Safety Accommodations on Tenants’ Minds as Leases are Signed During the Pandemic

By Eduard Suleymanov  |  March 5, 2021

With the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and the impact it has had on businesses, it comes as no surprise that new and existing tenants are requesting various lease modifications to accommodate current conditions. These include shorter lease terms, flexible subletting provisions and rental payments based on a percentage of gross sales (especially for retail and restaurants) instead of a fixed monthly rental amount. However, during the course of my conversations with clients who own commercial real estate properties, it has become clear that one of the most important tenant concerns coming into play when signing a new lease or renewing an existing lease is safety. To continue attracting new tenants and to assuage safety concerns of existing tenants, landlords and property managers are taking a number of steps to create a safer environment. Below are a few of the actions that can be taken to ensure that your commercial property remains a desirable space for new and existing tenants in today’s world.

Upgrading Air Filtration Systems

One of the biggest concerns for commercial office tenants right now is air quality. Viral particles spread more readily indoors than outdoors. Upgrading the air filtration system is a vital step in protecting commercial buildings against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In a commercial heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, the ventilation is designed to remove dust particulates and toxic microorganisms from the air. However, these harmful substances have to be trapped somewhere. Air filters used in commercial HVAC systems can help mitigate the risk of infection and cross-contamination. In the filtration industry, efficiency refers to ASHRAE’s (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) national testing standards, known as MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The Center for Disease Control and ASHRAE recommend an air filter with a minimum rating of MERV 13. Many property owners have already upgraded their air filtration systems with filters rated MERV 13 or higher.

Installing Ultraviolet-C Lighting

Ultraviolet light can help sterilize surfaces on which bacteria and viruses thrive. Property owners and managers are now utilizing Ultraviolet-C (UV-C) lighting to kill harmful microbes as they circulate through air in rooms and settle on surfaces throughout a building. Most of these fixtures can be installed or mounted on ceilings and walls and cause little disruption as they operate on a timer or switch. Property managers have also taken a proactive approach to cleaning the air before it enters a space by utilizing UV-C lighting within the HVAC system.

In one specific example, a commercial building operator installed a UV-C lighting system on the cooling coils of their air hanging units (AHU). An AHU is a device used to regulate and circulate air as part of an HVAC system. Installing UV-C light-emitting devices in such a way can help increase a building’s resistance to transmitting diseases through the ventilation system. It can also help increase the building’s sustainability by keeping the cooling coils disinfected and clean. In fact, keeping the coils clean and free of organic buildup saves on energy costs as well. Building operators who have installed these UV-C light systems have documented energy savings of 15 to 20 percent!

An Extra “Layer” of Protection - Antimicrobial Tape

You may have noticed that certain high-touch public surfaces are now wrapped with striped vinyl. This extra layer of protection is actually a specialized antimicrobial tape, applied via adhesive strips, and helps to suppress growth and transmission of microorganisms such as bacteria, mold, mildew, or fungi. The tape adheres to high-touch surfaces such as handrails, door handles, knobs, elevator buttons and other surfaces requiring protection and is one more resource available to property owners and managers looking to take all available safety precautions.

Whether it is upgrading air filtration systems, installing UV-C lighting fixtures and light systems or even wrapping up doors handles with antimicrobial tape, taking important steps to create a safe environment within your property can go a long way to furthering your relationship with existing tenants—and attracting new tenants to your available properties.

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About Eduard Suleymanov

Eduard Suleymanov, CPA, is a Partner in the Real Estate Group at Marks Paneth LLP, providing accounting, tax planning and advisory services to commercial and residential real estate owners. His background includes preparing certiorari filings, operating escalation statements, as well as multi-state partnership tax returns. With more than 15 years in public accounting, Mr. Suleymanov brings additional experience in tax compliance for high-net-worth individuals and closely held businesses, including partnerships and limited liability companies. Mr.... READ MORE +

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