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5 Things Small Business Owners Should Know Before Entering into a Commercial Lease

A woman standing at a bakery counter looking at an ipad

1. Do your research. 

Find out about the tools and support services available from government agencies. They are among the biggest distributors of grants and loans, supporting a range of businesses from environmental conservation to child care services. Check to see if your type of business qualifies for any government grants, loans or tax incentives.

2. Do I want to do it alone? 

Search and create your A-Team in advance. Don’t put off searching for your attorney until the last minute! In addition, you may want to work with a broker/real estate expert, architect, engineer, signage designer, and contractor. Knowing your lending ability is vital so start building a relationship with your banks and know your borrowing units.

3. Who does that equipment belong to?  

All too often there is not a clear understanding of who owns what equipment in the space. Find out if the equipment belongs to the Landlord ahead of time. If the Landlord in fact owns the equipment, try to negotiate the purchase before signing a lease. That way it can be incorporated in the lease document.

4. Get political!

One of the common mistakes a new business owner makes is overlooking the need for licenses and permits. Failing to do so can lead to costly penalties and even the closure of your business. Get a thorough understanding of the local government’s landscape. Make sure you obtain government permits, sign variances, building permits and other types of approvals before signing the lease. To help business owners navigate the process, SBA.gov offers links to state-specific license and permit information.  Also, joining a Chambers of Commerce can be invaluable as you can network with vendors and peers and advocate for industry-wide issues as one voice.

5. Know your dates!

Almost all tenants know when the lease begins and when the rent is due.  However, there are many more date requirements in the lease. For example, you need to know when to file for permits and when the lease requires plans to be drawn. Knowing the construction timeline will help you order equipment and supplies in advance and preplan staffing. You don’t want to be in default before you even open.  Worse yet, paying rent before you are open!

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