Are you leasing a space for your new business location? You undoubtedly have many plans for how you will make it look and feel exactly how you want for your business, no matter whether it is an office or a diner.
But, before you start drawing up plans and signing your name on the dotted line, figure out these five practical issues first.
1. Lease Rules
Before signing any lease, you need to fully understand what you can and cannot do to the commercial space. Go over the remodeling restrictions in detail with the property owner.
What can you do without written permission? Painting? Internal partition walls? Flooring?
And what is the process for getting permission to make changes? Is your property part of an association that has their own rules you must follow?
Most leases include a certain amount of funds allowed for improvements and changes, usually referred to as Tenant Improvement Allowances (TIA). But make sure you know what you can use this money for. Also, know what you must remove or leave once you terminate the lease.
2. Structural Status
While you do not purchase the building itself, it needs to be in good enough shape to meet your needs. Have your own construction expert inspect the wiring, plumbing, HVAC system (including chillers and boilers), windows, and doors.
Remember that drafty windows, leaking roofs, or a pitted parking lot will reflect on your business and affect your customers. Inspect these items before signing a lease so that you have room to negotiate repairs, discounts, or other improvements.
3. Special Needs
What special requirements does your business have?
For instance, if your business relies heavily on electronic displays or computer servers, are the wiring, connections, and wireless up to the task? If moving in heavy equipment, the floors and foundation must be able to stand the weight. Do you need direct access to pedestrian traffic or the parking lot? If parking is at a premium, will you have designated spaces for your customers?
Brainstorm ways that your industry or business is different from others, particularly in the surrounding area. Talk about these differences with the landlord before signing.
4. Current Violations
Are the existing structures and uses within the local rules, or will you have to remove or deal with some things once you take occupancy? Were all additions — including outdoor structures — made with proper permits? Is any equipment you plan to keep — like a pizza oven, commercial refrigerator, or electrical panels — currently up to code itself?
Do not assume that just because a business of your type has been in operation that this means everything was done correctly. You may need to bring some items up to code yourself in order to protect your investment.
5. Code Requirements
Finally, check with the local city or county zoning board yourself to find out what you can and cannot put in or change. If you have a restaurant or brewpub, does your zoning include an outdoor eating or rooftop dining area? Has the property been approved for your type of business already, or do you need to pursue that yourself? What exactly is the process?
Remodeling your leased property is a big job. While this gives you the chance to control the layout and amenities in your own facility, this job requires more planning than other options. You can, though, meet these challenges and make a wonderful new business space.