Today's economic climate is without a doubt unlike any we have seen in many years. One does not need an MBA to see that the present state of our economy has impacted both the public and private sector and it has no limitations as to the size or type of company affected.
The relationship a company has with their landlord is quite unique in that it does not follow the pattern of most other business associations. Typically, when one partner in a relationship has an issue, the other partner looks to make an accommodation so the relationship can continue to flourish.
Unfortunately, that may not be the case when it comes to addressing real estate issues. On the up side, there are some strategies tenants can use to gain temporary relief from the burden of their occupancy costs provided they fit into certain parameters and understand the guidelines. On the down side, most landlords in particular landlords controlling multi-tenant office spaces are extremely reluctant to offer relief in particular through renegotiation of existing leases.
We have spoken to numerous landlords over the past months regarding this critical issue. To be sure we were compiling the most reliable information; we approached landlords who controlled all types of properties including multi and single tenant office buildings, industrial spaces and retail properties. To be further sure the information we received wasn't considered biased, we sought out several of our client's landlords as well as landlords who we have dealt with in the past but did not presently have any of our clients in their building.
It is said that if something happens once it can be a chance occurrence, twice can be a coincidence but three times is a pattern. It wasn't hard to see a pattern forming in that every landlord, regardless of the type of property they controlled said the same thing, "We understand the issue but it has to be beneficial to us as well."
With that said and understood, there remains several strategies one may follow provided specific circumstances come into play.
The most common "success story" for renegotiating a lease in today's down market is determined by the length of time you have on your lease. If you have under one year remaining on your lease, a landlord will at a minimum be more than likely at lease talk to you. No landlord wants to see empty space but they don't want to give away the farm. After all, they have a certain level of expectations when it comes to return on investment.
"Blend and Extend" deals are out there if creatively designed. As an example, let's say you have nine months remaining on your 4000 SF space and you're paying $2.40/RSF/mo but the market rate is now $1.95 for new deals in your building. If the landlord reduced your rate, he would have a $21,000 shortfall. However, if you renewed for an additional 51 months, in theory, the landlord can then spread that loss over the 60 months of the new term by adding $.09 to the market rate and writing a new deal at $2.04/SF. You get an immediate reduction and the landlord has a guaranteed cash flow.
Another success story can be titled, "Extend and Expand." We have had some landlords agree to this option as far as eighteen months out. In one case a client was paying $2.35 on 2000/SF but wanted to expand to 3800 SF. Market was $1.90 for the space. We worked out a formula where the landlord would recoup the lost revenue on the initial 2000 SF and blend it into the larger space. The $1.94/SF deal included tenant improvement dollars.
Another opportunity may come into play should your landlord either sell or refinance the building. If the debt service on the building is reduced, you may be able to renegotiate longer term deals with the new owner or under the refinance structure. Should your building be taken over through foreclosure, you may want to contact your attorney as well as your broker. History tells us a lot of options open up under that scenario including the fact you may be able to get out of your lease completely. The foreclosures of the early 1990's and the court rulings under the Dover Case may shed some light on that. Your attorney should be able to provide additional information and strategies.
If you find none of the above scenarios meet your circumstances and you are having extreme problems paying your rent, you can still approach your landlord for relief but be prepared to not only provide full financial disclosure but also have a solid plan for how you anticipate dealing with the economic downturn. Yes, this does sound like the auto makers going before Congress.
Guest Post by our Orange County, Ca Member
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