When negotiating a new lease or lease renewal for commercial office space, many business owners and operators believe they can use a trusted family lawyer, IP, tax, corporate or other non-real estate attorney to help mediate terms. While it may be tempting to choose a lawyer you’re familiar with over an expert in real estate, it’s critical to find legal counsel that specializes in real estate law to ensure the best outcome. Together with a skilled broker, a commercial real estate attorney will save clients money and mitigate the risks inherent in any transaction. Here are a few of the most common scenarios during lease negotiation that demonstrate the importance of going with a real estate lawyer.
Prioritizing the Essential Elements
Attorneys that specialize in real estate law know how to prioritize the numerous clauses in a lease and fight for their client on issues of crucial importance. A common trap for lawyers who are unfamiliar with commercial real estate are the provisions dealing with unforeseen incidents or disasters, such as how quickly a landlord is required to repair a space after a fire. While this may seem like an important item to negotiate, there are more urgent areas to focus on, such as hold over rate or relocation language. Attorneys familiar with the intricacies of real estate know that disasters, such as fires, are extremely rare in today’s commercial office buildings. Haggling back and forth for extended periods of time on issues that may never occur only costs a client more money.
Capitalizing on Opportunities
Real estate lawyers know how to take a potentially negative clause in a lease and turn it into a positive opportunity for their client. For example, landlords frequently wish to reserve the right to relocate an existing tenant after a lease has been signed in order to create room for an incoming tenant that requires a larger, contiguous space. Rather than sink a deal over this issue, a real estate attorney will negotiate the terms of the lease so that any relocation will be to a higher floor with better views, with the landlord covering the costs of the move and build-out of the new space.
Learning on the Fly
It’s no secret that legal counsel is costly and work is billable by the hour. Thus, clients shouldn’t want their attorneys to be learning on the job. Unfortunately, this is what often happens when you hire a lawyer that you have a personal relationship with but who has no real estate experience, as they will need to study the new terms. This can also reduce the effectiveness of the broker, whose deal-making prowess can be stifled by an inexperienced attorney. All in all, going with a real estate attorney can save you substantial money on legal fees.
The field of law is much like medicine, in that lawyers specialize in a specific area of expertise. You may trust a long-time general counsel who has helped out in other matters, but working with an attorney who’s well versed in real estate will help mitigate risk, save money and ensure the lease you sign is the best possible deal. Lease negotiations can be complex and contentious, and you’ll want an expert on your side to secure a successful transaction.
Commercial leasing agreements commonly extend up to 10 years – or longer – making negotiations key to long-term savings for your business. One of the greatest opportunities to reduce your monthly cost is rent abatement, or free rent. As you begin the discussion with a Lessor, it is important to understand what rent abatement is and how it can be used to your advantage.
Do You Qualify for Rent Abatement?
Unless there are extenuating circumstances at play, rent abatement is a provision best considered during new or renewal lease negotiations. This is when the Lessee has the most leverage, especially if a business has already shown itself to be an ideal tenant at the current or a previous property.
Why Would a Landlord Provide Free Rent?
If you are a new business needing time to get up and running, or even an established business faced with moving costs and possibly contributing funds to a buildout of your space, the Landlord should understand that you will need some time to build cash reserves back up before the payment of rent commences. If the Tenant is providing the Landlord a large cash security deposit, this is great leverage to negotiate more months of abatement. Furthermore, the cost of acquiring valuable tenants – tenants that take care of the space and pay rent on time – is not insignificant to the Landlord. Leasing commissions, background checks and potential lost rent due to time the space would sit on the market are just a few factors they need to take into consideration when faced with negotiating leasing terms. Potential or current tenants can position rent abatement as a concession that benefits both parties.
How Can You Have this Added to My Lease?
Many business owners don’t realize rent abatement is an option, so simply knowing about and presenting this as an option during negotiations is half the battle. When entering into a discussion with a landlord, present this incentive as one of several the Lessor can provide to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. All negotiations are a give-and-take, and ultimately the Landlord needs to know they will not be losing money in the process. Rent abatement is one of the key terms that can be negotiated, along with tenant improvement dollars and rental rate, in order for both the Tenant and the Landlord to feel they’ve achieved a mutually beneficial deal.
For more of Tenant Advisory Group’s expert tips for negotiating your commercial lease, click here.