Signing and Negotiating a Lease

A lease is a legal agreement between you and a premises owner.  In return for a regular payment they will provide you with space to run your activity from.  Prior to signing a lease, you should look for:

  • Length.
  • Price.
  • Location.
  • Service Arrangements.
  • Deposits.
  • Any planning limitations.

Again, seeking specific legal advice at this stage can save significant and difficulty down the line.  Sometimes, it will be possible to negotiate the terms of your lease which could save you money.

Julius O’Dowd is a Senior Commercial Executive at the BBC, who has led contractual negotiations with corporate enterprises such as Vodafone, Oracle & Microsoft.

His three top tips for people new to negotiation are:

  • Preparation – think about the outcome you are seeking and also find out what you can about the other side and what they want from any deal. The more you know about things such as their motivations and timelines, the more you are likely to be able to navigate to a successful.
  • Understand the importance of power – are you an established business with a healthy cash flow or a start-up with limited resources. Crucially, have you thought through a good alternative to this deal?
  • Aim to build a relationship – the best possible outcome is a ‘win-win’ deal where both parties walk away thinking they have got something from it and in fact have gained more than they

Not all negotiations need to be complex, but having some parameters in place, thinking about what you want, and how you want to get it, may certainly help you feel you’ve got more say in the process and you don’t have to be railroaded into accepting something you’re not comfortable with.  In particular, make sure you work out at what point you are willing to walk away from a negotiation as terms are too expensive, restrictive, or otherwise inappropriate for your organisation.

There will likely be lots of instances where you will need to think about negotiating a good deal for your organisation. Some examples will include:

  • Bringing partner organisations in to help you.
  • Hiring staff.
  • Collaborating with artists.
  • Attracting funding grants.

When thinking about your approach to negotiating, you will need to be clear what terms you are negotiating. See our full guide on the terms you should expect to see within a lease.

Further reading

A great deal has been written on this subject, so if you are interested in brushing up your skills you might want to take a look at some books. Here are some suggestions:

‘Getting to Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In’, which was written by American authors, Roger Fisher and William Ury, and later Bruce Patton, who was involved with the Harvard Negotiation Project.

Are you reading this page as part of our Guide for Opening, Running and Growing a Cultural or Community Space? Have a look at Potential End of Lease Issues next.

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