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Negotiation, Not Eviction, Is the Best Solution to Disputes Between Commercial Tenants and Their Landlords During the COVID-19 Pandemic


The Washington DC area is doing a lot better than most places in the United States at this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic, but even here, every small business owner’s plans are in disarray.  Paying rent on a store or other commercial property that is only open at limited capacity, if at all, is probably near the top of your list of worries.  The financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic is as much a source of worry for your landlord as it is for you; commercial real estate is hardly a booming sector of the economy these days.  The best thing you can do this summer is to negotiate with your landlord about a temporary solution, perhaps an amendment to the temporary solution you and your landlord agreed on in the spring.  Doing this successfully requires courage, resourcefulness, and ideally, the help of a Washington DC small business lawyer.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Do not be intimidated if the landlord of your commercial space keeps threatening you with eviction in order to pressure you to pay.  It is in your landlord’s interest not to evict you.  From a commercial real estate perspective, it is better to have a tenant who only makes sporadic, partial payments than to have a vacant space.  Therefore, if you want to stay, and you try to negotiate lower payments and a plan for paying overdue rent in small installments, your landlord will almost certainly be willing to work with you.

The problem is that it is impossible to predict when business will get better.  It may turn out that giving your landlord an I.O.U. about rent payments will only delay the inevitable.  You might decide that operating a retail business in the age of COVID-19 is a wash, and that it is time to get out of the business.  Your landlord might be thinking the same thing.  It is a good idea to meet with a small business lawyer to decide which of your cards you should show to your landlord when you negotiate.

Tips for Small Business Owners Negotiating for Lower Rent Payments

These are some other factors that can help you in negotiating with your landlord:

  • If you have received a PPP loan or other federal assistance during the pandemic, you can tell your landlord that you have received it and you have X amount of money immediately available to spend on rent.
  • If the property needs repairs, you can promise to make them at your own expense (maybe even doing the work yourself) in exchange for the landlord waiving some of your rent obligations.
  • If you have a long history of making payments on time, this enhances your trustworthiness with your landlord.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

A Washington DC small business lawyer can help you find a way to afford to continue renting your retail space or find a way to do without it.  Contact Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. for a consultation on your case.




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