Saturday, June 24, 2017

10 Questions for Commercial Tenants to Ask

Entrepreneurs and business owners are in the business of solving problems and making life easier or better for their clients and customers. One of the classic situations we've seen is where an entrepreneur has come up with what they believe is "an innovative solution" to what they understand to be "a significant problem". Prior to jumpIng into a business designed around solving that perceived problem, it would be good to test and ask questions that will better validate the potential business opportunity. Asking questions is a key to getting the information required to make your "GO" or "NO-GO" decision. Then if you're still undecided, look at refining your questions, keep asking others, and review the updated feedback. As someone once said, "If you want better answers ... ask better questions!"

When it comes to where your business will operated from, here are some very good questions you should explore before committing to a business location. Thank you once again, Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield at The Lease Coach for providing this extensive list of questions for our "Business Success" audience.

10 Questions for Commercial Tenants to Ask About the Landlord and the Property

By: Jeff Grandfield and Dale Willerton – The Lease Coach 

Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield
As a commercial tenant, you will want to prepare yourself for lease negotiations with a commercial landlord. Educated entrepreneurs must ask plenty of questions in regards to leasing a preferred location … doing so better assures these business owners will not be taken advantage of and will achieve their maximum potential.

As The Lease Coach, we have been consulting with commercial, franchise, and retail tenants since 1993 and recommend the following “Top 10 Questions” that all tenants must ask during the negotiating process either for a new or secondary location. In doing so, you will better protect yourself, your interests and your investment.

  1. Who is the landlord? Will you be dealing with a large institution; a bank or a small, independent, “Mom and Pop” landlord? Depending on your opposition, you will be using a different negotiating approach.
  2. How long has the landlord owned the property? A long-time landlord will have gained knowledge and experience regarding the property. Typically, a long-time landlord will also retain interest in continuing to own the property and have more realistic rent expectations. Conversely, a new landlord may have a high mortgage and may look to his/her tenants to help cover that cost with high rents. 
  3. Where is the landlord physically located? A local landlord is often more accessible, thus making any dealings prior to and following signing the Formal Lease easier. One of our tenant clients was trying to personally meet with his landlord, a 70-year doctor, who, not only, continued to practice at his leisure but also enjoyed sunny holidays and was often not around. Obviously, this created difficulty with scheduling a personal meeting. 
  4. Is the person in charge of property management local? Ensure that your property manager is readily available to deal with any concerns you may have. Property managers may well look after multiple sites (not always in the same city or town) and cannot remain at one location on a full-time basis.
  5. What is the building’s history? An older building may require further upkeep and maintenance, which tenants pay for in Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges. If there has been a high turnover of tenants in the past, for any reason, this should raise a red flag for you. Also, has a similar-use tenant previously leased space within the property and either closed the business or moved elsewhere within the past 10 – 20 years?
  6. Who is doing the leasing for the property? Knowing who you are dealing with will help you better prepare for negotiations. Is this a big leasing brokerage, a real estate agent or the landlord’s son? Real estate agents must follow a code of conduct; however, they often can only share what the landlord has told them. A less than reputable landlord doing his own leasing may tell you anything to get you to sign.
  7. Who were the two most recent tenants to move in and when?  You will want to approach these tenants and ask them how their lease negotiations went.  If the leasing agent claims he/she has only recently acquired the listing and does not know, push for the details. 
  8. Who were the last two tenants to move out? When and why did they move out? Did they move across the street or did they close? As before, you will want to speak to these former tenants and ask for more details about their reasoning for leaving as well as their opinions of the landlord, property manager and the property itself.
  9. Who is the property’s biggest tenant (the anchor tenant)? How secure is this anchor’s tenancy? The anchor tenant(s) typically attract the most traffic to a property so you will want to confirm they will be staying. Tenants in a strip mall located near one of our homes were recently caught unaware when the major grocery store anchor tenant moved out. Despite having a long-term lease, this grocer can often move their business but continue to pay the rent, thus disallowing any competitor to move in.  
  10. Is the building for sale? Building owners looking to sell their building will have different motivations with prospective tenants. Also, consider that you may like the current landlord but dislike the new landlord.

For a copy of our free CD, Leasing Do’s & Don’ts for Commercial Tenants, please e-mail your request to 
Dale Willerton and Jeff Grandfield - The Lease Coach are Commercial Lease Consultants who work exclusively for tenants. Dale and Jeff are professional speakers and co-authors of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals FOR DUMMIES (Wiley, 2013). Got a leasing question? Need help with your new lease or renewal? Call 1-800-738-9202, e-mail or visit

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