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Navigating 2020 – A Tenant Rep Broker’s Story

Downtown Atlanta Commercial Real Estate Specialist Re'Nauta Bell

Downtown:  My Home

I wanted to take a different route and talk to you guys more on a personal level about business.  This year has been quite tumultuous for most people, including myself.  My story is the same.  Only the details are different.  I think we all came into 2020 believing the turn of this decade would bring magic and wonder in the form of new opportunities…but all we’ve really seen is chaos.  Who would have thought the world would end up on this path?  My own journey through this has been interesting.  I’ve been at three different brokerages in my career and, alas, I finally found my home.  In mid-March of this year I started working as a tenant representation broker at my dream brokerage, however, my first day was the day they shut the offices down for the pandemic.  It was an eerie feeling.  I found myself sitting in the lobby waiting to be called upstairs and, despite that the building itself is 41-stories tall and there’s a waiting list for the parking deck, I was the only one there besides concierge and the cleaning crew.  I wasn’t sure how to feel or what to expect, but I certainly didn’t think I’d be writing this blog post 3 ½ months later from my home office.

Navigating the commercial real estate industry is tough enough but when you add a pandemic plus rioting, it tends to complicate things even further.  It also doesn’t help when the bulk of the rioting took place in your chosen submarket of focus.  Since things are unsafe on so many levels, I usually only leave my house to buy groceries and to take clients out on tours, but I made an exception last week.  A client needed assistance with site selection, so I had to venture out to my submarket of choice.  I decided to bring my son, a future broker, along with me so he could take notes and get some exposure and real-life training.  I thought it would be great to take him to my favorite taqueria before we got to work.  I found some street parking and we started our walk to the restaurant.  As we turned the corner to get to the street we were looking for, my heart sank. 

Am I really not getting tacos today??

It was as if I wasn’t aware of all the rioting that took place there.  Maybe on some subconscious level, I momentarily blocked out what happened in order to enjoy that moment of walking to my favorite Mexican restaurant with my son.  I’m not sure what it was exactly, but when I saw at all those amazing restaurants boarded up, I became deeply sad.  Knowing destruction is one thing.  Experiencing it is another.  Then I thought about my career.  “How am I going to navigate this storm?”  I couldn’t let myself get down in front of my son, so I decided to discard the bigger gloomy cloud and focus on the smaller one.  “Am I really not getting tacos today??”  Even though it looked like a boarded-up ghost town, I decided to start walking down the street anyway.  Right as I was about to apologize to my son about the food, I saw two college students walk out of the restaurant.  The joy I felt was immense (nowadays, it’s all about the little things)! 

My first thought was, “Yay…I get food!”  My next thoughts were about hope.

Going into that taqueria and ordering the same thing I have always ordered from the same man for the past 4 years gave me hope.  It renewed my belief that there is always a positive outcome if you try hard enough.  It showed me that even though there may be barriers in life right now, beautiful creations are still cooking within those walls, even if you can’t see it.  It reminded me that I can find some peace and stability in this, and you can too.  All you have to do…is keep walking anyway.

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So…What is in My Commercial Lease Anyway?

So…What is in My Commercial Lease Anyway

Landlord and tenants sign lease agreements when renting property. What is included in this lease will vary. However, there are certain basics you should know about lease agreements in general. Leasing business space is a major obligation.  The successes or disappointments of your business may ride based upon specific terms of your rental agreement so it is important to gain a basic understand of commercial leases and what is usually included in one. Before you approach a landlord, you should to see how commercial leases contrast from residential leases.  Furthermore, before you sign anything, ensure you comprehend and concur with the fundamental terms of the rent (i.e the length of the lease term), the amount rent, and the floor plan and configuration of the physical space.

It’s crucial to understand from the get-go that, practically and legally speaking, commercial leases and residential leases are quite different.

Here are the main distinctions between them:
  1. Commercial leases are not subject to most consumer protection laws that govern residential leases — for example, there are no caps on security deposits or rules protecting a tenant’s privacy.
  2. Many commercial leases are not based on a standard form or agreement; each commercial lease is customized to the landlord’s needs. As a result, you need to carefully examine every commercial lease agreement offered to you.
  3. You cannot easily break or change a commercial lease. It is a legally binding contract, and a good deal of money is usually at stake.
  4. Commercial leases are generally subject to much more negotiation between the business owners and the landlord, since businesses often need special features in their spaces, and landlords are often eager for tenants and willing to extend special offers.

 

Before you consent to a lease agreement, you ought to deliberately explore its terms to ensure the lease addresses your business’ issues. To begin, ensure you can manage the cost of the lease and that the length of the lease makes good business sense. Additionally consider the physical space. In the event that your business requires alterations to the current space, determine whether you (or the landlord) will have the capacity to roll out the improvements.

Other, less conspicuous items spelled out in the lease may be just as crucial to your business’s success. For instance, if you expect your hair salon to depend largely on walk-in customers, be sure that your lease gives you the right to put up a sign that’s visible from the street. If you are counting on being the only sandwich shop inside a new commercial complex, make sure your lease includes a exclusivity clause that prevents the landlord from leasing space to a competitor.

Many more items are often addressed in commercial leases. 

It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the following clauses:

– the length of lease (also called the lease term), when it begins and whether there are renewal options

– rent, including allowable increases (also called escalations) and how they will be computed

– whether the rent you pay includes insurance, property taxes, and maintenance costs (called a gross lease); or whether you will be charged for these items separately (called a net lease)

– the security deposit and conditions for its return

– exactly what space you are renting (including common areas such as hallways, rest rooms, and elevators) and how the landlord measures the space (some measurement practices include the thickness of the walls)

– whether there will be improvements, modifications (called build outs when new space is being finished to your specifications), or fixtures added to the space; who will pay for them, and who will own them after the lease ends (generally, the landlord does)

– specifications for signs, including where you may put them

– who will maintain and repair the premises, including the heating and air conditioning systems

– whether the lease may be assigned or subleased to another tenant

– whether there’s an option to renew the lease or expand the space you are renting

– if and how the lease may be terminated, including notice requirements, and whether there are penalties for early termination, and

– whether disputes must be mediated or arbitrated as an alternative to court.