Commercial Real Estate Lease

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Commercial real estate leases in California are legal agreements defining terms and conditions of commercial property rental between a landlord and a tenant. These leases differ from residential leases in many ways, such as the length of the lease term, the amount of rent, and the maintenance responsibilities of the parties involved.

Commercial real estate leases can involve many properties, from retail stores to office buildings to industrial spaces. Understanding the key terms and provisions of a commercial real estate lease is crucial for landlords and tenants, as it can impact their financial and operational success. In this context, this article aims to explore some of the important considerations for commercial real estate leases in California.

Types of Commercial Real Estate Leases

Several types of commercial real estate leases are commonly used in California, each with unique characteristics and advantages. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Gross Lease

    In a gross lease, the tenant pays a fixed amount of rent that includes all operating expenses, such as utilities, taxes, insurance, and maintenance. This type of lease is often used for smaller properties or tenants who want predictable rent expenses.

  • Net Lease

    In a net lease, the tenant pays a base rent plus some or all of the property's operating expenses, such as taxes, insurance, and maintenance. There are different net leases, including single net, double net, and triple net, depending on which expenses are passed on to the tenant.

  • Modified Gross Lease

    A modified gross lease is a hybrid between a gross lease and a net lease, where the tenant pays a fixed amount of rent that includes some, but not all, operating expenses. The exact expenses covered by the tenant and the landlord are negotiable.

  • Percentage Lease

    A percentage lease is a lease where the tenant pays a base rent amount plus a percentage of their gross sales. This type of lease is commonly used for retail spaces and is designed to align the interests of the landlord and the tenant, as the landlord benefits from the tenant's success.

  • Ground Lease

    In a ground lease, the tenant leases the land only and constructs their building on the land. This type of lease is often used for long-term leases of commercial properties, such as shopping centers. The tenant usually pays a fixed rent plus some or all of the property's operating expenses.

  • Build-to-Suit Lease

    A build-to-suit lease is a type of lease where the landlord agrees to construct a building to the tenant's specifications, and the tenant agrees to lease the property once it's completed. This type of lease is often used for industrial or warehouse properties and can benefit tenants with specific needs for their business operations.

Legal Considerations in Commercial Real Estate Leases

Commercial real estate leases in California are complex legal agreements that require careful negotiation and drafting to ensure the parties rights and obligations are clearly defined. There are several legal considerations that landlords and tenants must consider during lease negotiations, as well as in the event of a dispute or default.


During lease negotiations, both parties must carefully consider and negotiate the lease terms and conditions. Some legal considerations during lease negotiations include:

  • Rent and Security Deposit: Parties should negotiate and agree upon the rent amount, payment schedule, security deposit amount, and terms.
  • Lease Term and Renewal Options: The parties should agree upon the length of the lease term and any renewal options.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: The parties should clearly define each party's responsibilities for maintaining and repairing the property.
  • Use of Property: The parties should agree upon the permitted use of the property and any restrictions.
  • Termination and Assignment: The lease should clearly state the circumstances under which the lease can be terminated or assigned.

Dispute Resolution

Disputes can arise during the lease term despite careful negotiation and drafting. In California, commercial lease disputes can be resolved through litigation or alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration or mediation.

  • Litigation: Parties can file a lawsuit in court to resolve disputes related to the lease.
  • Arbitration: Parties can agree to resolve disputes through binding arbitration, where a neutral third party will hear evidence and decide.
  • Mediation: Parties can agree to use a mediator to help facilitate discussions and reach a mutually acceptable resolution.


In the event of a lease default, landlords and tenants have legal rights and obligations under California law.

  • Tenant Default: If a tenant defaults on the lease, the landlord can pursue remedies such as eviction, monetary damages, or specific performance.
  • Landlord Default: If a landlord defaults on the lease, the tenant may have remedies such as termination of the lease, monetary damages, or specific performance.
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Key Terms

  • Landlord: The commercial real estate property owner who leases it out to a tenant.
  • Tenant: The individual or entity leases the commercial real estate property from the landlord.
  • Lease Agreement: A legal document that outlines the terms and conditions of the commercial real estate lease.
  • Rent: The payment made by the tenant to the landlord in exchange for the use of the commercial real estate property.
  • Base Rent: The fixed rent amount agreed upon in the lease agreement.
  • Rent Escalation: An increase in rent over time, either through a fixed percentage increase or based on a particular index.
  • Lease Term: The length of time for which the tenant will lease the commercial real estate property.
  • Rentable Square Feet: The amount of space within a commercial real estate property that tenants can rent out.
  • Common Area Maintenance (CAM) Charges: Fees are charged to tenants for the maintenance and upkeep of common areas within commercial real estate property.
  • Security Deposit: A payment made by the tenant to the landlord at the beginning of the lease to cover any damages or unpaid rent at the end of the lease term.
  • Option to Renew: A clause in the lease agreement that allows the tenant to renew the lease for an additional term.
  • Subleasing: When a tenant leases out part or all of their leased space to another tenant.
  • Assignment: Transfer the tenant's rights and obligations under the lease agreement to another party.
  • Build-Out: Customizing the commercial real estate space to fit the tenant's needs.
  • Force Majeure: A clause in the lease agreement that excuses performance in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters, pandemics, or other events beyond the control of either party.


Commercial real estate leases in California are vital in defining the terms and conditions of a rental agreement between a landlord and tenant. These agreements are complex and often require the assistance of a real estate attorney to negotiate and understand. As a tenant or landlord, it is important to understand the key provisions and obligations included in the lease agreement.

Factors such as lease term, rent, maintenance, and renewal options must be carefully considered and negotiated to ensure that both parties are protected and can successfully operate their business or investment property. By working with experienced professionals and taking the time to fully understand the lease agreement, both landlords and tenants can achieve their goals and maximize their financial and operational success in the dynamic California real estate market.

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