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Agreement for Lease Versus the Lease Itself-What’s the Difference or Purpose?

Are you considering taking a commercial lease and you are being asked to sign an “agreement for lease” first?

Wondering what’s the difference? Or what is the significance, if any? Let’s take a look.

Lease

A lease sets out the terms and conditions under which a lessee will occupy a premises on an exclusive basis. The lease will contain the term, the rent, and other terms by which the lessee will enjoy possession of the premises.

Agreement for lease

An agreement for lease on the other hand is a binding contract to grant a lease in the future.

Sometimes an agreement will only bind one of the parties-for example the lessee may have an option to renew a lease at the expiry of the existing term.

The big difference between an agreement for a lease and the lease is the tenant will have entered into possession and occupation if it is a lease he has executed.

Why enter into an agreement for a lease?

There is a number of reasons, the most common of which is the property cannot be handed over to the lessee yet. This may be where a property is being constructed or it may be where the property is currently occupied by an existing tenant.

Or it may be where significant refurbishment or remedial work, or a costly fitout needs to be carried out on the property before the lessee will enter into occupation. If you were the landlord, you would want some comfort that the money you will spend will not be wasted by your proposed tenant changing his mind.

The agreement for lease is a binding contract, so the change of mind problem should not arise.

An agreement for a lease might also arise where all the terms and conditions of the lease have not yet been agreed or where the proposed lessor has not yet acquired title to the property.

All these circumstances require an agreement for lease as it is not yet possible to grant a lease and hand over vacant possession to the lessee.

Where the reason for an agreement for a lease is where major refurbishment of an existing property is required, or where a building must be constructed, important factors to consider include:

  • Fitout works and defect rectification periods
  • When practical completion will occur
  • What are the handover provisions
  • What warranties will be given
  • Is security required-for example a bond or bank guarantee

You will note, therefore, that an agreement for a lease is similar to a new build of a residential house contract, save for the agreement for lease is between a landlord and tenant.

The terms negotiated and agreed upon in the agreement for a lease should make provision for the completion of the works in a timely and satisfactory manner. If this does not occur there should be compensation to the proposed lessee.

An architect or engineer should also be engaged to check that the proposed work is satisfactory and complies with planning permission and any applicable building or statutory regulations.

Practical completion

When practical completion is arrived at the building should be ready to occupy.

At this point the date of the lease should be agreed, the bank guarantee (if agreed) should be provided by the lessee, any period during which rectifications should be carried out should be used to ensure rectifications are carried out, even though some minor works may still be outstanding.