If you’re a commercial landlord you already know the challenges that come with managing your property and ensuring your tenants live up to their obligations. Leasing commercial space begins with a well-drafted lease agreement that protects your rights and meets the requirements of the law. While a reliable lease agreement will reduce the likelihood of problems, there’s a good chance that if you’re in the business long enough you will run into legal issues. Having experienced counsel will become even more vital to the long-term success of your commercial operations.
The attorneys of Palumbo Law understand Rhode Island commercial landlord-tenant law and how it can affect your business. We assist landlords on everything from drafting and reviewing lease agreements to defending their rights in court proceedings.
Commercial Lease Agreements That Safeguard Your Investment
Your commercial property could be one revenue stream among many, or it could be your and your family’s only source of income. Either way, it’s an important investment that deserves the protection that comes from a comprehensive commercial lease agreement. It’s essential to work with an attorney who is skilled in negotiating, drafting, and executing these contracts.
When done correctly, a commercial lease agreement will clearly spell out the respective rights and duties of the landlord and tenant. It should include the following terms, among others:
- The identity of the tenant (e.g., the complete business name)
- Lease amount and payment due date
- Length of the initial lease term and renewal rights
- Security deposit
- Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fees
- Tenant requirements to maintain the premises
- Property rules, regulations, and use restrictions
- Notices and disclosures required by law
- Eviction procedures
Negotiating Your Commercial Lease Agreement
One major difference between commercial and residential leases is that commercial tenants often have more negotiating power. That is, they can request or even insist upon different or more favorable terms than you might initially offer. This is quite common, especially if you are leasing to large corporations or chain stores. Nonetheless, having a dedicated attorney negotiate on your behalf is a critical step in protecting your rights.
Every commercial tenant is different, and so are the needs of every commercial landlord. But these are a few of the most common terms you may be expected to discuss and negotiate as you draft your lease agreement:
Personal guarantees. As a general matter, tenants should make sure to sign their lease agreement in the full and accurate name of their business entity. However, some landlords go further to require a personal guarantee in the event the business itself runs into problems. The tenant may push back on this by requesting time or dollar amount limitations to the personal guarantee.
Renewal rights. Commercial leases tend to be longer than the standard one-year term of residential leases. Tenants often request renewal rights so they can continue occupying their spaces once the initial term ends. Some renewal rights are automatic, while in other cases the landlord will insist upon mutual assent of both parties when the time to renew comes. You should also consider whether and by how much the rental payment will increase upon renewal.
Allocation of property expenses. Who will be responsible for paying utilities such as electricity and water? What about insurance and taxes on the commercial property? Or perhaps Common Area Maintenance (CAM) fees like landscaping and parking lot lighting? These are all expenses that need to be clearly allocated between landlord and tenant. Commercial tenants sometimes ask that the landlord be responsible for certain expenses while agreeing to assume others that the landlord might normally pay.
Use restrictions. By law, some commercial activities may not be permitted on the premises due to land use or zoning regulations. But landlords are also selective about the types of businesses they want to operate in their spaces, even if those businesses are otherwise legal. Tenants with non-traditional operations may want to lease your commercial space. You may be open to leasing provided there are certain limitations on how the property may be used.
Exclusivity provisions. Commercial landlords frequently own numerous properties, sometimes within the same building. Tenants understandably may not want to open a business, only to have a competitor lease space right next to it. Exclusivity clauses restrict the ability of landlords to lease nearby property to tenants that operate similar businesses. An attorney can help negotiate the nature and extent of these clauses (e.g., agreeing to not lease to other, similar tenants within a 5-mile radius).
It may become necessary to initiate or defend against litigation concerning a commercial lease. Our legal team is ready to advocate for you and assist with these and other matters:
- Eviction notices and proceedings
- Suits for payment of unpaid rent
- Suits for property damage
- Other suits for breach of the lease agreement
- Defending against tenant lawsuits
We also represent clients in out-of-court procedures to try to resolve disputes, such as mediation. But if needed we can take your case in front of a judge.
Contact Our Rhode Island Commercial Lease Attorney
Our goal is to help our commercial clients negotiate the best possible lease agreements by putting their needs and concerns first. Where necessary, we use litigation to secure our clients’ rights in the courtroom. If you’re a Rhode Island landlord in need of assistance with any aspect of commercial leases, turn to Palumbo Law. Give us a call today.