The Importance of Asking About the Contract: Our 29-Page Lease

In my work with clients, I often remind them how important it is to carefully review documents before signing them—especially as it relates to inserting yet more provisions.

For a while now, Causeit has been searching for a new office space. After a round or two of false starts, including one we were almost ready to sign on, we found the perfect spot. What has the new place work so well is that we carefully crafted a list of wants (negotiable) and needs (non-negotiable) before we ever saw an office. We even came up with a one-sheet of what it might look like and a list of our needs and wants:

Our mini-floorplan and wishlist Our mini-floorplan and wishlist
This meant that when we looked through the lease (a generic and exhaustive document covering almost every industry and largely, of course, favoring the landlord,) we were able to quickly identify potential sticking points. Some of the changes we made:

  • Negotiating a less-restrictive clause about bringing material in and out of the building (we have a lot of loading and unloading to do)

  • Clarifying use of the office to include our deskshare concept for business incubation and network-building, so that no confusion would happen in the future regarding whether or not deskshares qualified as sublets

  • Finding out exactly what we were permitted to do with the space regarding subletting and assignment (the process of handing off responsibility in the lease to another party) so that we know exactly what will happen when we go to expand
These are just little things, but, left unchecked, they can become a laundry list of little anxieties for the tenant as they attempt to conduct normal business without being in standing violation of their lease. As an added bonus, our new landlords were very impressed with our attention to detail in the lease, and knew that we were committed to open and honest communication—a bit of social capital (relationship) which could help, perhaps, in the selection process if we are in competition with more-established businesses when we next choose to expand to larger space in the building.