When is a Foot not a Foot?

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Rentable Square FeetWhen you are looking for office space, the leasing agent (and I) always talk about rentable square feet.  It’s important to understand when a foot is not a foot because square footages equal rent dollars.  What other square footage is there?  There is usable, there is a specifc measurement for office condos that defies my logic, there is rentable for multi-tenant  floors and buildings versus rentable for single-tenant floors and buildings.

The industry standard for measuring office space is BOMA – Building Owners & Managers Association.  In simple terms, usable square footage is what you use or physically occupy.  Rentable square footage is what the building is renting to you and it includes a factor for common areas like bathrooms, hallways and lobbies.  When you are looking at a variety of buildings, the common area factor can range from around 14% to as high as 20%.  It’s not something that most leasing agents will eagerly share with you, but it’s a question that should be asked because when you are comparing two buildings, it’s important to compare them based on the usable square footage rather than the rentable.

One of my favorite clients was renewing their lease after a new owner came into the picture.  The new owner had re-measured the building and determined that the client’s space was about 6% larger and increased the square footage in the renewal proposal.  That is a really tough sell – how in the world did the building grow?  We were able to negotiate a lower annual rent and just decided to forget about the square feet in the lease amendment because at the end of the day, it’s all about the money.

Sometimes it’s the obscure parts of a lease negotiation such as how the building is measured that can afford cost-savings to a tenant.  I know when a foot is not a foot and that’s one of the things I watch out for when negotiating leases for my clients.  Call me if you want to discuss your own unique situation.

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  1. What if the shoe is on the other foot? What if you measure your space and it is smaller than stated or the CAF is incorrect; can you go in mid-term and renegotiate a tenant’s lease?

    • Usually you can’t correct this in the middle of the lease. You signed a document agreeing to the approximate square footage and the landlord writes the lease so that rent is not absolutely tied to square footage. If there is a gross variance (20% or more), then it is worth fighting about. If tenants want to measure their space, they will need the assistance of an architect or interior designer who is well-versed on the BOMA measurement standards. One thing tenants can do is ask for the architect verify the space measurement and to show a floorplan outlining the area that was measured. This is particularly helpful on odd-shaped spaces.

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