What Owner Refinancing Means for Your Retail or Office Space

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There continues to be a tectonic shift occurring in the commercial real estate industry and it has tenants rattled. The aftermath may not have impacted you yet, but it should be on your radar.

Big box retailers are serving as anchors to move out and the brand names that we’ve come to know and trust closing shops or vanishing entirely. As a matter of fact, this is causing a hotbed of tenant confusion that’s bound to erupt.

At Cherry Creek Mall in Denver, CO, a recent owner refinance has tenants worried. Some speculate the landlord might be experiencing financial woes. Of course, they asked if this indicates whether they should begin plans to relocate. Tenants want to know if their businesses are at risk.

The real deal: owners are taking advantage of lower interest rates

In May, the Michigan-based landlord Taubman Centers, Inc. (NYSE: TCO), one of the largest REITs (Real Estate Investment Trust) in the nation, and owns and manages high-end retail and mixed-use properties, announced it had secured a $550 million, 3.87 percent, 12-year fixed loan. The deal, backed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co,. was said to be used to repay an existing $280 million, 5.24 percent loan. Leveraging assets to restructure loans at lower interest rates is a standard procedure in most areas of real estate, not just commercial.

One long-time retail tenant who operates a franchise at the Center said he received an Estoppel Certificate in the mail, but had no idea what it was or what to do with it. The document looked unfamiliar and the intimidating legal jargon caused him to fear the worst. Anxious to find out more, he contacted his organization’s corporate office. Without delay, they were able to help him clarify matters and resolve the situation.

However, many small business retail and office tenants like restaurateurs and service professionals don’t have access to legal departments. Instead, they’re forced to pay expensive attorney’s fees in order to have simple legal documents interpreted that aren’t that complicated.

Another wave of owner refinance deals are expected to sweep across the nation. WP Glimcher Inc. (NYSE: WPG) is said to be just one of several major developers exploring refinance options.

How Developer Refinance Deals Impact Tenants

An owner refinance is no cause for alarm. However, the main issues that arises from these deals are Estoppel Certificates. Your commercial lease probably contains a clause that states you, the tenant, agree to answer letters within an allotted time frame or the landlord can answer on your behalf. Furthermore, it’s imperative that you answer and return this document on time.

What is an Estoppel Certificate?

Estoppel Certificates confirm the contractual relationship between you and your landlord. Its purpose is to evidence to a third-party, such as a financial institution, that the provisions in a lease are true.

Answering can be fairly simple. All tenants need to do is fact-check the information. This is to make sure the provisions contained are the same as those in your original lease agreement, such as the annual minimum rent, percentage rent, and license period clauses. Cross-reference each document word by word. If anything is substantively different, contact the landlord and have it corrected before signing.

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