It’s the first of the month: Talking to your landlord about rent and your lease
I don’t think there is a business owner out there right now that is not keenly aware of tomorrow’s date: April 1st.
With the first of the month comes the first due date for rent payments since this COVID-19 crisis began in earnest. Next to concerns for the well-being of their staff members, the topic of rent payments on retail leases has dominated most of our conversations with both small business owners and our landlord clients alike. It is top of mind, and we’ve been deep in these related discussions since the get-go of this crisis, as this post by Jesse details. So, when our friends at CommonWealth Kitchen asked if we’d participate in an informal Zoom webinar on March 19th to discuss “strategies for talking to your landlord about rent” we jumped at the opportunity.
We just learned that CWK recorded that Zoom session so we’re sharing it here so more people can benefit from the discussion ahead of April 1: CommonWealth Kitchen COVID-19 Webinar: Lease Negotiations For Retail Tenants (3/19/20)
GSP’s Dave Downing put together the framework of the slides that were shared based on his extensive experience in retail leasing, and the many tenant/landlord conversations he’s had over the past few weeks. Dave was tied up with childcare duties during this session so Jesse Baerkahn jumped in to lead GSP’s side of the discussion. Jesse has talked to more landlords in the past three weeks about their plans for working with retail tenants than you can imagine. He’s also a recovering attorney and he’s been putting his lawyer hat on a lot lately, which has been hugely helpful actually. Jesse was also joined in this webinar by Travis Lee, a co-owner of Dorchester Brewing Co. and also a local real estate developer and landlord in Dorchester. Travis had some really great insights to share as a landlord.
This is not a long video and is super casual, so it’s actually an easy thing to listen to. But the presentation is packed with really excellent advice for any retail business owner trying to figure out how to approach their landlord and let them know they’re struggling and need help on the rent. But it’s not only about rent. As Jesse points out, there are a host of other issues in a lease that business owners may be violating just by being closed, at no fault of their own, of course. What about minimum hours requirements or “go-dark” provisions… all things that need to be addressed with your landlord.
There is also great discussion about what may work and what may not work in seeking help from a landlord or relief from leases (spoiler: claiming “force majeure” is likely not going to work). The most important piece of advice that’s repeated over and over again by both Jesse and Travis is, if you haven’t called your landlord yet, don’t wait any longer! Travis expressed that we was surprised he hadn’t heard from more tenants sooner (this was from March 19), and Jesse shared that so many landlords we work with and have talked really do get what’s happening and are willing to work with tenants.
So, yes, tomorrow is April 1st and rent is due. If you’ve already connected with your landlord to discuss your lease and your rent, good work. But if you haven’t, watch this quick video and make the call. It’s not too late too late to have this conversation.
PS: Here are the slides we presented in this video: Talking To Your Landlord