We're a group of lawyers who want to keep local businesses rooted in our community! We're tired of seeing our favorite businesses close due to being pushed out after their lease expires, or not knowing what they signed. So, we made this Legal Toolkit for Commercial Tenants to demystify commercial leases.
Below, you can find a template that you can use with your landlord when negotiating terms of your lease. We also have explainer videos that are shorter than two minutes, COVID-19 specific resources, and other resources.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: In addition to using this toolkit, we encourage commercial tenants to consult with an attorney to discuss how the law applies to a specific situation. Get legal advice here.
Commercial Lease Template
This California Fair and Just Commercial Lease Template is a template that landlords and tenants can use while negotiating their commercial lease. Filled with explanatory cartoons, tips, and guiding questions, this slide-show is meant to be copied, downloaded, and signed as a legally binding document.
This template was made by the Sustainable Economies Law Center in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Shout out to the folks who worked on this document: Tia Katrina Taruc-Myers (Sustainable Economies Law Center), Janelle Orsi (Sustainable Economies Law Center), Tobias Damm-Luhr (Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area), and Cunmei Zhang (Cooley)
These videos are all under two minutes and explain some of the most significant sections of a commercial lease. Jump to: Top three tips for a commercial tenant | How is rent defined? | Lease terms and options to extend | Subletting and assignments
Video #1: Top three tips for a commercial tenant
We made this video to illustrate our top three tips for commercial tenants to avoid sneaky landlords and bad deals.
Video #2: How is rent defined?
This video is about rent! Should you negotiate lower rent during the first few months? Will there be a "base rent?" And if so, what is calculated into an "additional percentage rent?" There are a bunch of other questions you should ask to figure out how much rent will actually cost... learn about them in this video.
Video #3: Lease terms and options to extend
What is a lease term? What are options to extend? Once you familiarize yourself with the meaning of these words, it'll be easier to understand what you're signing.
Video #4: Subletting and assignments
What if your business doesn't do well and you have to get our of the space? Is it OK to sublet your space to help you pay your rent? What are some "reasonable" reasons your landlord might have to reject a subtenant?
Protecting and empowering
commercial tenants in the age of Coronavirus
On April 3, 2020, we co-hosted a half-hour huddle with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and recruited some volunteers to research eviction moratoriums in California. Check out these slides to find legal advice clinics, talking points to negotiate with your landlord, policy recommendations, local ordinances, and more!
ICYMI, we recorded the half-hour huddle:
One of the take-aways from the half-hour huddle is this list of strategies for negotiating rent during the pandemic:
Strategies for Negotiating Rent:
- Postpone payment of rent due until a future, mutually agreed-upon date.
- Decrease rent due for one or more months by X%. Landlord agrees to absorb the difference between full rent and decreased rent.
- Offer to give landlord percentage of net revenue (after other expenses) instead of monthly rent due under lease.
- Agree on a payment plan for rent not paid immediately.
- Offer to help landlord advocate to politicians for a freeze on mortgage payments.
- Offer to extend lease term to make up for months with missed rent payments.
To illustrate how such a conversation might go, we made this silly cartoon video. Hopefully, it can help struggling business owners renegotiate their leases, assuming they have a friendly landlord.
Get Legal Advice!
We're stewarding this resource in an effort to be helpful, but please know that relying on the information above could end up being very unhelpful - or even harmful - to you because this material can become dated very quickly. Cities are adopting new rules and we don't yet know how those rules will be interpreted. Every place and situation needs to be handled differently, so please do your own research and get advice where you can! Here's a list of legal clinics that may help you.
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (Bay Area) - support for small businesses who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Volunteer attorney matching for 1-hour consultation and longer-term assistance. Apply here.
Resilient Communities Legal Cafe (Oakland | online) - donation-based legal advice for cooperatives and nonprofits
Public Counsel Community Development Project (Los Angeles) - free legal assistance to small businesses and nonprofits. Click here for Application for Legal Services; here for COVID Legal Resources; here for FAQs on Commercial Tenant Protections. Phone: 213-385-2977, x 200