When your landlord hands over the key, you'll doubtless be relieved to know that now, finally, the space is really yours. If you're handling the improvements, you can start work or, if the space is ready, you can move in and start operations. However, you'll continue to interact with the landlord, who may be a hands-on type whom you'll often see in the building, or one who stays totally in the background, relying on a manager to handle the daily details. Whatever the landlord's style, you'll need to know what to expect when it comes to the owner's need or wish to enter your rented space.
Unlike state laws limiting landlord entry to residential rentals, there are no similar laws restricting landlord's entry to commercial space. If you are concerned about overly-intrusive landlord visits to your business, you will want to negotiate some reasonable restrictions (ideally, as part of your lease).
Your landlord can always enter to respond to an emergency, such as a fire, gas leak, burglary, or other mishap.
But what about nonemergencies? Most landlords will want the right to enter the premises during your tenancy for the following reasons:
Some leases give the landlord the right to enter your premises at any time to make inspections or repairs. An entry right as broad as this is an unnecessary invasion of your privacy. Most landlords will settle for some guidelines like the ones listed above. When you negotiate with the landlord, try to reach an understanding on how much notice you'll receive of the landlord's entry and when the entry will take place. Then, put that understanding into a lease clause.
In most situations, landlords should be able to schedule nonemergency visits to your rented space in advance. How much in advance is the question. The amount of notice you'll bargain for will depend on the nature of your business and the reason for the landlord's visit.
For some tenants, an inspection by the landlord, the landlord's contractors, or prospective buyers won't be a big deal—for example, if you own a store with people in and out frequently. However, you may still want to a day or two advance notice in order to prepare—for example, by scheduling additional employees so that you can be available to accompany the visitors if you wish.
Other businesses will be significantly affected if the landlord or others appear on the scene. For example, professionals such as doctors, dentists, therapists, and lawyers, all of whom require uninterrupted, private time with their patients and clients, won't be able to work with strangers around. If you're a professional or have other privacy needs, you'll want to know about planned visits several days in advance, so you can reschedule your appointments if necessary.
The amount of lead time you'll want will also depend on what the landlord intends to do inside your rented space. If the purpose of the visit is a quick inspection of the heating vents, for example, you might be able to work around it while the landlord checks things out. But if the visit will be prolonged—-particularly if there's maintenance work or construction to be done—the impact on your business activities will be greater, and you'll want more notice.
The entry clause in your lease should address the days and times that the landlord may come to your commercial space. While, ideally, you'd like to restrict the landlord to nonbusiness hours and days, this is unrealistic—contractors, real estate brokers, and financial types all expect to work during normal business hours.
Depending on your bargaining power, you may, however, be able to press for some restrictions. If your business has a dependable slack period, ask the landlord to make an effort to schedule visits during that time. For example, if your restaurant serves dinner only, you'd ask that any visits be planned for the morning or early afternoon.
This article was excerpted from Negotiate the Best Lease for Your Business by Janet Portman.