Limiting the Hidden Costs of Office Rent: Operating Expenses & Taxes

A major component (30% or more) of an office tenant’s rent bill is property taxes & operating expenses (“T&O”) which today is on the rise and where tenants have limited control under landlord-favorable leases.  In Chicago, T&O is rising significantly and where most buildings quote rents on a “net” basis (which may be comparable), the amount of T&O can vary significantly among buildings.  While tenants and their advisors will fight hard on the rent and other deal terms, if T&O is not properly vetted and negotiated, those deal terms will be far outweighed by surprisingly large T&O costs. In this post, I discuss the two common rent structures and offer strategies on limiting increases in T&O to provide tenants with cost certainty. 

Tenant’s Lease Renewal Strategies

Lease renewals are one of the most profitable leasing transactions for landlords.   As most tenants look to renew their lease to avoid the disruption associated with a relocation and as landlords perceive existing tenants as a “captive audience”, I’ve outlined below 10 steps for tenants to employ so as not to leave money on the table based upon my 20+ years representing office tenants in Chicago and throughout the country. 

Operating Expense & Tax Reconciliation Season: Don’t leave Money on the Table

Now that the holiday season is over, ‘tis the season for Operating Expenses and Tax reconciliation for office tenants.  As most office leases allow the landlord to recapture increases in Operating Expenses and Taxes (which tenants commonly pay on an estimated basis over a calendar year), landlords are required to reconcile the year’s actual expenses and taxes to the tenant’s estimated payments.  That reconciliation statement is typically issued in first quarter.  If not carefully reviewed by a tenant, in all likelihood money is being left on the table as 90% of these statements have some errors.  This is particularly important in cities like Chicago where tenants are seeing major increases in property taxes.  While there’s not much a tenant can do with rising property taxes, they can lessen that blow by closely scrutinizing the operating expenses. Now, more than ever and in light of the new accounting standards, tenants must be aware of their occupancy costs and diligently pursue their audit rights. Outlined below are strategies tenants should employ in reviewing these statements as well as some ideas on how to craft these provisions in future leases.  I am joined on this post with Mirela Gabrovska of MBG Consulting, a national expert in lease administration and auditing.

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