One area where many small business owners skimp on legal advice is with their commercial lease. If you're not careful and do not have a lawyer review your lease, you could be in for years of problems.
Most commercial leases are for a long term, typically three, five, ten years or more. One area to keep an eye on in your lease is the amount of rent. Sounds easy, right? You find a nice space that advertises itself for $1,000 per month. You get excited, run your numbers and decide your business can afford to pay $1,000 a month in rent. Not so fast. Look closely at the area that discusses the rent charges. Typically a lease will specify the amount of base rent to be paid and then there will be additional paragraphs that address additional rent. What is included in additional rent? A large number of things, depending on your landlord. Use and occupancy tax could be added, utilities, past due charges, many items might be specified, make sure you understand how much will really be added to the lease each month. If you aren't comfortable with the arrangement, negotiate!
Another area to closely watch is for any rent escalation clauses. As I pointed out above, a commercial lease is usually for a long period of time, several years or more. Do you think your landlord is okay with you paying the same amount of rent for five years or more? Think again. There is likely a rent escalation clause in the lease specifies what the base rent will be in years two, three, four and five. Make sure the exact amount is noted, along with the exact dates of when the new base rent rate applies.
I am an attorney that reviews commercial leases for a very reasonable rate. It's money well spent to make sure you are not placed in a bad position today or several years down the line when you are locked into an unfavorable lease. Drop me a line today about reviewing your commercial lease.
Sarah E. Holmes is a Philadelphia business attorney and strategist that helps start ups and established businesses looking to expand, protect their assets and increase their profits in an approachable, down-to-earth way.