Taking on a commercial lease? Ten things to know before signing on the dotted line

Top ten tips on taking a commercial lease for tenantsEngaging in the acquisition of a commercial lease necessitates a meticulous and strategic approach.

A commercial lease serves as the foundation upon which a business’s operational landscape is built, encompassing essential terms and conditions that delineate the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and the landlord.

The process involves a comprehensive evaluation of the property’s location, size, suitability, and alignment with the business’s objectives.

Negotiations pertaining to lease duration, rent structure, maintenance obligations, and potential escalations demand a thorough comprehension of the legal and financial implications.

As such, prudence dictates engaging legal counsel and real estate experts to navigate the intricate terrain of commercial leasing. By doing so, a business can secure a lease agreement that harmonizes with its aspirations while fostering a stable and mutually beneficial landlord-tenant relationship

10 Top ten tips on taking a commercial lease for tenants

Contemplating the role of a commercial property tenant necessitates a comprehensive grasp of the commitments involved. Embarking on a commercial lease journey diverges significantly from residential rentals, encompassing an array of obligations that can prove startling if not anticipated.

In light of this, it is imperative to pose ten pivotal inquiries as a prospective commercial tenant before affixing one’s signature to any tenancy arrangement:

  1. What am I actually leasing? Understanding the precise scope of the leased area is crucial, as it defines both your usable business space and potential repair responsibilities. It’s important to know whether you’re leasing the entire property, including the roof and surrounding land, or a specific portion.
  2. Have I been given an incentive to lease the property? Incentives like rent-free periods can be part of the deal. Ensure that any agreed incentives are documented in the formal lease agreement with guidance from your legal advisor to safeguard your interests.
  3. What have I agreed to ‘keep in repair’? Clarify your repair responsibilities. If you’re obligated to “keep the property in repair,” this means addressing pre-existing issues. A more demanding requirement like “good repair and condition” might entail improvements even in the absence of disrepair. Negotiating these terms and their limitations is possible during lease discussions.
  4. How long will I be tied into the lease for? While business prospects may be promising, remember that lease terms endure even during challenging times. Being mindful of potential changes and their financial implications is essential to prevent possible insolvency.
  5. Can I terminate the lease early? Break clauses offer flexibility, but understand any conditions attached. For instance, being up-to-date with rent payments might be a prerequisite. Early termination isn’t always a solution during financial hardships.
  6. Do I have security of tenure? Determine if lease renewal or ongoing occupancy is possible beyond the fixed term. Seek legal advice to understand your specific situation and rights.
  7. Can I transfer the lease or sublet? Transferring or subletting often requires landlord consent and adhering to conditions. The possibility of being a guarantor for the new tenant and associated charges should be considered.
  8. Am I allowed to alter any part of the property I am leasing? Alteration permissions are typically detailed in leases. Exterior and structural alterations might be prohibited, while interior non-structural changes could require prior landlord approval. The process, conditions, and potential removal costs should be understood.
  9. What other payments must I make? Insurance, service charge, VAT? Determine if you’re responsible for property insurance or reimbursing the landlord. Understand any service charge provisions, how costs are calculated, and whether the landlord’s expenses are regulated.
  10. Is the rent fixed for the whole of the term? Review rent terms, including potential reviews during the lease. Understanding the mechanism, basis, and dispute resolution processes for rent adjustments is crucial for financial planning.

Thoroughly addressing these questions with the guidance of legal and real estate professionals can empower you to make informed decisions as you step into a commercial lease arrangement.

Should I put my business property lease in personal or company name?

The decision of whether to place your business property lease under your personal name or your company’s name is a pivotal one, influenced by various factors.

Commercial property leases frequently extend beyond a decade, constituting a substantial financial undertaking. While the lease signing typically reflects your business’s positive outlook, unforeseen circumstances could potentially lead to challenges down the line.

When contemplating this choice, it’s vital to consider the following aspects:

Personal Name:

  1. Direct Liability: Placing the lease under your personal name might imply a direct personal liability. In case of business difficulties, this could potentially impact your personal assets.
  2. Flexibility: Personal leases may offer more flexibility in terms of potential early termination or changes in use.
  3. Creditworthiness: Your personal creditworthiness and history may be more influential in negotiations and securing the lease.

Company Name:

  1. Limited Liability: Opting for the company’s name limits personal liability, as the lease obligations are tied to the company rather than yourself.
  2. Separation of Assets: The separation of personal and business assets is maintained, protecting your personal finances from the potential ramifications of business challenges.
  3. Business Continuity: A lease under the company name may provide a more stable foundation for the business in the event of unforeseen difficulties.

Ultimately, the decision hinges on your risk tolerance, business structure, financial situation, and long-term goals. Consulting with legal and financial professionals is strongly advised before making this choice, as they can provide tailored insights that align with your unique circumstances.

Careful consideration now can help safeguard your interests in the face of potential challenges down the road.


In the context of embarking upon a commercial lease, the imperative for thoughtful deliberation remains paramount. Deciding between placing the lease under a personal or company name, alongside the incorporation of protective clauses to address potential business fluctuations, holds profound significance.

Equally critical is the engagement of legal representation throughout the process. Their expertise serves to illuminate intricate terms, elucidate potential risks, and ensure that your interests remain rigorously safeguarded. Moreover, when contemplating personal guarantees, it becomes essential to grasp that such commitments can extend personal liability.

Hence, the pursuit of legal guidance becomes an indispensable measure, as comprehending the ramifications of offering a personal guarantee plays a pivotal role in making a well-informed choice.

As you embark on the journey of commercial leases, the wisdom of involving professionals cannot be overstated; it stands as a cornerstone to securing a tenure marked by informed decisions and mitigated vulnerabilities.

Julie Hunter Commercial Solicitor

Julie qualified as a solicitor in 2001 and joined Stephensons a commercial law firm in 2017 within their commercial litigation department, she became a Partner in 2022.

She is highly experienced in litigation and dispute resolution matters covering all aspects of commercial litigation, specialising in company, commercial and finance disputes and insolvency claims