COVID-19: Negotiate a Rent Abatement or Deferral in your Lease

I am speaking hourly with business owners that have dwindling revenues or no revenue in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Business owners are looking everywhere on how to maintain sales as much as possible and/or reduce overhead expenses. With monthly rental payments typically being one of the largest expenses for business owners, this is a good place to start.

While no landlord wants to see their revenues (rent payments) go down there is hope for rent assistance now! Here are just a few tips to consider:

Be Proactive — Do not sit back until you have lost money for weeks or months, reach out to your landlord now. In addition to delaying the benefit you may receive you can be sure that your landlord is receiving multiple requests for rental assistance and if you do not get to the table you may risk the landlord assuming you are not in need of this assistance and have more difficulties getting help.

Be Prepared — In order to obtain rental assistance, your landlord may request information including the status of your business (are you opened or closed), current and past sales numbers to show the impact on your business, whether you have any insurances to cover business losses and other steps you are taking to maintain sales or reduce costs. Having this information ready may expedite any assistance you receive.

Be Flexible — It’s important to differentiate between a rent abatement (forgiveness of all or part of your future rents) and rent deferral (unpaid rent is payable at a future date). While getting all your rent abated for a period of time is certainly the best circumstance, having a partial abatement or deferral may be the difference between closing and continuing operations long term.

At the end of the day, if a landlord has to choose between seeing your business close down or giving you rental assistance, many landlords will elect to work with tenant to hope to secure long term rent payments.

Jeff Grandfield of The Lease Coach is a commercial lease consultant who works exclusively for tenants. Jeff is a professional speaker and co-author with Dale Willerton of Negotiating Commercial Leases & Renewals for Dummies (Wiley, 2013). Jeff can be reached at


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