Ideally, you have done your due diligence in finding a commercial property that provides everything you need to run a successful business. This means you have examined the building, researched the foot traffic and checked up on the property manager. Now you are ready to sign the lease, and by this time, you may be eager to get it over with so you can get your business up and running.
However, a commercial lease is not something you want to sign in haste. In fact, it is wise to take it home, read through it carefully and even seek a professional legal opinion of its terms. You may not realize that some landlords are counting on the fact that you are unaware of your option to negotiate some of the terms of the lease. For example, your lease may include a fee for common area maintenance. What is that, and do you have to pay it?
Shared spaces and services
The rent you pay likely includes the maintenance of the unit. Therefore, if the toilet breaks or the air conditioning doesn’t work in your usable area, you can call maintenance, and someone will eventually come to make repairs. However, if your rental unit is part of a larger building or complex, you and your clients may also have access to common areas, including any of the following or others:
- Public restrooms
- Parking lots and walkways
- Courtyards and landscaping
- Elevators, stairs and corridors
These may need repairs, upkeep and just general cleaning, and all the tenants may share in that expense. Your CAM fee may also fund larger projects, such as roof repairs, security costs, signage, utilities or taxes.
How much is too much?
Your lease agreement should detail the percentage of total CAM your fees cover based on the total square footage of the building and the square footage you rent. The larger your rental unit, the bigger your CAM fee may be. Your lease should also describe what your CAM fee includes, how you may use those areas and prohibited uses of the common areas.
With this information, you may feel the CAM fee is excessively high. On the other hand, you may feel the landlord is charging you administrative fees but also for accounting services and management fees, which amounts to three charges for the same service. These are just a few reasons why a thorough review of your commercial property lease by an experienced attorney may allow you to minimize your rental fees and maximize the success of your business.