9 things to remember when taking out a commercial lease

Signing your business up for a property lease is a lot different than renting a home to live in.

Here’s nine things you should keep in mind when taking out a commercial lease.

1. IS THE RENT APPROPRIATE?

Exactly what space are you renting? Does it include common areas such as hallways, rest rooms, and elevators? How does the landlord measure the space –some measurement practices include the thickness of the walls. Also keep in mind that commercial lease agreements usually provide for an annual percentage-based rent increase.

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2. SET COST PARAMETERS FROM THE START

Negotiate with the landlord for a cap on the percentage increase to avoid unmanageable costs later on with the rent going up when you least need it. Check to see if there is a use clause. Many lease agreements will incorporate a use clause to define the activity the tenant can engage in on the premises.

3. WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT?

Who will maintain and repair the premises, including the heating and air conditioning systems? Responsibilities for the building and any equipment are often shared between landlord and tenant. The agreement should spell this out clearly.

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4. SET YOUR OWN TIMEFRAME

Most landlords prefer long-term lease agreements. If it’s a new business, it might pay to ask the landlord for a short-term lease with an option to renew. This may raise the rent you pay, but it could be a better alternative than agreeing to a lengthy term.

5. CAN YOU MAKE CHANGES TO THE PROPERTY?

A lease should address what improvements or modifications can be made to the property, which party will pay for the improvements, and whether the tenant is responsible for returning the unit to its original condition at the end of the tenancy. It should also spell out who will own the improvements when the lease expires.

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6. REMEMBER THE LITTLE THINGS

If the business needs it, make sure that the lease agreement does not prohibit putting up signs that are visible from the street. Agree on who is responsible for rates, taxes, insurance and other outgoings; for example, contents insurance or council and water rates. It’s also important to check if the lease agreement allows subletting. This is important because the lessee is still responsible for paying the rent if the business fails or relocates. An assignment or sublet clause in place allows the business to find someone else to cover the rent.

7. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

Does the lease have a Right of Assignment clause? If you have to sell the business, a Right of Assignment clause gives you the option of transferring the lease to a new tenant. Is there an option to renew the lease or expand the space you are renting? How would the lease be terminated? Is there a notice requirement? Are there penalties for early termination?

8. SEEK FINANCIAL ADVICE

Before you sign, you should check the deductibility of rent and your tax liabilities with your financial adviser. If the agreement requires the business to purchase leased goods or equipment, it could invalidate your right to claim rent as a tax deduction. A financial adviser is essential here.

Check rent deductibility and tax liabilities with a financial adviser before you sign a lease.

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9. ARE THERE ADDITIONAL CLAUSES?

If you are leasing premises in a shopping centre, it’s worth asking whether you have to comply with the centre’s fit out rules (shopping centres can often be more restrictive), whether you are required to contribute financially to the centre’s marketing and promotional activities and whether your business would be affected by any ownership plans to redevelop or expand the centre.

 

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