Articles for Dentists

Are You Overpaying for Your Practice’s Operating Costs?

Visibility and Audit Rights

Before you sign your dental office lease, it’s important to ensure that you have the “right to review and/or audit statements and invoices for all operating costs” negotiated into the agreement. This will ensure that you have the ability to take prudent steps to protect your practice from unreasonable or hidden charges set forth by the landlord. If you have the right to see exactly what is being charged, it is less likely that you will be billed for something completely unreasonable.

In a Net lease, operating costs are expenses associated with the landlord’s day-to-day maintenance and operation of the property. Your landlord should keep track of all operating costs, and at the end of the fiscal year, provide you with a detailed statement of the actual expenses. As a tenant of a commercial property, you should insist on having the reasonable right to verify, audit, and where applicable, contest any charges that have been passed on by your landlord. Dentists who have not secured such provisions in their office lease may find that they are vulnerable and exposed to unscrupulous landlords.

Exclusions

It is customary for a tenant to cover their proportionate share of charges relating to the maintenance of the building, common areas, insurance, and various taxes; however, some landlords take advantage of their tenant’s lack of knowledge as to what are reasonable pass through costs.

What charges are unreasonable for the landlord to pass along to a dental tenant?

Retroactive Billing

It’s not uncommon for a dentist to receive notice from their landlord communicating that they were not billed correctly for a certain expense, dating back several years. Without proper preventive language negotiated into your dental office, situations like this can result in many unforeseeable future […]

Are You Overpaying for Your Practice’s Operating Costs?

It’s important to understand whether you as the tenant, or your landlord, is responsible for paying for various dental office operating costs when it comes to the maintenance of the property. Your dental office lease plays a key role in dictating the obligations of both parties, and clarifying common grey areas.

What Are Operating Costs?

Operating costs are the expenses related to the operation of a commercial property. Some landlords have been known to take certain liberties in the operation of their buildings. They do so by charging expenses to their tenants, who may only be tenuously linked to the management and maintenance of the property in question. These particular landlords may pass these costs on to their tenants by including them in the “additional rent” or operating cost provisions of their standard form lease with little, if any, explanation.

What operating costs are included in your dental practice’s rent, and what is being charged separately? 

There are a number of factors regarding the landlord’s maintenance responsibilities and costs, they can vary depending on whether you’re presented with a Net Lease, Gross Lease, or Modified Gross Lease.

Type of Leases

Net Dental Office Lease

In addition to base rent, a Net Lease requires a tenant to pay for its proportionate share of all property expenses such as insurance, maintenance, utilities, repairs, and taxes. Typically, the landlord is not responsible for any expenses (with some exclusions) under the lease.

Fully Gross Dental Office Lease

This type of lease is similar to many residential rentals. In a Fully Gross lease, the tenant is only required to pay a flat rental rate, while the landlord covers all additional property expenses.

Modified Gross Dental Office Lease

During the first year (base year), a Modified Gross Lease requires the tenant […]

Customer Case Study: Dr. Daniel R., DDS | Ortonville, MI

Dr. Daniel R. is a General Dentist running a successful practice out of Ortonville, MI.

As building-owners of 35 years, Dr. R. and his wife were growing weary of the constant demands involved in maintaining a property and being landlords. They also strived to grow the practice and expand, but were limited by the size and number of treatment rooms available in their 2,400 sq. ft. unit. After much deliberation, Dr. R. and his wife made the difficult decision to sell the building and relocate their practice.

The doctor had narrowed down the search to 3 locations in Clarkson, MI. Unsure of how to negotiate the details of their tenancy with the landlord, Dr. R. and his wife attended a seminar in Troy, MI presented by Cirrus Consulting Group on the topic of “Dental Office Lease Negotiations”. The seminar discussed the top $100,000 traps buried in a lease, and the harsh negative impact they can have on a practice’s future.

With this newfound knowledge, the doctor decided against using the services of his long-time corporate attorney for the negotiation, and instead sought out the expertise of Cirrus and their dental office lease negotiators. Dr. R. and his wife chose a location for their practice and were soon presented with the dental office lease for the space by the new landlord. Dr. R. was looking for the new lease to provide him with the following:

Cirrus conducted a thorough review and analysis of the lease, highlighting critical dates, risks and pitfalls. They uncovered a lack of death and disability protection in the lease, a significant issue for Dr. R. as a late-career dentist. The lease also permitted the landlord to move competing dentists into the building, and collect proceeds […]

Personal Guaranty in Your Dental Office Lease: Let’s Not Make It Personal

There’s an old business adage that states one should always keep business and personal matters separate. While the intent of this saying is certainly sage business advice, it is often not something that a dentist can avoid in the world of commercial office leasing. The majority of our clients who are starting a dental practice, or have been in business for many years and are renewing their dental office lease often tell us that their landlords are demanding. Why? They often make them sign a “personal guaranty” or “indemnity agreement”, or else the deal is off!

This article is going to help you understand what a “personal guaranty/indemnity agreement” is as it pertains to your lease, and explain how as a small business owner, you can attempt to limit or avoid it altogether.

What is a “personal guaranty” in the lease, and why does your landlord care?

A personal guaranty, in its basic form, is a contractual agreement in your office lease that obligates an individual responsible for paying back a debt, in the event the tenant is in default. In regards to your dental office, it is a safety net that many landlords demand a tenant sign in order to ensure the financial performance of the lease continues, regardless of what happens with the tenant’s corporation, i.e. bankruptcy or business closure. It is important to note that a “guarantor” is often required to guarantee the obligations of not only the initial lease term, but also any “options to renew” or future extensions of the term.

For a startup dental practice, landlords often require you to sign a personal guaranty due to the lack of operational experience of owning a practice or renting commercial property. For an established […]

The Dangers of the Redevelopment/Demolition Clause in Your Office Lease

Picture this – after a few years in your new dental office location, you have developed a solid practice culture with staff and patients that you truly enjoy. Your loans are slowly but surely being repaid and you are building up an enviable patient roster in the process. Your home, your children’s school are all within a three-mile radius of your practice. Life is good, and improving. Then, out of the blue, you receive a notice that your lease is being terminated due to a redevelopment of the property. Can the landlord do this? What happens now?
What is a “redevelopment” or “demolition” clause?

The “Redevelopment” or “Demolition” clause is an increasingly common feature of dental office lease agreements, particularly in high-density, metropolitan real estate markets. This clause gives your landlord the right to terminate your lease if they decide to demolish, renovate, or redevelop the building or center you are practicing in. Often, the definitions of “redevelop”, “demolish”, or “alter” in the lease are highly ambiguous.

The particulars of this redevelopment or demolition – the who, what, when, why and where – will invariably differ from lease to lease and from landlord to landlord.

For example, a given dental office lease might allow the landlord to terminate your tenancy if they decide to build a condominium building on the land. Another lease might permit the landlord to permanently relocate you to another part of the property, or to another property altogether, if renovations are to be carried out.

The struggle is particularly relevant to dentists, as they invest heavily in leasehold improvements and can’t simply pick up and relocate without considerable expense. Sound familiar? That’s because the average dentist spends $200,000 constructing a dental office. As such, the […]

Customer Case Study: Dr. Gordon S., DVM | Woodstock, GA

Dr. Gordon S. is a late-career veterinarian running a successful animal hospital in Woodstock, GA.

As a busy veterinarian, Dr. S. had not been keeping track of critical dates in his lease agreement such as the lease expiry date, which was vast approaching.

The doctor was invited to attend a CE webinar on the topic of “Negotiating or Renegotiating the Terms and Rent in the Veterinary Office Lease” hosted by Cirrus Consulting Group, the veterinary office lease negotiation experts. At the webinar, the doctor learned about the importance of beginning the lease renewal process 18-24 months in advance of the expiry date in order to bring the landlord to the table with enough leverage and time to secure the best deal. The doctor also learned about many of the inherent risks in lease agreements, and was shocked to learn that many of these pitfalls existed in his current lease.

With the negotiation clock ticking, the doctor retained Cirrus to review his current lease agreement, and negotiate the terms of his renewal.

The doctor communicated to Cirrus that as a late-career veterinarian, he was looking for lease terms that would appeal to future buyers, and enable him to transition profitably and smoothly without being indebted to the practice afterwards. In addition, the doctor believed that the new Property Management company that was hired to manage the shopping center was unfairly charging for rent and Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges, so this was something he would also want addressed in the negotiations.

Dr. S. was looking for his new lease to provide him with the following:

Cirrus conducted a thorough practice needs analysis and reviewed the lease for critical dates and problematic language. Together they created a lease negotiation strategy and were […]

By | March 15th, 2017 | Case Studies | 0 Comments

Customer Case Study: Dr. Emma M., DDS | Midlothian, VA

Dr. Emma M. is a general dentist in the later stages of her career practicing in Midlothian, VA. After being diagnosed with hand tremors, Dr. M. brought in dental associate Dr. Bill S., and has since begun treating patients for Sleep Apnea at the clinic.

Dr. M’s 28-year lease was rapidly approaching its renewal deadline. As a late career dentist, she was looking to renew her lease with terms that would support her eventual plans to transition out of dentistry. Naturally she considered Dr. S. as a potential buyer; however, she was unsure the timing was right as he was a fairly new associate.

Being cognizant of her eventual transition plans, she was looking to renew the lease agreement with terms that would spark the interest of potential buyers. She was looking for a shorter term, ideally 5 years, with options to renew to ensure the long-time viability for her successor.

After attending a dental office lease negotiation and commercial real estate seminar hosted by Cirrus Consulting Group, Dr. M. retained Cirrus for help with her upcoming lease renewal.

“I had no idea the ramifications that some of the clauses could have. I signed my old lease 28 years ago but was very young and not very bright when it came to lease agreements. Now that I am older and wiser, I felt it was necessary to hire Cirrus to re-write my lease and negotiate terms that I felt were fair and could live with.”

– Dr. Emma M., DDS, Midlothian, VA

She was looking for the following key wins in her renewed lease:

Cirrus Consulting Group guided Dr. M. through their strategic lease negotiation process and achieved the
following key wins:

Dr. M. now has peace-of-mind knowing her lease is set up for a […]

By | March 15th, 2017 | Case Studies | 0 Comments

It’s Not JUST About the Dental Office Rent: Shifting Lease Negotiations

If I were to ask you which part of your dental office lease is the most important, what comes to mind? I doubt you would consider the assignment clause – the clause which governs your ability to purchase a practice or transfer the lease alongside the sale of your practice.

You probably wouldn’t think about the surrender clause – the clause which outlines how you are meant to leave your space when your lease term ends. Almost certainly you wouldn’t think about the relocation or redevelopment/demolition clauses, which, if exercised by the landlord, could unexpectedly force you out of your space!

No, I’m willing to bet you immediately thought the most important part of your lease is the rent. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but….it’s not just about the rent! While rent is certainly one of the key components of any lease, I’m here to teach you that it should not be your number one concern.
It’s Not Just About the Rent

Who could blame you for believing otherwise? Rent is the most obvious cost that a dental tenant incurs. Sometimes the payment of that monthly cheque is the only contact a dentist has with their landlord all year. It is therefore no surprise when a dentist focuses entirely on achieving the lowest rental rates possible at negotiation time, completely ignoring the rest of the lease agreement. However, to be perfectly frank, this approach is just plain wrong. Rent may be an “obvious cost”, but there are numerous hidden yet important costs that you should be more concerned about.
Hidden Costs vs. Obvious Costs in Your Dental Office Lease Agreement
An Assignment Nightmare

One such hidden cost is often found lurking in the assignment clause, and […]

Why Dental Tenants Are Gold to Landlords

When it comes to finding the ideal tenant for commercial office space, dental tenants are one of the most desirable businesses to landlords. Yet, dentists often fail to use this to their advantage when negotiating their dental office lease agreement. Before you enter into a new lease or renewal negotiation, here are a few things you should consider to understand why landlords prefer dental tenants, and how you can leverage this in your upcoming negotiation.
Why Landlords Prefer Dental Tenants Over Other Commercial Tenants
Low Default Rates
Dentists are favored tenants in the eyes of a landlord for many reasons. For one, they generally have low default rates in comparison to other types of businesses. In fact, they are known to have one of the highest credit ratings among professionals. Dealing with defaulting tenants can be a cost and organizational nightmare; therefore, landlords tend to favor businesses with generally low default rates.
Long-term Tenancy
Given the amount of work and large financial investment involved in opening a practice, most dentists choose a location with the intent of staying 10-20 years or more. This means a long-term lease and options to renew/extend, translating into a promising and steady revenue stream for landlords.
Increased Foot Traffic
There’s no doubt that a dental clinic draws foot traffic to a building/center, which in turn is helpful for other businesses in the vicinity, adding value to the building and resulting in a win for the landlord.
How Landlords Use the Lease Agreement
Landlords know very little about the business of dentistry, but what they do know about are lease agreements. The standard dental office lease is typically 30–50 pages long, outlining the tenant and landlord’s obligations to one another for the duration of the lease term. The lease […]

Importance of Option to Renew or Extend in the Dental Office Lease

When reviewing your dental office lease agreement, there are many different clauses to evaluate. Two of the most important are the “Option to Renew” or “Extend” clauses.
Looking at Your Options

Options to Renew or Extend the lease are typically written for the purpose of benefiting the landlord; therefore, it is your responsibility to negotiate this clause to tip the scales in your favor.

Landlords often craft “Options” language to minimize their value to tenants by applying limitations such as who may exercise these options, when, how, and what must occur at the time.

Landlords may also add further provisions that allow them to revisit the lease at renewal time and insert restrictive language such as “Demolition” rights, a “Relocation Clause” or “Assignment” language that works for their benefit at sale time. Despite what some landlords might argue, all lease terms are negotiable and it’s important to do so to protect your rights.
Leveraging Your Options
In the event that a less-than-favorable lease was signed at startup time, renewal options provide you with the opportunity to bring the landlord back to the table to perhaps renegotiate some of the original terms in your dental office lease. In addition, as you mature in your career, you may not have the same goals you once did when you originally signed your lease agreement. Maybe you are looking to sell your practice in the next 10 years, relocate, or expand your dental practice or service offering? Options to Renew/Extend can provide you with the flexibility to secure a more favorable lease agreement in your current location, that is more reflective of your present and future practice goals.
Lease Performance Provisions
It’s important to be aware that Options to Renew/Extend often include performance provisions. For example, your […]