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Before You Rent Office Space: 5 Legal Tips

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Let's face it, renting an office space can be a daunting task. Commercial leases allow for plenty of room to wheel and deal, which can be a double-edged sword. It gives you the opportunity to bargain for what you want, but the options can be overwhelming.

Fear not, business owner. Here are five legal questions to ask yourself before you rent office space:

  1. Does the space fit the bill? Before you even begin negotiating, make sure the space's layout, location, amenities, and flexibility for modifications are amenable to your needs.
  2. How much and for how long? Figure out your budget. Factor in escalations (i.e., rent increases) in case the building isn't rent-controlled. Keep an eye out for "evergreen" renewal terms, which will automatically renew the lease unless you actively end it. If your business is new or fluctuating, a short-term lease with renewal options may be your most attractive option.
  3. What does the rent cover? Financially, you'll want to know whether rent includes maintenance costs, property taxes and insurance. Physically, you'll want inquire about whether rent covers common areas (such as hallways, bathrooms and elevators).
  4. Who pays for ADA accommodations? If your business is open to the public or employs more than 15 people, your premises must be accessible to disabled people in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Inquire about whose responsibility it is to pay for modifications (like widening a hallway, installing an elevator or adding a ramp).
  5. Can you assign the lease? Since business needs (and the ability to pay rent) can change, you will want some flexibility in a lease -- especially if the term is lengthy. One way to do this is to make sure the lease may be assigned or subleased.

Remember, commercial leases are quite different from residential ones. They often don't use standard forms and can be tricky to break or alter.

Since commercial leases are frequently tailor-made to suit the unique needs of the parties, it's advisable to consult with a business and commercial attorney before jumping into anything.

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