessions about the creditworthiness of the tenant, but that will probably mean a higher rental rate for the tenant.

You’ve got your team in place and they’ve got your best interest at heart. Your commercial real estate attorney should understand the tenant’s side and have experience dealing with the landlord, meaning they know what to push on and how to get the best deal without tanking the deal. Your attorney should also economize on legal fees and protect the relationship, too.

Getting a Good Office Lease Agreement

It can seem like there’s a lot of lease document for a simple office transaction. A simple transaction usually doesn’t mean a short lease, however!  Your commercial real estate attorney will help you understand the risk, rights and responsibilities of each party, and negotiate to protect your interests.

Disclaimer
The transmission and receipt of information contained on this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Persons should not act upon information found on this website without first seeking professional legal counsel.

  1. General Exclusions

The tenant needs to understand what he or she is paying for to ensure that he/she is not being overcharged by a landlord who is trying to turn operating expenses into a profit center. Landlords might put language into the lease allowing for: 

  • Charging the cost of capital expenses and improvements when they occur
  • Including charges specific to one tenant through to all tenants
  • Charging a management fee or administrative fee (or both!) that are not market rate

Here are some areas where a reasonable landlord will negotiate in a commercial real estate lease:

  • Leasing commissions, legal fees, promotional costs, etc.
  • Charges relating to sewer or water connections
  • Entertainment or travel expenses
  • Cost of repairs, replacements, etc. covered by insurance
  • The cost of any alterations or improvements due to construction defects or compliance reasons
  • Repairs due to condemnation or casualty
  • Costs related to lease negotiations or disputes
  • Correcting a tenant violation of a lease
  • Depreciation 
  • Costs of renovating, redecorating or improving a space
  • Amounts paid to landlord-related parties for services that are above the market rate
  • Salaries of landlord employees that are mangers
  • Landlord’s general overhead and administrative expenses
  • New or additional structures
  • Capital expenses
  • Income, excess profits, franchise, transfer, estate or inheritance taxes 
  1. Capital Expenditures

Capital expenses are not capital improvements.  A new roof or air conditioner are not repair or maintenance items, but are capital improvements that benefit the project. These capital expenses often have a useful life beyond a tenant’s commercial lease term. Landlords like them because they are needed and it may increase operating expenses on a go-forward basis. Tenants don’t want to pay for more than their share of these expenses. A typical example is a replacement HVAC unit

The best way to resolve this is to compromise.  The tenant will pay for capital expenditures that reduce overall operating expenses, but those costs are amortized over the useful life of the improvement. 

  1. Management Fees

Another potentially expensive section is the issue of the management fee for the project. Landlords may hire an affiliated party to manage the property. There’s no guarantee that the rate being paid to the property manager is market rate, or that the landlord isn’t padding operating expenses and keeping the difference.

There are a couple of different ways to address this.  One solution is to specifically state that whoever the landlord hires as the property management company, that entity will not be paid more than the market rate.  Another solution is to simply to cap the cost of the management fee, usually as a percentage of the gross rent for the building. 

 

NEGOTIATION TIP: Watch out for a commercial real estate lease that charges an administrative fee AND a management fee!  It doesn’t matter how it’s calculated, it’s usually a landlord attempt to collect twice on the same charge. A good commercial real estate attorney can help the tenant negotiate to control this cost.

 

  1. Controllable Operating Expenses

Finally, another way to avoid overcharging for operating expenses is to cap the increase for “controllable” operating expenses. Controllable expenses typically excluded insurance, real estate taxes, and specific other items that are beyond the landlord’s control.

How do you know what other controllable expenses are?  Need help understanding the different fees and how to negotiate them?  Hire a commercial real estate attorney, who knows what to look for and will advocate for your best interests.

Disclaimer
The transmission and receipt of information contained on this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Persons should not act upon information found on this website without first seeking professional legal counsel.

A commercial building lease agreement formalizes the leasing relationship between a landlord and a tenant to rent business property in order to conduct business operations thereon. When operating a business, a formal legal agreement that recognizes and codifies the relationship between the landlord and tenant is necessary and will prevent confusion and unnecessary costs at a later time. 

In commercial real estate, a building lease is used for business purposes, not residential. The premises is the location the tenant is leasing. If the premises part of a larger building or project, and there are additional tenants in the building, then there are additional rights to consider. Everyone in the building will need to have access to common areas and parking lots, for example. 

The tenants will typically sign a triple net lease form which will include information about maintaining the common areas. If the tenant’s business has explicit needs such as climate control or special delivery times, these restrictions will also need to be negotiated and specified in the building lease agreement. 

When creating or signing the commercial real estate lease, these items should be explicitly stated:

  • Who is the landlord
  • Who is the tenant
  • Term (the amount of time the tenant will possess the premises)
  • Start and end dates
  • Automatic renewal

A commercial real estate lease tries to anticipate problems and address them before they happen. The tenant and the landlord will know who is responsible for what, and the associated costs.  It’s important to be aware of what is in the building lease. What’s even more important is what might be left out of the lease, so it’s important to know what to look for before you sign.

A prepared tenant will ask these questions and make sure the building lease answers them:

  • Who pays for utilities?
  • Who handles maintenance and repairs?
  • Who pays for substantial or partial damage to the premises? 
  • How are disputes resolved between landlord and tenant? Between tenants? 
  • What’s the jurisdiction and laws governing the resolution to the dispute?
  • How are problems handled? Arbitration, mediation (ADR) or in court?
  • When can the landlord enter and inspect the premises? When can other people enter?

When you’re working with your commercial real estate attorney to negotiate your building lease, you want as much clarity as possible regarding the obligations and liabilities of each part; who has to do what, and who has to pay for what? A savvy tenant will understand the rights and responsibilities of each party to the building agreement, and will make sure that the building lease gives the tenant the ability to enter the space and operate the business.

 

An important thing to note is that a lease agreement triumphs over default laws. It’s vital to ensure your signed lease goes into great detail to protect you. If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist. If the landlord breaks a promise (accidentally or deliberately) or simply changes his/her mind, your lease will enforce your agreement.  

If you want to make sure your building lease has all of the rights and responsibilities, obligations and liabilities set forth, then make sure you get an experienced commercial real estate attorney to review your lease before you sign it.  Schedule a time to speak with me today to protect yourself!

Disclaimer
The transmission and receipt of information contained on this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Persons should not act upon information found on this website without first seeking professional legal counsel.

A broker gets paid when the deal is done, and their job is to locate space and negotiate some of the economics of the deal.  An attorney’s compensation isn’t contingent on finishing the deal, so a good commercial real estate attorney will provide an understanding of the entire structure of the deal, beyond just the economic terms.

Brokers are not Attorneys

Only an attorney can provide legal advice – not a real estate broker or an accountant. A commercial property attorney knows about the specific laws that apply to commercial property transactions. An attorney with relevant commercial property experience can protect your legal rights and has a unique understanding of property law. He/she will know what to look for in a commercial property transaction, whether it is a purchase, a sale or a lease

An experienced commercial real estate attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations and tell you what is in your documents and what is missing from them.  A free online forum or a general attorney without a specific focus on commercial property will miss these nuances, and the tenant is usually the one who will suffer the economic and legal consequences. A broker can’t help you once the deal is done.

What Issues Can a Commercial Property Attorney Help With?

Commercial property, like office, retail, industrial or multi-family housing, are governed under different laws than single-family or residential housing.  An attorney who specializes in residential property will not have the same experience and understanding of the commercial real estate laws. A commercial property attorney can provide tailored legal guidance based on your situation.

Here are some of the practice areas for a commercial property attorney:

  • Zoning and land use
  • Property taxation
  • Commercial property insurance
  • Ownership and title issues
  • Leasing negotiations and disputes
  • Condo declarations
  • Purchase and sale transactions
  • Property contract breaches and business disputes

Commercial properties have a different design, function and type of occupancy as compared to residential properties. The commercial property industry typically has separate, state-specific laws that apply. The consumer protections in residential real estate don’t apply to these types of transactions

When working with commercial properties, there is a lot of documentation and paperwork tied up with business use and contracts.  Each transaction is different, and your online search won’t know the nuances of your transaction- that is why most articles say “be sure to consult with a commercial real estate attorney.” What about corporate ownership, leasehold, tenant claims or environmental issues? Those might not be in that form you downloaded online, but how will you know?

The great thing about having a commercial property attorney on your team is that there is a very specific subset of laws that the attorney knows very, very well. Your attorney should understand the laws, clarify issues, represent you and your interests.

By choosing to work with a commercial property attorney, you have someone who will help you reduce risk, protect your business financially, spot anything weird on the deal, and negotiate in your best interest.

Ready to protect your business assets and negotiate for the best deal possible?  Let’s discus how to do that!

Disclaimer
The transmission and receipt of information contained on this website does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Persons should not act upon information found on this website without first seeking professional legal counsel.