Before signing a lease, you want to make sure you are happy with the terms for the entire lease duration. To do this, you must understand the internal pieces of a lease so you can negotiate favorable terms with the landlord.
- Right to Terminate: This section of the contract describes what will happen if the contract is ended early or defaulted on, and describes the conditions for termination. Either party has the right to terminate the lease for a variety of reasons. However, one source of power you can ask for is a break clause which permits the tenant to terminate the lease without being obligated to pay the remaining rent balance should there be a timely notification of the intent to leave. This can be a great source of leverage to restructure a lease regardless of how the market has changed since the inception of the lease.
- Surrender of Premises: A surrender of premises clause stipulates the conditions of how the premises should be returned to the landlord and what procedures to follow when the lease ends. The clause outlines the tenant’s obligations, the landlord’s rights and what happens to any property left behind. It is acceptable to negotiate for the space to be returned in broom clean condition, and nothing more. The landlord may ask for space to be returned to white box condition, but that is too much to ask.
- Gross Lease: A gross lease is a type of commercial lease where the landlord pays for the building’s property taxes, insurance and maintenance. The gross lease can be modified to meet the needs of a particular building’s tenants, and a gross lease may require a tenant to pay utility bills. It’s important to make sure capital improvements are not passed along to tenants through operating expenses. When negotiating a gross lease, the tenant should ask which janitorial services are provided, and how often they are offered. The benefit of a gross lease is the convenience for the tenant to forecast a static expense.
- Insurance requirement: The insurance requirement of a lease defines the lease provisions of specific insurance coverages, indemnity, restoration, self-insurance and subrogation. What makes this negotiation difficult is the ever-changing terminology and coverages of insurance. It is recommended that you have a qualified insurance broker review the coverage requirements.
- Damage or Destruction Clause: A damage or destruction clause in a lease agreement outlines the rights and obligations of the parties to the lease in the event that the leased premises are damaged or destroyed during the term of the lease. Seek to minimize the time in which the lease can be terminated, and maximize the remedies available for the tenant.
Understanding the different terms, clauses and definitions of a lease is half the battle of negotiating a favorable lease. Make it as easy as possible to weave your way to a tenant-friendly lease by knowing the different pieces of a lease to even the playing field.
The best way to navigate the tricky landscape of a lease is to stay current on all the common phrases, clauses and definitions. You may have a general understanding of the terms, but it takes a professional to really navigate the ins and outs. Here are a few of the most common points you may encounter in your Chicago office space search.
- Letter of Intent: The purpose of the letter of intent is for both parties to come to agreement on various terms before spending significant resources and legal fees in pursuing an acquisition. Double check the business terms agreed upon in the Letter of Intent are the same as those outlined in the lease document. You’ll want to make sure you receive everything that was promised.
- Sublease Clause: A sublease clause outlines the terms for when you transfer all or part of your lease to another tenant while you remain on the property. When negotiating a sublease, reasonable consent should not be withheld by the landlord. The landlord will also ask for 100% of profits, but a 50/50 split is fair. Try to minimize the notice you must give, as well as the response time from your landlord to allow you more flexibility. Consent isn’t always necessary.
- Holdover Clause: A holdover occurs when a tenant continues to remain in possession of the leased property after the lease expires or terminates. The holdover clause specifies if a holdover can occur and at what rent. Landlords will ask for 200% of your monthly rent; however, 150% is the market standard. The clause itself should make clear that the tenant is not holding over unless they’re staying after the term ends without notifying the landlord and gaining permission. When negotiating the holdover clause, there are a few items you will want to have clearly stated in the lease: length of the lease; termination of lease; rent amount; and liability for damages.
- Renewal Clause: A renewal clause will attempt to automatically renew your lease unless you submit a notice. This clause is something you need to know about as a landlord may ask for automatic renewal without having to give you notice. It’s nice to have the rights to a space, but it is also nice to have the freedom to move. If you plan on staying, negotiating for renewal is a great opportunity for you to negotiate for a new rent rate.
- Work Letter: The work letter is an addition to a lease outlining the stipulations for all improvement work done by the landlord, and what work will be completed by the tenant at their own expense. This should be monitored closely to make sure everything matches up with what the landlord promised. If there is an allowance, base building items should be taken care of by the landlord, and if the landlord has ongoing construction, make sure the landlord is liable if improvements aren’t completed by the agreed upon date.
Negotiating a lease is the most crucial step when moving into a new building, and can potentially save you a significant amount of money. Armed with the new knowledge of these phrases, words and definitions, you’ll be ready to tackle any upcoming lease negotiation.