CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest is expanding and—if all goes well—we hope to move into a second office in the Township of Little Falls, in Passaic County. The last couple of months have been hectic, to say the least, with choosing a location and then dealing with all the aspects of the build out in our new space.
John Sass, broker owner of Cedarcrest Realty, shares these tips for companies that are moving into a new commercial space, and are undergoing renovation.
- Have a plan. Know in advance exactly how you envision the space, from its design to how it will be used and by whom. Plan down to the smallest details, with the help of your design and construction team. It might sound crazy but even the number and placement of electrical outlets and Wi-Fi connections will make a difference for your staff—so think about your number of employees, their jobs, where customers will be greeted or wait for service.
- For example, if it’s a retail location, your selling space is key; your back office, less so. Are you opening a restaurant? There is so much that goes into planning your back of the house as well as front of the house.
- Make sure, as part of your plan, that you hire professionals with experience in your type of commercial space or who have worked with the municipality before (always a good idea when dealing with a building department) or with your landlord.
- Also plan for delays that you cannot control (whether it’s a scheduling issue, equipment that has not arrived when expected, weather-related delays, etc.). No matter how well prepared you are, your project will take three times longer than anticipated (and probably cost twice as much!).
- Check with the town for all requirement and permitted uses for the property. Find out exactly which permits you’ll be required to take out, how you may use the property (is it retail only or can you put an office in that storefront?), and what will trigger a variance hearing with the zoning board. Ask the building department what it requires in terms of drawings or anything else that could catch you off guard during construction (and hold up the project).
- Get contractor estimates in writing. Make sure your general contractor (or any trades you hire) put their estimates in writing and commit to them. Get their timelines for getting your work down as well (do they have other jobs that will make it difficult for them to get to your project?)
- Be sure they are all licensed and insured and that those numbers are readily available to you.
- Before you sign, check references, their ratings, and see if there are any complaints against them at the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs.
- Maintain good communication with all parties. Keep an open line of communication with your architect, interior designer or space planner, the contractor, and the landlord. When everyone knows what’s going on, things will progress more smoothly, problems will be solved more efficiently, and you’ll avoid nasty surprises.
- Understand your landlord’s expectations. Bottom line—it’s the landlord’s building, not yours. The landlord expects the renovation work or installations to be completed in a timely fashion, and performed in accordance with the property. You cannot alter something that does not belong to you without the landlord signing off on the plan. Check your lease for any build out requirements or restrictions for both interior and, if applicable, exterior work. This includes awnings and signage.
Above all else, stay calm and remain flexible. Moving into a new commercial space is exciting but a lot will happen between finding the right location, signing the lease, and move-in day—even when there is little work to be done (perhaps just a coat of fresh paint or new flooring in an office). Even as a certified commercial specialist, we are tackling the challenges of building out a new office every day!
In the past, if you were renting and your landlord went into foreclosure, you could be immediately forced out of the home. However, times have changed and new laws make it possible for renters to live out their lease in most cases. In other cases, they may be able to recover costs from the original landlord.
Talk with Your Landlord
If your landlord goes into foreclosure and actually tells you about it, you may need to discuss other things, like utilities. If your landlord was taking care of the utilities as part of your rental agreement, you need to find out if that is still going to happen. Someone who isn’t making their house payment with your rent money may not be paying the utilities either. Try to get as much information as you can so you are able to plan ahead for the safety of your own family.
Thank You Obama
In 2009, President Obama signed an act to protect tenants from having their lives turned upside down if their landlord went into foreclosure. The Protecting Tenants and Foreclosure Act of 2009 was designed to give tenants a chance to recover from what to them may be an abrupt change.
The act basically states that tenants can live out their original lease undisturbed. Since some tenants live on a month to month lease, this could have meant that they had 30 days to move out. However, the act gives them 90 days to find a new home. The only exception is when someone buys the property with the intent to live there. In such cases, the tenant has 90 days, regardless of whether they live on a month to month lease or not.
Aside from potentially having to deal with a higher rent, moving itself is expensive. You may need to travel to investigate a potential rental, pay application fees, and rent a truck to move your furnishings. Renters can sometimes recover some of those costs by taking their original landlord to small claims court.
Naturally, while you are living in the rental, all of the details of the lease and your responsibilities still stand. It may be even more important to follow the lease to the letter in order to avoid being evicted because of your own folly. If this happens, you won’t be able to recover costs from your former landlord because you will have to move due to your own behavior and the details of the lease. Talk to a real estate agent about your opens if you do need to move. It may just be time to buy your own home!