Commercial Property – What to Do If the Lease Is Unsigned

In commercial property management and leasing you frequently come across the problem of the tenant delaying the signing of the lease. It can be for a number of reasons such as:

  • The complete terms of the lease are still being negotiated
  • The tenant is still finalizing their fitout design
  • The various partnership members are not all available for signature
  • The documentation is still with the tenants solicitor
  • The business or government department is taking time to process the document
  • The decision makers are away
  • Approvals for permitted use are delayed at local council

So the list goes on and you will see many variations of the problem. Tenants will give you so many different reasons why the lease is still outstanding. Frequently the delay process is not as it seems and there are other alternatives that the tenant is adopting for their own reasons. Tenants will not tell you the whole truth; that is a fact.

The signature on a lease is then a critical element of making the tenancy available for occupancy. In almost all lease situations, you would want the tenant to satisfy the following criteria before the keys to the tenancy are handed over:

  1. The lease is totally and correctly signed
  2. The plans and drawings associated with the tenants fitout have been submitted to the landlord and are approved
  3. The plans and drawings associated with the tenants fitout have been submitted to the building control board or local council and are approved
  4. The first months rental is paid in advance in accordance with the lease documentation
  5. The appropriate personal or bank guarantees are provided to the landlord in accordance with the agreement to lease
  6. All associated documentation and disclosures tied to the lease implementation are correctly served and satisfied
  7. The deposit required under the lease agreement or lease arrangement is paid

The golden rule in the leasing a property to a tenant is that all lease requirements are satisfied in accordance with the property managers instructions and the landlord’s requirements before any keys and tenancy access are given.

It should also be said that any incentive to be made available to the tenant as part of the new lease structure should not be released or made available until all the six points above are satisfied.

In most instances with commercial property, the tenants you work with are very experienced in business and negotiation. They are likely to be more experienced than the property manager or the landlord. The tenants will set up the leasing situation to their own advantage during the lease negotiation.

So the clear message here is that the premises should not be handed over to the tenant until all lease documentation requirements have been satisfied correctly and legally.

Commercial Property Managers – Tenant Retention Plans Are Beneficial for the Long Term

As part of a comprehensive commercial property management service, you should be providing a quality tenant retention program and service. In simple terms, the good tenants in a property should be part of a retention strategy, whilst the other weaker tenants should be part of a replacement strategy.

Here are some issues to help you establish a professional tenant retention plan in a managed commercial or retail property.

  1. Review all the competing properties in the local area to understand their vacancy factors, and tenant mix profiles. Look for any strengths and weaknesses in each of those properties. Understand how those properties can relate to the function of your property. Could those properties be attracting your tenants to move? Make sure you understand this fact.
  2. Check out the local municipal council regards upcoming future property developments. Understand if any of those property developments could have impact on the supply and demand ratio for occupied space. If you do have new local property developments coming up, check out the timing of the property release, and the potential rentals that could apply to attract new tenants. Expect that those properties will also offer large incentives as part of the property release strategy. Those properties could soften the effective market rental due to incentives offered.
  3. Review your existing property as to tenancy mix and lease profiles. Identify those leases that will soon to expire. That will normally be leases to expire inside the next two years. Those leases will be of immediate concern given that you will need a strategy to handle the expiry and or tenancy replacement. Planning and preparation is everything.
  4. Split your tenancies in your managed property into desirable and undesirable tenants. It is the desirable tenants that you will be encouraging to remain in occupancy. You will need a standard set of rentals and lease conditions to apply as part of negotiating with existing tenants. You will need to set market rentals that apply to existing tenants. The market rentals that you choose should be carefully considered with regard to recoverable outgoings and property expenses. You may choose gross or net market rentals but in each case the recovery of outgoings needs to be optimized for the landlord.
  5. The undesirable tenants should be identified and monitored as they get closer to the end of their lease. When the expiry of the lease is less than 12 months away, you will need a replacement tenant strategy. That will include target market rental, incentive allowance, landlord works, and permitted use.
  6. If your property contains one or more anchor tenants, pay special attention to the existence of the anchor tenant and how they are interacting with the specialty tenants across the property. A productive and proactive anchor tenant will encourage customers to the property and underpin the rental overall. A good anchor tenant helps the property to be successful.

So these are some of the issues to consider as part of preparing for your tenant retention strategy and tenancy mix plan. The property ownership requirements of the landlord should also be considered in balance to the decisions that you make with regard to leases. The rental for the property will also be set with relevance to the prevailing property market conditions through the local area.

Commercial Property Leasing – Pain Points to Lease Negotiation

When leasing commercial or retail premises there are certain points of negotiation that always create pain for the parties concerned. Here are a few of the big and most common ones:

  1. The landlord wants a high starting rent
  2. The tenant wants a big incentive
  3. The tenant wants a huge option term for further potential occupancy
  4. The landlord wants a tenant but is not prepared to provide an incentive to attract them to the property
  5. The last tenant left the premises in a mess and the landlord will not fix it up until a new tenant is found
  6. The landlord will not refurbish the premises before they have a tenant on a signed lease
  7. The tenant does not want to give any form of guarantee as security in the case of any default of lease

These are the most common problems for the average lease negotiation. Most landlords also think that their property is better than anything else around and on that basis will not negotiate down on any rent to get the premises let. So often you hear that the landlord is prepared to wait it out and see what the next tenant will offer.

In this market there are limited numbers of active tenants looking to relocate to new premises. In some cases there can be 5 properties available for every tenant to choose from. Urgency in the lease deal is not high from the tenant’s perspective; landlords need to know this. They may only get one tenant to make an offer for the premises.

When it comes to leasing premises it is not where you start your lease and rent, but it is more important to know where you are headed and where you will finish. Rent reviews during the lease term can take care of rent escalation to improve the lease, providing the real estate agent negotiates the lease well.

So what can you do with this list of common leasing problems? The best way is to use the pain of the vacancy (in the case of the landlord), or the pain of the need for new premises (in the case of a tenant) to move the deal forward. You should work with the offer that you have and not hope that another will come again soon to replace a low offer today.

Take today’s lease offer and turn it into a valuable lease over the term. Show the landlord the real value of the lease by doing an analysis of the deal using a net present value approach on the lease cash flow over the lease term. It is remarkable how the landlord will soften their negotiation position when long term lease value is explained in numbers.

Commercial Building Inspections – Tips for Finding a Reliable and Competent Building Inspector

If and when planning to purchase a commercial property, the question often arises, ‘How Can I Find a Reliable and Competent Building Inspector for Conducting a Commercial Building Inspection?’ While one could easily write an eBook on this subject matter, this article offers several tips to help you hire a reliable and competent inspector for the purpose of obtaining a thorough and diligent commercial building inspection. So without further ado, let me begin by telling you ‘What Not to Do’.

Never hire a commercial building inspector who was referred to you by the real estate agent or any other outside party who has a vested interest in and stands to gain from the sale of the property.

Although this statement goes without saying, it’s worth mentioning simply because many of those looking to purchase commercial real estate believe it is standard protocol to rely upon the realtor’s recommendation for hiring an inspector. In reality, this practice poses a conflict of interest that can have dire consequences for the party purchasing the property. Unfortunately, real estate agents who knowingly partake in this practice along with inspectors who continue to burn the candle from both ends know exactly what they’re doing and how to get away with it. While there may be a few exceptions to what I am telling you, I can assure you that the majority of inspectors who rely heavily upon referrals from real estate agents for their business are not going to rock the boat by disclosing any information to the client during the course of an inspection that may later serve to jeopardize their relationship with the broker or real estate company who referred them in the first place.

Never hire a Home Inspector to conduct a Commercial Property Inspection.

As for hiring a home inspector to conduct a commercial building inspection, suffice it to say that in most cases, conducting a commercial building inspection is altogether different from performing a home inspection for reasons too numerous to list in this article. However, the proliferation of home inspectors over the past twenty years (everyone wants to be one, especially in those States where home inspection licensing has become mandatory making it relatively easy for anyone to become licensed), hasn’t helped either as this has spawned an increasing number of home inspectors who are still unable to properly inspect a home, much less a commercial building, even if their life depended upon it. Moreover, given the number of significant and distinct differences between residential and commercial property, while experience in inspecting homes may well serve as a prerequisite, it is by no means a substitute for the vast amount of knowledge and experience required and yet to be learned by most home inspectors before they can even begin thinking about conducting a diligent and thorough building inspection.

Aside from ‘What Not to Do’, there are also other criteria you need to consider or at least be aware of in your quest to hire a reliable and competent commercial building inspector. namely:

Know the fundamental difference between a Commercial Building Inspection and a Property Condition Assessment (PCA).

Although this topic warrants a separate discussion, it’s important to note that the terms ‘PCA’ and ‘Commercial Building Inspection’ are often used interchangeably in the commercial sector. This in turn has resulted in a lot of confusion not only among real estate investors and others looking to purchase commercial property but real estate agents as well who more often than not simply do not know much less understand the difference. To make matters worse, the ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials) has also gotten in on the act by promulgating their ASTM Standards for Conducting a Baseline PCA. What this means is that since they happen to be a nationally recognized organization in the construction industry, in certain respects they’re similar to the AMA in the medical profession meaning anything and everything they write on a particular subject happens to bear a lot of weight. The problem arises in that the Standards for Conducting a Baseline PCA are often misunderstood by many in the profession and seldom if ever read by those buying and selling real estate.

To simplify things, all one really has to know is that the difference between a commercial building inspection and a Baseline PCA is like night and day since the later can be performed in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct a thorough and diligent commercial building inspection. The reasoning behind this is pure and simple in that a PCA is essentially a cursory walk-through of the property that relies heavily upon second hand information obtained through interviews and documentation (that may/may not be readily available let alone veritable) normally obtained through the owner and/or occupants of the property. Hence, my advice to anyone who is seriously considering having a PCA in deciding whether or not to purchase a commercial property is to forget it since in most cases a PCA is a total waste of time and money in providing information contained in a property condition report that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Try to obtain as much information as you can about the company and the inspector beforehand

This is another statement that goes without saying but I mention it because many people feel uncomfortable in asking questions of this nature especially when speaking with someone they don’t already know. However, if you reflect upon what I’ve just said for a moment, the fact you don’t know anything about the company or the inspector should be reason enough to ask all the questions you can to solicit answers without being embarrassed.

Be sure to ask the company or building inspector for references

Last but not least, do not be embarrassed to ask for bonafide references regarding recent clients for whom they have conducted similar commercial building inspections. If the company or inspector is reputable and if they have confidence in the service they provide, they normally will not have any reservations whatsoever in providing you with this information.

My next article will provide tips as to what questions you need to ask and what else you need to be aware of in looking to hire a reliable and competent commercial building inspector.