There are 7 questions that a tenant can ask to get a feel for the success of their next real estate deal, yet rarely are any of them asked! The tenant and landlord’s dance through the proposal process is one that is contained to RFP (Request for Proposal) responses and the agents negotiating terms on behalf of the principals. Often, once the lease is signed, it is the first time that a tenant actually meets his landlord. That is one hell of an arranged marriage!
During the great recession, the world for landlords was turned upside down. As a result, form leases that had not been rewritten in 20 years had now been completely overhauled. Leases are much longer now than they used to be and the time and cost to negotiate and approve the documents has increased considerably. In”25 Years of Commercial Leasing: What a Long Strange, Cyclical Trip it has been,” a group of commercial lease transaction lawyers in California point out this new complication.
Page 12 of the article states, “The 10 years preceding the birth of the Real Property Law Section, the State Bar of California saw commercial leases expand from a typical six-page office lease, manually typed with carbon paper, to a 30-page lease with a dramatically increased focus on detail and an attempt to alleviate the unknowns and “what ifs.” After further review, the article goes on to detail how landlords have shifted to having an attorney on retainer draft leases that are more and more complex as a form of protection from certain issues that may arise with the tenant long after the lease has been signed.
After examining the above text, it would appear that the best landlord tenant relationship is one where the lease is negotiated, then put away, and never pulled-out again. But to have such a relationship with your landlord, you must have a great amount of trust. In Dr. Stephen Covey’s book, Speed of Trust, he addresses this type of trust:
“When trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down.”
The inverse is also true.
“When trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.”
In an industry that is primarily concerned about being faster, bigger, and cheaper, trust is a critical component to any landlord/tenant relationship. But when decisions are made based upon responses to RFPs, how does a tenant know if they are entering into a relationship with a good guy? We suggest that you preface all of your RFPs to your future landlord with the following statement and ask these 7 questions.
First, clarify your expectations by making this statement. “Smoots, Tannerbottom and Felderhosen PLLC envisions a “collaborative/partnership” during the negotiation, upfit, and occupancy of its new office. Please provide the following information with that in mind.
1. Assume that it is three years from now, the tenant chose your building, negotiated a lease, performed tenant improvements and has been a tenant for over two years, and you are looking back over the last three years, what would have to happen for the landlord to feel good about your progress? This is the greatest of all open-ended questions. You will know if the respondent is serious about having you as a tenant as well as their plan for you as their tenant.
2. Please describe the ownership structure of “respondent” and the key personnel who would be involved in the negotiation of agreements and the completion of the project. This question addresses the issue of how they will deliver results and keep commitments.
3. Provide examples of comparable projects completed by “respondent”. This question will give you insight into not only their capability, but also their humility.
4. Confirm that “respondent” be willing to work on an “open book” basis with agreed return criteria at the outset. This gets right to the issue of landlord transparency.
5. Please indicate how respondent expects to access and utilize capital to complete the project (including expansion). Anyone in the debt market knows the value of understanding a landlord’s access to capital.
6. Demonstrate financial capability to complete this project. All landlords had a tough time during the great recession, therefore the respondent should have a very clear idea of how they are going to answer this question.
7. Please share your vision for the neighborhood in which your site is located. I like this question because a landlord who knows and cares about the neighborhood in which it is located, is socially conscious and cares about the relationships with its tenants. Also, this is a great question to raise awareness on soft issues such as transportation, proposed access improvements, crime statistics, and the availability of nearby workforce housing.