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So your business is growing quickly and you are locked into a long term lease, but you have run out of space.
Unfortunately most lease terms in commercial real estate are 5 and 10 year terms. At least this is a good problem to have.
Here is what you should do:
First, check to see if you have the right to terminate the lease. If not, look into your sublet rights and determine what restrictions you may have.
If you are well below market rates you may be able to sublet without taking a loss, and you can move to another property. Here is more on how to do that here: Subletting Commercial Space.
Alternatively, you may have forgotten about expansion rights within your lease. Check to see if you have a right of first offer or right of first refusal on any other space in the building.
A stacking plan can be created by walking each floor of your building. Although there is some guesswork involved in determining how big each of your corporate neighbors are, it is a starting point.
Pro Tip: even the most sophisticated commercial real estate brokerages send their junior agents out to walk through buildings to produce stacking plans like the following:
Suggest to the Landlord who they may be able to move elsewhere in the building to accommodate your growth.
In the stacking plan example above, you could suggest to your landlord to relocate a tenant from the 3rd floor into your space and you could take their space, plus the space that is already available through the landlord.
Ask your neighbors when their leases are due and what their current space needs are. Moving your demising wall to absorb some of their space can be win-win.
With any extensive construction and fixturing, the landlord may require a lease extension from one or both parties (depending on the existing lease terms that remain).
Although not ideal, a shared space arrangement with another tenant in your building eliminates the need to demise space and you will more likely be able to work something out on a casual, month to month basis.
Choosing which employees are relegated to the shared space could be awkward, so be sure to communicate that it is a short-term fix.
Be sure to get landlord approval for a shared space arrangement and seek expert commercial lease advice before signing an agreement.
A complete space swap is another option that would allow you to keep all of your employees together and you can avoid the work involved with demising. The tenant to swap spaces with likely will be paying a different rental rate so the landlord will want to be left whole.
For example, if you are paying $22 net on 1,000 square feet and the space you want to relocate to is 2,000 square feet and that tenant is paying $25 net, then the landlord will want to preserve the cash flow on that unit.
On the other hand, the tenant you are swapping with will still be paying their $25 net rental rate on your 1,000 square feet, so that should be reduced from your obligation.
In other words:
Many landlord websites are out of date and there is always activity behind the scenes.
The landlord knows every expiry date and the intentions of most of the tenants. As the landlord will want to keep you as a long term tenant in the building (especially if you are growing), he has an incentive to help put the puzzle together.
Do not forget to ask about other buildings that the landlord owns, and if you can move, expand and transfer your lease to a new property.
Although this is a band-aid solution, a plug and play sublease at a bargain price may be the most cost effective alternative. With the explosion of co-working, you could also find short term space for some workers in an environment that they may enjoy a bit more.