Types of Commercial Leases

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There are several types of commercial leases in the US, such as net leases, gross leases, percentage leases, and others, each with its own terms and conditions. A commercial lease is a legal agreement between a landlord and a tenant for commercial property rentals, such as office space, retail space, or industrial space. In this agreement, the terms and conditions of the tenancy are outlined, including the rental amount, length of the lease, and the obligations of both the landlord and the tenant. The agreement is governed by state law and may be subject to local regulations.

Types of Commercial Leases in the USA

There are several commercial leases in the USA, each with unique terms and conditions. Here's a more detailed explanation of each type:

  • Gross Lease

    This type of lease is also known as a full-service lease. The tenant pays the landlord a fixed monthly rent, including all operating expenses such as taxes, insurance, maintenance, and utilities. The landlord is responsible for paying these expenses, and the tenant does not have to worry about additional costs beyond the base rent. Gross leases are typically used for office and retail spaces.

  • Net Lease

    This type of lease requires the tenant to pay not only base rent but also a portion of the operating expenses. There are basically three main subtypes of net leases:

    1. Single Net Lease: The tenant is accountable for paying property taxes and the base rent.
    2. Double Net Lease: The tenant is responsible for paying property taxes and building insurance in addition to the base rent.
    3. Triple Net Lease: The tenant is responsible for paying property taxes, building insurance, and maintenance in addition to the base rent. Net leases are commonly used for industrial and warehouse spaces.
  • Modified Gross Lease

    This type of lease combines elements of both gross and net leases. The tenant pays base rent and contributes to some operating expenses, but not all of them. The lease agreement determines the exact split of expenses. Modified gross leases are often used for office spaces.

  • Percentage Lease

    This type of lease is used for retail spaces. The tenant pays a base rent and a percentage of their business sales generated on the property. This type of lease aligns the interests of the landlord and the tenant, as the landlord benefits from the tenant's success, and the tenant benefits from lower rent when business is slow.

  • Absolute NNN Lease

    This type of lease is also known as a triple net lease, where NNN stands for "net, net, net." The tenant is responsible for all taxes, operating expenses, insurance, and maintenance in addition to the base rent. The landlord is not responsible for any expenses related to the property, making it a low-maintenance investment for them. Absolute NNN leases are commonly used for single-tenant retail properties and freestanding buildings.

It's important to carefully review and understand the terms of a commercial lease before signing, as the type of lease can significantly impact the tenant's bottom line.

Benefits of Commercial Leases

  • Predictable Monthly Costs

    One of the benefits of a commercial lease is that it offers a predictable fixed monthly cost, allowing businesses to budget and plan their expenses accordingly.

  • Long-Term Security

    Commercial leases often provide long-term security to businesses, allowing them to operate in a specific location for an extended period without worrying about rent increases or eviction.

  • Ability to Customize the Space

    Many commercial leases allow for space customization, such as adding partitions, painting, or installing specialized equipment. It enables businesses to create a workspace that meets their specific needs.

  • Protection from Landlord Liability

    Commercial leases typically absolve landlords of any liability for injury or damage to a tenant's property. It protects the business from financial losses in the event of an accident.

  • Access to a Wider Range of Locations

    Commercial leases often provide access to a wider range of locations than owner-occupied buildings, allowing businesses to choose a location that best meets their needs.

  • Transfer of Responsibilities

    A commercial lease usually transfers certain responsibilities, such as maintenance and repairs, to the landlord. It frees up time and resources for the business to focus on its core operations.

  • Flexibility

    Commercial leases often provide greater flexibility than owner-occupied buildings, allowing businesses to renew, modify, or terminate the lease as needed.

  • Potential Tax Benefits

    Commercial leases may offer certain tax benefits, such as deductions for rent, property taxes, and building expenses, that can reduce a business's overall tax liability.

  • Improved Credit Rating

    A commercial lease can improve a business's credit rating by demonstrating stability and the ability to meet financial obligations. It can help the business secure financing for future growth and expansion.

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When to Hire a Lawyer for Commercial Leases in America

A business owner should consider hiring a lawyer for commercial leases in America in the following situations:

  • Reviewing and Negotiating Lease Terms

    A lawyer can help a business owner understand the terms of a lease and negotiate favorable terms, such as rent and other expenses, on behalf of the business.

  • Reviewing Legal Compliance

    A lawyer can ensure that the lease complies with all relevant laws and regulations, such as zoning and environmental regulations.

  • Resolving Disputes

    If a dispute arises between the landlord and tenant, a lawyer can represent the business and negotiate a resolution.

  • Terminating or Renewing a Lease

    A lawyer can assist with the process of terminating or renewing a lease, including negotiating terms and ensuring compliance with applicable laws.

  • Protecting the Business's Interests

    A lawyer can advise on how to best protect the business's interests and negotiate favorable terms, such as options to renew or terminate the lease.

Key Terms Related to Commercial Leases

  • Lease Agreement: A legally binding contract between the tenant and the landlord specifying the terms and conditions of the rental.
  • Rent: The amount of money the tenant pays to the landlord in exchange for the use of the property.
  • Term: The length of time the lease agreement is in effect.
  • Renewal Options: The provisions in the lease agreement allow for an extension of the lease term.
  • Security Deposit: A sum of money the tenant provides to the landlord as a form of security to be held in case of default or damage to the property.
  • Common Area Maintenance (CAM) Fees: Fees charged to the tenant to cover the costs of maintaining common areas within a commercial property.
  • Assignment: The transfer of the tenant's rights and obligations under the lease agreement to another party.
  • Sublease: The agreement between the tenant and a third party for the subletting of the property.
  • Exclusive Use Clause: A provision in the lease agreement that restricts the tenant from using certain areas of the property for specific purposes.
  • Default: A failure by the tenant to fulfill their obligations under the lease agreement.


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