Here are some questions to ask before signing a lease:
1. Does the lease specifically state the square footage of the premises? The total rentable square footage of the building?
2. Is the tenant's share of expenses based on the total square footage of the building or the square footage leased by the landlord? Your share may be lower if it's based on the total square footage.
3. Do the base year expenses reflect full occupancy or are they adjusted to full occupancy (i.e., base year real estate taxes on an unfinished building are lower than in subsequent years)?
4. Must the landlord provide a detailed list of expenses, prepared by a CPA, to support increases?
5. Does the lease clearly give the tenant the right to audit the landlord's books and records?
6. If use of the building is interrupted, does the lease define the remedies available to the tenant, such as rent abatement or lease cancellation?
7. If the landlord does not meet repair responsibilities, can the tenant make the repairs, after notice to the landlord, and deduct the cost from the rent?
8. Is the landlord required to obtain nondisturbance agreements from current and future lenders?
9. Does the lease clearly define how disputes will be decided?
Source: 327 Questions to Ask Before You Sign a Lease, by B. Alan Whitson (B. Alan Whitson Co., 800-452-4480).