Navigating Commercial Leases: Top 5 Considerations for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners

In Business Tips, Contracts by Kristy DonahueLeave a Comment

When venturing into the world of commercial real estate, signing a lease can be one of the most significant commitments an entrepreneur makes. Unlike residential leases, commercial agreements come with their own set of complexities and negotiation nuances that, if not carefully addressed, could lead to unforeseen challenges down the line. As a business owner, it’s imperative to approach this milestone with a strategic mindset. Here are the top five things to consider before you put pen to paper on your commercial lease.

1. The Length of the Lease (Term)

Deciding on the term of your lease is more than just committing to a time frame; it’s about balancing flexibility and stability. A longer lease may offer stability and potentially better terms, but what happens if your business outgrows the space or needs to pivot? Conversely, a shorter lease offers more flexibility but might come with higher rates or less favorable terms.

Action Tip: Consider your business growth projections and how much flexibility you might need. Sometimes, negotiating an option to renew or including terms that allow for subleasing can provide an escape hatch should your circumstances change.

2. Rent Considerations: Amount, Increases, and Hidden Costs

Understanding the full scope of your financial commitment is crucial. It’s not just about the base rent; it’s about understanding how that rent might increase over time (through escalations or percentage rent) and identifying any hidden costs like maintenance fees, property taxes, or insurance obligations that you might be responsible for.

Action Tip: Request a detailed breakdown of all costs associated with the lease. Don’t hesitate to negotiate caps on rent increases or to clarify and limit your share of operating costs.

3. The Lease Type

Commercial leases come in various forms—gross, net, double net, triple net—and each has implications for what costs you are responsible for beyond just the rent. A gross lease typically includes most costs, whereas a triple net lease could leave you responsible for a share of the building’s taxes, insurance, and maintenance fees.

Action Tip: Clearly understand which type of lease you’re signing and what expenses it entails. Consulting with a commercial real estate lawyer can help clarify the terms and protect your interests.

4. Alterations and Improvements

Will the space meet your business needs as is, or will it require modifications? Alterations can be a major sticking point in lease negotiations. You need to know what changes you’re allowed to make and who will bear the cost of these improvements—not just at the start but also when the lease ends.

Action Tip: Negotiate upfront about alterations, including the allowance provided for improvements, who will oversee the work, and the state in which the premises must be returned at the end of the lease.

5. Termination Clauses and Exit Strategy

Understanding your rights and obligations if the lease needs to end prematurely is as important as negotiating its beginning. Look for, or negotiate, clauses that provide a way out under specific conditions, such as a “break clause” that allows either party to terminate the lease early under agreed-upon conditions.

Action Tip: Always have an exit strategy. Ensure that you fully understand any penalties or conditions that might apply if you choose to terminate the lease early.

Why You Should Consult a Lawyer

Commercial leases are legally binding contracts heavy with jargon and nuances that can significantly impact your business’s bottom line and operational freedom. A lawyer who specializes in commercial real estate can help navigate these complexities, negotiate favorable terms, and safeguard your business from potential pitfalls.

A commercial lease governs a pivotal aspect of your business’s operation—its physical location and the cost associated with it. Entering into a lease without fully understanding and carefully considering its terms can be a costly mistake. By focusing on these top considerations and seeking expert advice, you can position your business for success and growth.

Business Law Southwest. Business law that makes business sense.

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