Potential Fix For Medical Space Shortage & Retail Vacancies in Southern California

There is a shortage of medical space and an increase in retail vacancies in southern California right now.  So, why don’t medical tenants lease space in retail centers as compared to an office or medical building that they traditionally lease space in?  Doesn’t this solve some of the problems for both types of spaces?

Some medical tenants such as optometrists, dentists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and a handful of others do lease space in retail centers.  Why do they lease space in a retail center?  Because they probably make more money when their businesses are in a quality retail center with good parking, signage, and retail visibility from shoppers at the retail center.  The main criteria for any business is usually the bottom line so, if being in a retail center increases your net income, wouldn’t you want to be there?  This is rule #1.

Sometimes the rent, improvements and other costs can be higher in a retail center, but not always. If you make enough additional income leasing at a retail center to offset this cost, then this objection isn’t a good one.  Another objection might be that medical providers get more referrals from other medical providers that lease in the same medical building.  This can also happen in a retail center if there are other medical providers there. They can still get referrals from outside the retail center from these medical providers that lease in the medical office buildings if they develop a relationship with them. It might not be the same, or potentially as many, referrals as the medical building scenario, but again, see rule #1 above. At which location are you making more net income?  The referrals might not be the same as in the medical building scenario, but there might actually be more referrals in a retail setting because of the other retail tenants now referring you and the amount of potential customers a retail center has. This is especially true in comparison to a traditional medical building scenario which is much more limited in potential new customers finding you.  Finally, it’s possible that some medical providers simply think their status will be somehow lowered by leasing space in a retail center and that a nice medical building is preferred by their patients.  This might be true for some patients, but I would doubt most of them would care. If they are like me, they want their trip to the doctor to be the least painful as possible. Not to mention that a good retail center is much more fun than a boring medical building any day.  I can see some types of medical users and their patients wanting it to be quieter than a retail setting, but again -doesn’t rule #1 above trump even that for most medical tenants?

Retail space in southern California is undergoing a change.  The smaller to medium sized retail centers in particular are starting to become more restaurant/food and service focused as opposed to other types of retail uses.  Customers at retail centers want to enjoy their experience and be able to do as much as they can at one location.  So, with the foregoing in mind, wouldn’t many medical tenants fit in with this new retail trend of a retail landlord leasing to service providers like doctors and providing a better experience for the retail customer?  I think so.

If you want to learn more about leasing, buying and/or selling any and all types of commercial spaces or if you have questions about any subject related to commercial real estate, please contact me at david@djmcre.com or 805-217-0791.

Options to Renew Your Lease: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

You are a tenant leasing some kind of commercial space like retail, office, industrial or otherwise.  You were smart and negotiated at least one option to renew your lease.  But, should you exercise that option to renew?  Do you really understand what conditions in which it would be favorable or not to exercise this option?

In my market in Southern California, most landlords will grant a tenant who is leasing commercial space an option to renew their lease for one additional lease term that is less or equal to their original term.  For example, if you leased for a 5 year term then you could usually negotiate a 5 year or less option to renew.  If you leased for 10 years, you might get one 10 year option to renew or perhaps two 5 year options to renew.

But here is where it gets tricky.  It’s generally not in your best interest to exercise your option to renew. Instead, you should think of it as a last resort.  Option to renew language usually contains a certain minimum rent to the landlord. For instance, it may be no less than what you were paying at the end of you current term or maybe it has a 3% bump above what you are paying at that time.  I have found that market rents are usually lower than what your option to renew requires you to pay.  And what about current market tenant concessions like free rent, improvements, etc.?  You will most likely miss out on these.

Another provision that option to renew language usually contains is that the lease (except for the rent) will be on the same terms and conditions.  So, if there is a clause in your lease that needs to be negotiated you may want to reconsider the option to renew.  These clauses could include receiving a new base year for operating expense increases for an office tenant or excluding unreasonable lease clauses from applying. For instance, certain Triple Net clauses could be excluded for a retail tenant if you negotiated your renewal instead, but these exclusions won’t apply if you simply exercise your option to renew.

What is a tenant to do?  Hire a good commercial broker to help.  This broker will know the current market rents and be able to review the lease with you and recommend all necessary changes.  If the broker is active in your area, then the landlord will be concerned that this broker might relocate you to another building if the landlord isn’t fair.  You simply don’t have the same clout without a good broker and you won’t get as good of a deal.  But do it at least 6-12 months in advance of when your current lease terminates or at least 3 months before you have to exercise your option to renew so your broker and you have time to review your needs and options. One other really good thing that happens when you don’t exercise your option to renew, but rather negotiate your renewal, is that your option to renew many times gets left in place and is still valid the next time your lease terminates.

I have successfully represented many commercials tenants for renewals for their leases and not just new leases.  I can’t remember the last time I didn’t do much better than the tenant could do on their own.  Many times the landlords end up paying my fee for the tenant’s renewal just like they always do when I represent a tenant for a new lease.

For more information about commercial leasing, buying, and selling please contact David Massie at DJM Commercial Real Estate at 505-217-0791 or david@djmcre.com.

Commercial Real Estate Dual Representation: Possibly Illegal Soon?

Assembly Bill 1059 has been introduced to the California Legislature to ban commercial real estate dual agency relationships. Specifically, the bill “would prohibit an agent from acting as a dual agent in a commercial real estate transaction,” and also prevent different individuals in the same firm from “acting as an agent for both a seller and buyer in the same commercial real estate transaction.”

There are many pro landlord groups opposing this bill like AIR CRE.  Why?  In my opinion, it’s because it will help the tenant and buyer and reduce the profit of the landlord and seller.  Just read some of the weak arguments made by AIR CRE here.  All of them primarily have to do with a landlord or seller making less money or not doing as well somehow.  Don’t you feel sorry for them?

Dual Representation is not legally allowed in many states.  Why?  Because it can’t be done without violating ethical issues as there are simply too many conflicts of interest.  The tenant/buyer loses big time and the owners and their brokers gain big time. This is why so many brokers and owners are in favor of it.

For 25 years I worked as a landlord and seller and directed some very large real estate companies that owned millions of square feet of commercial property across the US and even internationally.  Many brokers wanted my business because I could give them 5 or 6 figure salaries off some of my properties in any one region that I controlled.  As a landlord, I loved it when my brokers were able to do dual representations because I had a great amount of leverage over the brokers who worked for me.  If they, or anyone in their firm representing a tenant/buyer, pushed too hard for a tenant/buyer at one of my properties –all I had to do was hint that they might not be able to keep my listings.  Would a broker risk losing a 5 or 6 figure salary working for me over one deal where they also represented the tenant/buyer?  Not likely.  That is all it took for the tenant/buyer to not get as good of a deal as they could have received had they used another broker from another firm; a firm that was not affiliated with a listing broker who worked for me or that wasn’t trying to get listings from me.  This is why dual representations shouldn’t be done.

Even though dual representations are legal in California, I won’t do them.  They should be outlawed.  Ask any good real estate attorney how it goes in court when they have to defend a broker for a dual representation. Attorneys that I have spoken with that have experience in this matter have said “it’s not a matter of whether they can win the case but rather of how much they can settle for”.  This is because these attorneys know that it is impossible for a broker to represent both parties correctly without fault.

Can you imagine an attorney who has represented a large property owner for decades attempting to also represent a tenant in a dispute in court?  It wouldn’t be possible to represent both parties fairly.  It doesn’t happen. This is the same reason why dual broker representation should not happen.

Every tenant/buyer should hire a broker that doesn’t have any conflict of interest with a landlord/seller or their broker.  The landlord/seller pays the tenant/buyer’s broker’s commission so it costs the tenant nothing.

Brokerage firms that specialize primarily in representing tenants/buyers are a very good choice because they don’t have the conflicts mentioned above.  If a tenant/buyer is thinking of representing themselves –that can potentially be even worse.  Hire an experienced broker who only has your interests in mind instead.  You will save a lot of time, money and headaches if you use the right broker.

How to Terminate a Commercial Lease Early

Many of my clients have stated, “I don’t want to sign a long term lease like 5 years or more because I’m not sure I will be in business that long or might need more or less space.”   My answer to them?  It’s usually in their best interest to sign a long term lease and there are ways to terminate a lease early.

Signing a longer term lease between 5-10 years makes good sense for many reasons.  You normally get the best economic deal that way with lower rent, more free rent and more tenant improvements paid by the landlord.  You normally get more options like renewal options with more time.   You don’t have to worry about moving sooner either or having to pay a much higher rent in 1-3 years if the market rates increase.  Keep in mind that many landlords won’t agree to less than a 5 year term, especially for space in demand where another party will lease it for 5-10 years, so it will really limit your options for properties if you want to do less than a 5 year term.

If you need to terminate a lease early, you have many options available to you.  You can request an early termination option of the landlord in your lease, but most landlords don’t like to grant them.   If they do, they want enough time to release your space so a 6-12 month notice from you might be required.  You might then have to pay back unamortized tenant concessions like free rent and tenant improvements.  But this is still a good option to have if you can get it.

What if you can’t get the landlord to agree to an early termination option?  There are still other good options like having the right to relocate in the project to a larger or smaller location.  You also generally have rights to sublease or assign your lease to another qualified tenant.

If none of the above options work out, then you can still legally terminate a lease in most states like California.  Courts usually require a landlord to mitigate a tenant’s damages.  This usually means the landlord has to take reasonable steps to re-lease the space, but this mitigation usually only starts after you vacate the space –not while you are in it.  However, I have seen most legal awards and arbitrations settle between 6-12 months of rent.  This is generally the most a landlord can squeeze out of a tenant in Southern California.  This can be a tricky matter, so you have to make sure you do it right and use someone familiar with the process like me or a good real estate attorney. You might need both.  But I have been very successful negotiating an early lease termination for my clients.

Contact David Massie for more help:   805-217-0791 or david@djmcre.com

Commercial Landlords and How Their Reputations Affect Leasing

Most commercial landlords that I deal with don’t seem to understand the relationship between leasing their office, retail or industrial buildings, and their reputation in the community.  It’s pretty simple really.  If a landlord has a poor reputation, it will make it harder for them to lease their building spaces.

Here is a prime example.  Before I was a full time commercial real estate broker, I worked directly as the Director of Leasing and Property Management for a large landlord who owned more than 50 commercial buildings. There were many different types of commercial buildings -usually office, retail or industrial spaces.  Before I accepted this job position, I found out that the local brokers whom I knew well and worked with closely did not like working with this landlord -my new employer.  So, I convinced the landlord to let me leverage my relationships with the brokerage community for 6 months to see if it made a difference in our leasing.  Guess what?  In my first year, I negotiated and completed over 125 commercial leases!  This was more than double the number of commercial leases than anyone else that had the job before me.

Another example is when I had just finished acting as an expert witness where I had to go into court and testify that the landlord had ripped off a tenant for over 15 years.  This included millions of dollars related to the tenant’s share of NNN/operating expenses.  Our side won the case.  But the landlord didn’t just lose this case and have to pay my client back for millions of dollars, he also lost the trust of my client going forward and the trust of the other tenants, brokers, attorneys, other people in the community, and so many more.

Think about it Mr. Landlord.  If you treat your tenants poorly, and try to cheat them on their share of their operating expenses or add expenses that aren’t reasonable (even though maybe legally allowed), you are going to have poor relationships moving forward. If you don’t care about their business and working with them in ways to help them do better, have an unfair lease, or don’t check in with them regularly on how they like being a tenant and how they are doing, etc. -then your landlord reputation will hurt your leasing.  People talk.  And they will talk about you not being a good landlord.

My clients ask me all of the time for intelligence on a landlord.  I tell them what I know and when I tell them that a particular landlord is difficult to deal with, doesn’t have a good reputation or has a lease form that is unfair, etc. then many times this client will simply opt to not even consider the property owned by the landlord with a poor reputation.

My advice to landlords:  Treat your tenants like clients and not tenants.  Treat them like you would like to be treated.  You as the landlord many times have the upper hand in so many ways and if you use this leverage incorrectly you are making a mistake.  Tenants are your life blood and you need them as clients not just tenants.

If you are a landlord and want more information on how you can change your reputation, please contact me as I have many ideas on how to do this.  Some of these include calculating NNN and operating expense increases correctly and fairly, fair lease documents, correct property maintenance, and general things that will make your clients (tenants) want to stay in your building and new ones want to lease there.

Contact David Massie for more help: 805-217-0791 or david@djmcre.com

DJMCRE Recent Commercial Real Estate Transactions Update

David Massie of DJM Commercial has been busy lately successfully negotiating commercial real estate deals on behalf of his clients.  Here is a list of just some of the recent commercial real estate transactions completed by David:

Sales:

  • Sale of a 26,000 sf industrial building in Oxnard, CA.

Office/Medical Leases:

  • 11,700 sf medical lease for National Research Institute in an office/medical building in Los Angeles.
  • 5,900 sf office lease for Liden, Nestle and Soden in an office building in Westlake Village, CA.
  • 3,254 sf office for Bill Barry/Mike Anton of Ameriprise Financial in an office building in Woodland Hills, CA.
  • 2,455 sf office lease for the Bensamochan Law Firm, Inc. in an office building in Agoura Hills, CA.
  • 1,200 sf office lease for Griff entertainment in an office building in Encino, CA.
  • 988 sf office lease for Westlake Investment Advisors in an office building in Westlake Village, CA.

Retail Leases:

  • 6,000 sf retail lease for The Open Book in a retail shopping center in Santa Clarita, CA and 5,000 sf lease renewal at The Oaks Mall in Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • 4,775 sf restaurant lease for Amri Cafe in a retail shopping center in Oxnard, CA.
  • 2,940 sf retail lease for Express Employment Professionals in a retail shopping center in Oxnard, CA.
  • 1,600 sf retail lease for a second location for PrideStaff in a retail shopping center in Oxnard, CA.
  • 1,200 sf retail lease for Overall Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & fitness Academy in a retail shopping center in Agoura Hills, CA.
  • 900 sf restaurant purchase and lease for Origin Cafe in a retail space in Los Angeles.

Legal Expert Witness:

  • Acted as an expert witness appearing in court on behalf of a retail tenant regarding a landlord/tenant legal dispute regarding a landlord overbilling the tenant for about $1.5 million dollars where my client prevailed primarily due to my testimony.
  • Acted as an expert witness to successfully settle a landlord/tenant dispute regarding percentage rent for a retail tenant where the landlord was trying to charge the tenant too much.

I want to thank all of my clients for putting their trust in me to represent them.

Remember, because of my past experience directing some of the largest real estate companies in the US, I can really help both tenants and landlords with any of their commercial real estate needs for any type of commercial real estate including office, retail, restaurants, gyms and industrial especially in the area of leasing, buying, selling and acting as a legal expert witness.

Please contact me if you have any type of commercial real estate needs.

Tenants Need to Hire a Specialist to Audit Their Lease / Operating Expenses

You are a busy tenant running your business.  You receive your annual reconciliation of your share of expenses from your landlord about April each year.  These expenses go by different names, but are usually called NNN in retail and larger industrial spaces and operating expense increases for office and smaller industrial spaces.

The landlord reconciliation usually just shows the breakdown of each expense category, what your percentage share is, and how much you owed for the year.  You usually have been paying estimates all year so you might owe some or actually might receive a credit if you have overpaid.

Can you tell if this reconciliation is correct on your own?  I doubt it.  Most tenants that even think they can really can’t and don’t know what they are missing.  Landlords usually don’t send you enough information on the reconciliation to tell if it’s correct.  You need someone that specializes in understanding your lease and also that knows how to properly audit this reconciliation.  It’s kind of a combination between a real estate attorney and a CPA, but even having both of these on your side will probably not cover all of your bases in this area and it would be costly to use both.  There is a better way to do, it in my opinion.

I just finished acting as an expert witness in a legal matter related to a tenant vs. a landlord where the landlord overbilled the tenant for over a million dollars for their share of NNN expenses.  The tenant who I represented won the case and this has happened many times where I have been involved as an expert witness.  In my experience, I have found that landlords commonly overbill tenants and have many profit centers in their expenses that should not be there.  There are also other things in a lease beyond these types of expenses that give you financial exposure that you probably don’t even know are there.  These need to be understood and you need to be ready for them if and when they happen.

My background preparing these types of reconciliations for landlords spans over 25 years, thousands of tenant reconciliations, and hundreds of negotiations and lease audits for this type of expense reconciliation.  I also was in a position for the last 6 years of my landlord side career to negotiate over 100 leases per year. I am considered by many real estate attorneys to be an expert with a lease form whether retail, office or industrial.  Put the two types of aforementioned experiences together and you have a specialist in this expense share area like me that can really help a tenant like you.

You can hire me on a contingency or hourly basis, but it depends on your situation as to which is best.  I will be able to advise you on this in less than an hour usually and can usually tell if there is problem with your reconciliation.  Not getting it checked every year is a costly mistake.  So, if you want my help to make sure your share has been calculated correctly or you need an expert witness in this area for a legal matter or a full lease audit, please call me.

805-217-0791

david@djmcre.com

Auditing a Landlord’s Operating Expense/NNN

In my last three articles on operating expense and NNN pass throughs in a lease, we looked at how expensive it can be for a tenant to pay its share of unreasonable insurance deductibles, property management fees, and landlord employee salaries.  This month we dive into how to do a landlord audit of these types of expenses.

First of all, a landlord should be sending you an annual operating expense or NNN reconciliation each year that compares the actual expenses incurred versus the estimated ones that they budgeted and based your estimated payment on.

Second, you should always make the landlord provide reasonable records for each of the expense categories on this reconciliation as I have found that landlords typically don’t give a tenant enough information to determine if the numbers are correct or not.  These back up records usually require the landlord to, at a minimum, send you a general ledger showing the payments for each of the expense accounts that make up the total expenses.  Many times landlords will also send you supplemental spreadsheets that give more information about how and why they billed the expenses in a certain manner so you understand it better and can make sure that it matches what the landlord is allowed to bill you for in the lease or even to just make sure the expense is reasonable.

I have successfully negotiated many landlord expense audits where, in almost all cases, my client receives a refund and sometimes for many years in the past so the refund can be quite sizable.  The ones that go the best for my clients are the ones that have someone like me that understands this area to negotiate their lease before they sign.  Having a fair lease, especially in this area of a tenant’s share of expenses, is critical.  Deleting unfair expenses, capping other expenses, and much more are necessary to make the lease fair for a tenant.

Again, every tenant and landlord should have their operating expenses audited annually by someone that understands them fully to make sure they are correct.  If you don’t, it will cost you much more than hiring someone like me to make sure it’s done correctly.  And doing it before you sign the lease is much better than thereafter but it still makes sense to do annually.  Landlords simply have too many unreasonable profit centers in their operating expenses/NNN such as management fees, salaries, property tax increases from a sale, high insurance deductibles, and so much more that can really cripple a tenant in an unfair manner.

If you are a tenant or landlord and want to find out how to avoid pitfalls related to leasing, buying, or selling commercial real estate of any kind (retail, office, industrial, etc.), please contact me as I have in depth experience and knowledge in these areas including operating expense/NNN.

Conejo Valley Retail Real Estate Updates

Agoura Hills: Valley Bakery at 5879 Kanan (in the retail center called Agoura Hills City Mall where Agoura’s Famous Deli is also located) is set to open very soon sometime in September, 2016. It is a bakery/dessert/coffee and tea type of cafe. Café Bizou opened up another location at 30315 Canwood St., #14, by replacing the previously existing Café 14 in the Reyes Adobe Center. Café Bizou has two other locations in Sherman Oaks and Pasadena and their website is http://www.cafebizou.com/. David Massie of DJM Commercial Real Estate represented Café Bizou in both the purchase of Café 14 and the lease for this new location.

Westlake Village: Cici’s Café, a family-friendly breakfast and lunch café known for its massive breakfast selection, including decadent pancakes, should be opening its doors in late 2016 at 30990 Russell Ranch Road near Lure in between Barone’s Pizza and Aroha New Zealand Restaurants. Cici’s has another location in Tarzana and a large following.

Oxnard: Bottle & Pint, currently located in Newbury Park, is opening up their second location at The Collection where Whole Foods and many other retailers are located in the Riverpark area. David Massie represented Bottle & Pint this lease transaction.

Round 3: What Tenants & Landlords Should Know About Operating Expense/NNN

In my last article on operating expense and NNN pass throughs in a lease, we looked at how expensive it can be for a tenant to pay their share of unreasonable property management fees.

This month, we look at another expense passed through to tenants where landlords commonly pad the number in their favor: Salaries.

You are probably already paying your share of property management fees.  Now, in addition, you have to pay for salaries for everyone that works at the property from janitorial to maintenance to property managers and maybe even more.

I am currently involved in an operating expense audit where the landlord has decided that from one year to the next it is reasonable to increase these salaries by more than 50%.  In addition, the actual hours worked at the property didn’t substantially increase.  How is this possible?  Because the landlord sold off some his properties and he allocated his employees’ salaries over the properties he owns.  So, the less property the landlord owns the more you as a tenant pay for your share of this category.  Needless to say, I think my client is going to prevail in the matter –especially since I negotiated the lease before it was signed so that this kind of thing won’t happen.

What is a tenant to do?  How can a tenant get the landlord to be reasonable here?  That’s where I come in.  Having directed some very large landlord companies for over 25 years has given me great insight into how to help a tenant in this area.  But you have to have a broker and/or real estate attorney savvy in this area who can set the lease up correctly or you might be stuck paying these kinds of unreasonable expenses.

This is just one of many examples of operating expenses/NNN a tenant is exposed to in most leases.  Most tenants and even landlords don’t really understand this particular issue until it happens and it’s too late.  Stay tuned for my next blog with more examples and even some savvy advice for landlords on my recommendation for how to negotiate the lease in this area and calculate these expenses correctly so you don’t end up losing the tenant at renewal time and/or get into expensive litigation over this matter.

If you are a tenant or landlord and want to find out how to avoid pitfalls related to leasing, buying, or selling, please contact me as I have in depth experience and knowledge in these areas including operating expense/NNN audits related to commercial properties.

Every tenant and landlord should have their operating expenses audited by someone that understands them fully to make sure they are correct.  If you don’t, it will cost you.