What questions should I be asking when leasing office space? We are expanding our home based design firm, and plan to lease our first office space. I am located in a suburb of New York City.

You want to ask yourself a few questions.

How much space do you need? You should sit down and figure out exactly how much space your business will require. There is no scientific equation to determine the exact space you will need, but a general rule is 150 square feet for each employee.

Next, figure out the best location for your business. Since you’re expanding it would probably be best to stay in the vicinity of your existing location so that you do not inconvenience clients who are already accustomed to your location. You also want a location that allows people to reach you as easy as possible such as choosing a location that is on the subway/bus line.

Finally, keep in mind that the way your office is set up may have an impact on your customers and how efficiently your business operates. The layout and décor sets the culture for your company so you want to keep that in mind when moving forward with your plans.

Once you have narrowed down a few potential locations, there are several topics you will want to discuss with the broker and and your lawyer:

FYI, we know how hard it can be to find the right lawyer, let alone someone who is available and within your budget. So instead of wasting time searching, feel free to head over to LawTrades and connect with one for free.

  1. Make sure that the lease clearly defines the space that is being leased and what you are permitted to do. This should include the street address, a small description of the space, if you can paint the walls, etc.
  2. Find out what is included with your monthly rent. What utilities are included? I would expect at least trash removal to be included at the most basic level. What about Property taxes? You want to be crystal clear on what your rent is and what exactly it is paying for.
  3. It is also important to determine who is responsible for property upkeep, maintenance, and repairs. If the furnace breaks, who repairs it? Who mows the grass? If they will pay for the repairs, what is the proper protocol for reporting a maintenance issue? Do you report it and have it fixed and are then reimbursed, or do they hire the contractor?
  4. Is it also rather common for some businesses to sublet certain areas of their defined space to other businesses. This reduces some of the fixed and overhead expenses, so check and see if this is permitted. In my experience, there isn’t really a common answer and I would say approximately half of landlords permit it, the other half do not.

Make sure that you get everything in writing and included in the lease. During the discussion, it is easy for the building owner to simply say X, Y, Z, or to offer you special incentives. However, you need to legally hold the property owner or broker to those obligations and ensure that part of the agreement is in writing and has been signed by both parties.

For additional information, eHow has a great article on commercial leases – http://www.ehow.com/list_6692521…

Hope this helps guide you in the right direction. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help in any way or simply head over to LawTrades to get your lease agreement reviewed for a low rate.

Best of luck with the new space!