You’re starting a business and you need a commercial location. Or maybe your business is growing and you need more space.
Whatever the case, if you’re about to navigate the legal and financial minefield of a commercial lease, have an experienced attorney review the document before you sign. Here are three critical reasons why:
1. Complex zoning issues.
Before you sign a lease, be sure the city and county zoning will allow you to operate your business on the site. Don’t just assume—verify. If you sign a lease without confirming the zoning, you risk being locked into years of rental payments on property you can’t use.
Zoning ordinances can be tedious and nuanced. They address a wide range of issues, including the type of business (retail, restaurant, manufacturing, professional, etc.), health and safety regulations, parking, signage, accessibility and more. Check into all applicable regulations before making a commitment.
If the current zoning doesn’t allow what you want to do, you may be able to obtain a variance or special exception. An attorney can help you negotiate a zoning contingency into the lease and navigate land use issues with the appropriate government agencies.
2. Terms that heavily favor the landlord.
It’s likely that the landlord uses a lease has been drafted to favor the landlord and contains language that burdens the tenant with a long list of significant obligations, expenses and liabilities.
For example, many landlord leases contain broad remedies the landlord can self-execute if you default on the lease while limiting the landlord’s liability or your recoverable damages if the landlord defaults. Another issue to watch for is when landlords use a standard form that contains generic terms that are not appropriate for your particular business or industry. An attorney can often negotiate a more balanced agreement that is specific to your needs and operation.
3. Get all promises in writing.
In your conversations, the landlord or leasing agent may agree to certain things that are important to you, but if those points aren’t included in the written lease you sign and a dispute arises later, you have no recourse. Don’t rely on verbal assurances. An attorney can craft the appropriate language for points you need added to the lease.
Be wary of a landlord who objects to your attorney reviewing their lease or who insists there is no room for negotiation. In our experience, even landlords who have a “take it or leave it” attitude become more reasonable and cooperative after they receive an attorney’s comments on the lease.
Commercial leases are complex. An experienced real estate attorney knows which lease terms are standard, which can be negotiated and which should be added to the landlord’s draft to limit your costs and liabilities, reduce risks and facilitate a smooth landlord/tenant relationship.
To schedule review of a commercial lease, call our office at 407-660-2964 or email Calla Portillo at firstname.lastname@example.org.