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Commercial Lease Terms

Updated: March 28, 2023
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Understanding commercial lease terms commonly found in California leases is crucial for landlords and tenants to protect their interests. Commercial leases are legal agreements between a landlord and a tenant to rent a commercial property. These leases are often more complex than residential leases and include numerous terms and conditions that must be carefully considered and negotiated.

Some laws and regulations in California govern commercial lease agreements, including disclosure requirements, security deposits, and tenant rights. Understanding the key terms and provisions of a commercial lease agreement is critical for landlords and tenants to ensure that their interests are protected and that the lease is mutually beneficial. In this context, this article will outline some of the essential commercial lease terms commonly included in California lease agreements.

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Rent and Additional Costs

Rent and additional costs are key components of any commercial lease agreement in California, and understanding these terms is essential for both landlords and tenants.

  • Rent

    The rent is the amount of money the tenant agrees to pay the landlord for using the commercial property. The rent amount is typically based on the size and location of the property, as well as market conditions and other factors. Rent is usually paid every month, although the lease agreement may specify a different payment schedule.

  • Additional Costs

    In addition to rent, commercial leases often include additional costs the tenant is responsible for paying. These costs can include the following:

    • Operating Expenses

      The tenant may be required to pay a portion of the property's operating expenses, such as property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and utilities. These expenses may be included in the rent amount or billed separately.

    • Common Area Maintenance (CAM) Fees

      Some leases require tenants to pay CAM fees to cover the costs of maintaining common areas, such as hallways, elevators, and parking lots.

    • Property Improvements

      If the tenant wants to improve the property, they may be responsible for paying for these improvements themselves.

    • Late Fees

      If tenants fail to pay rent or other fees on time, they may be charged late fees.

It is important for landlords and tenants to carefully review the lease agreement to understand the costs included and how they will be calculated and billed. In some cases, tenants may be able to negotiate the allocation of costs or the method of calculating these fees to meet their needs better.

Lease Length and Renewals

Lease length and renewals are important considerations for landlords and tenants in a commercial lease agreement in California.

  • Lease Length

    The lease length refers to the duration of the lease agreement. Commercial leases in California can vary from a few months to several years, depending on the needs of the landlord and tenant. A longer lease term may provide more stability for both parties, while a shorter lease term may allow for greater flexibility in changing business needs or market conditions.

  • Renewals

    Commercial leases in California may include provisions for lease renewals. These provisions typically outline the terms and conditions under which the lease can be renewed, including the length of the renewal term, any changes to rent or additional costs, and any notice requirements.

    Tenants may want to negotiate renewal options in their lease agreements to provide greater certainty and flexibility in their long-term business planning. Landlords may also benefit from renewals as they can avoid finding new tenants and keep their rental income steady.

    It is important for both landlords and tenants to carefully review and negotiate lease length and renewal provisions in the lease agreement. Tenants should also be aware of any automatic renewal clauses that may be included, as these can result in unexpected costs and obligations. In addition, it is important to understand any notice requirements and deadlines for renewals to ensure that both parties have adequate time to negotiate new terms or find alternative arrangements if necessary.

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Key Terms

  • Commercial Lease Agreement: A legally binding document that outlines the terms and conditions of a lease for commercial property between the landlord and the tenant.
  • Rent: The payment made by the tenant to the landlord for the use of the commercial property.
  • Additional Costs: Expenses associated with the commercial property not covered by the base rent, such as utilities, property taxes, and maintenance fees.
  • Security Deposit: A sum of money paid by the tenant at the beginning of the lease to cover any damages or unpaid rent at the end of the lease.
  • Lease Length: The duration of the lease agreement, usually stated in months or years.
  • Renewals: The tenant can extend the lease agreement beyond its original term.
  • Termination Clause: A provision in the lease agreement that outlines the circumstances under which either the landlord or the tenant can end the lease before its original term.
  • Break Clause: A provision in the lease agreement that allows the tenant to end the lease before its original term, usually with a specific notice period.
  • Rent Review: A provision in the lease agreement that allows the landlord to adjust the rent amount periodically, often in line with inflation.
  • Repair and Maintenance Obligations: The responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant for the upkeep and repair of the commercial property.
  • Subletting: The tenant leases all or part of the commercial property to another party.
  • Assignment: Transfer the tenant's rights and obligations under the lease agreement to another party.
  • Alterations: Changes made to the commercial property by the tenant during the lease term.
  • Guarantor: A third party who agrees to be responsible for the tenant's obligations under the lease agreement.
  • Indemnity Clause: A provision in the lease agreement that requires one party to compensate the other for any losses or damages incurred.
  • Force Majeure Clause: A provision in the lease agreement that excuses the parties from performance under the contract in the event of unforeseeable circumstances beyond their control, such as natural disasters or acts of terrorism.


In conclusion, commercial lease terms are critical to any commercial lease agreement in California. From rent and additional costs to lease length and renewals, each term can significantly impact landlords' and tenants' financial and operational considerations.

It is important for both parties to carefully review and negotiate the terms of a commercial lease agreement to ensure that their needs and interests are fully represented. Tenants should be aware of their rights and responsibilities under California law and carefully consider the costs and obligations associated with the lease. On the other hand, landlords should be transparent and upfront about their expectations and obligations to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes.

Working with an experienced real estate attorney can help landlords and tenants navigate the complexities of commercial lease agreements and negotiate favorable terms that meet their unique needs and circumstances. By understanding the essential terms and provisions of a commercial lease agreement, both parties can achieve a mutually beneficial and successful leasing relationship.

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