Top Three Office Leasing Questions

by | 27 June 2018

As a commercial real estate advisor and expert, I get asked a lot of questions. It’s how I spend most of my day; advising my clients and answering their questions. You can imagine that doing this day in and day out since 2009, I’ve gotten some really good questions (and some not so good questions)! Here are three that I get asked most often from my tenant base of clients.

Q: Can I Break My Lease?

This might be the most frequent question, at least as of late. Most companies want flexible lease terms but also want their landlord to offer free rent, tenant improvements, discounted rents, etc. Here’s the rub though: you can’t get these concessions without committing to a “long term” lease. They go hand in hand. The only way to “have your cake and eat it too”  is to have a termination option in your lease. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay back the unamortized transaction costs, with interest. And it’s usually a onetime option and you’ll need to give 9-12 months advance notice. Before adding this option to your lease, ask yourself these two questions: 1) Based on your business, what is the likelihood that I can give 9-12 months of advance notice? 2) Am I ready to write a BIG check to my landlord to get out of my lease early? If the answer to either or both of these questions is “no” then you might be better off looking for a sublease option, or a space that requires very little investment on the landlord’s behalf. That way you can request a shorter lease term that might be more ideal for your situation.

Q: What’s Included in My Rent?

This depends on what kind of lease you have. For the purposes of this article, let’s discuss what I believe is the most common type of lease, which is a “gross lease”  . Your payment will include rent, operating expenses (includes items like maintenance, snow removal, management fees, etc.) real estate taxes, utilities and janitorial expenses. In this case, there are only two extra costs: 1) the tenant electricity, which is the cost for lights, plugs and outlets and 2) increases over your base year. There are other costs that are outlined in your lease but are not commonly associated with rent. Before signing your next lease, make sure you understand what these costs are.

Q: Can I Have Reserved Parking?

Reserved parking is usually reserved for larger tenants. It’s not uncommon for tenants renting a big space to get extra concession. If it’s going to “make the deal” then it’s a no brainer. However, for smaller tenants, giving out reserved spots can be more trouble than it’s worth. Why? Because the other tenants will want reserved spots and the landlord will end up having to play police because inevitably, someone will park in your space and trouble will ensue. You can obviously ask for a reserved spot, no matter how much space you’re going to lease. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right? Keep in mind that it might not be an item worth fighting for since now you understand how building owners think about reserved parking.

These three questions have come up a lot recently (at least in my business) which is why I’ve highlighted them here. But there are plenty of questions that you should be discussing with your broker. That’s why we are in business, to assure that you’re comfortable in your real estate decision making process.

Vinny is Senior Managing Director of Colliers International in Princeton. He specializes in the acquisition and disposition of office space, and he is focused on both tenant and landlord representation.