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Important Questions to Ask before You Lease Office Space

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Choosing to lease office space for lease is a big decision. The entire process can be quite confusing and it is easy to get a less-than-perfect office space deal if you don’t know what questions to ask and what certain terms mean to your bottom line.

What does $XX.XX/SF mean when stated in a lease or advertisement for office space? The cost stated usually refers to the yearly lease cost per square foot. An example would be 1,000SF of office space quoted at $10.00/SF would mean a rate of $10,000 per year or $833.33 per month. Although, in some markets it is based ont eh monthly cost. Make sure you know!

What does Rentable Square Feet mean to me? The term rentable square feet refers to the total square feet of office space used to calculate the rental rate. It may include an apportionment for the lobby, halls, and other common areas in the building that are available to you to use along with all the other building tenants.

What does Useable Square Feet mean? This is the total square footage inside the walls of the specific office space you are considering leasing; the acutula square footage you get to use. It refers to that area that is for the sole use of the tenant and does not include any sort of common area. Basically, this is the amount of office space, expressed in square feet, that you will be leasing as private office space in which you can conduct your business.

I was presented a lease that has the term “CAM charges” in it. What does this mean? The acronym CAM stands for Common Area Maintenance and CAM charges refer to the cost of services and charges to maintain common areas, including any parking areas owned by the building owner. This can include landscape services, common area lighting, parking lot maintenance, cleaning service for common areas, or even snowplowing if that is needed. The actual expenses are shared by all tenants and are quoted as CAM charges. This is calculated as $XX.XX/SF with the SF being equal to the rentable square footage of the leased area.  These charges are usually paid monthly based on the estimated yearly cost. At year end, the actual CAM charges are calculated and any refund or additional payment is settled with the tenants.

What is NNN when appearing in a lease rate? The term “NNN” refers to any additional actual expense items incurred by the building that are split between all tenants. This may include insurance, property taxes, or CAM if CAM is not included separately. It may be called “Additional Rent” rather than NNN. Be sure to ask exactly what is included in the NNN because it can differ from landlord to landlord. It probably will not include any utility costs except that used by the common areas.

How utility costs are calculated and are they included in the rent? In some smaller office spaces, the cost of utilities may not be calculated separately but in larger spaces, the tenant often has to establish their own separately metered utilities. In some cases, the landlord has all unities metered and the tenant is billed for a share of the total utilities based on the size of their office space.  Be sure to inquire about how utilities are billed and exactly what you are responsible for paying.

What does Gross Rent mean? The term Gross Rent means the landlord is paying all expenses outlined as NNN expenses and the tenant only pays the Gross Rental amount stated in the lease. The utilities may or may not be included in Gross Rent, so be sure to ask.

Can I get a short lease to try out the office space? Most landlords offering leases on commercial office space will not consider less than a one year lease. Some require two or three year leases as a minimum. In general, the longer the lease, the more valuable it is to the landlord and the easier it will be to negotiate what you want.  Don’t plan on less than a one year lease.

I love the office space I found but there are a few things in the layout that need to be changed. How does this work?  The layout of an office space varies from building to building and seldom do you find the perfect lay out. The landlord is likely to be reluctant to spend money on a tenant requested change. It is traditional that new paint, carpet cleaning, and general area maintenance be performed by the landlord. In some cases tenant improvements can be negotiated at the landlord’s expense, often on the longer term leases. In other cases the tenant may negotiate the right to alter the layout at the tenant’s expenses. 

Your best bet is to use ther services of an Office Space Tenant Represenative who will help you through the maze at NO Cost to you, making sure you avoid costly mistakes.

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By: James Osgood

Lease Negotiations , Office Rental , Office Space , Office Space Negotiations

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