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Leasing Tips

Prepare for a commercial lease by learning about tenant improvements and lease length.
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Signing a lease is a large decision to make for your business, and you need to consider factors such as lease length, potential site improvements, and any specialized construction or zoning permits.


Incorporate Site Improvements into Your Lease

Few spaces are "turnkey ready" for your business – most businesses will require some changes and customization to help them realize their vision. Depending on the space and the market, you may be able to negotiate Tenant Improvements (or TIs) with your landlord. Tenant Improvements can take the form of an allowance to help make improvements to the space, free rent, or the landlord may agree to make the changes themselves.

Commercial spaces are required to be accessible to people with disabilities (ADA compliant). Depending on the specific site and your renovation plans, you may need to make accessibility upgrades from widening aisles to changing bathroom fixtures. Ask your landlord if the space is ADA compliant and discuss who will be responsible for any costs that are associated with accessibility upgrades and/or litigation should a lawsuit be filed. You may also consider having a Certified Access Specialist (CAS) inspect the property and identify what changes are necessary to make the property ADA compliant.

Negotiate Lease Length and Other Terms

If you're planning to make renovations, serve alcohol, or conduct other activities that require a license or permit, keep in mind that there may be delays that are out of your control. Try to build flexibility into your lease in case it takes longer than you thought it would to start bringing in paying customers.

There are no standard rules for the length of a commercial lease – they can range anywhere from month-to-month to ten years and beyond. What's right for your business will depend on many factors, but you should consider factors such as how much rent can increase each year, what happens if your landlord decides to sell the property, or a neighboring anchor tenant leaves. If you need to close or move your business, consider your options to sublet the space, transfer the lease to a new business owner, or terminate the lease.