Office owners are looking into lease modifications that will address several of the tenant issues that have cropped up during the pandemic. Among the top issues that office owners have faced, abatement is high on this long list. Office owners should consider lease modifications so as not to inadvertently provide abatement rights to tenants.

"Casualty provisions usually only apply if the physical structure of a premises has been damaged, but it might be argued that COVID-19 contamination constitutes physical damage, or that the closure of the premises due to COVID-19 constitutes a casualty," Andrew Ouvrier, partner at Cox, Castle & Nicholson, tells GlobeSt.com. "In order to avoid this interpretation, office landlords may want to expressly provide that a casualty requires damage to the physical structure of the premises, and to provide that the mere closure of the premises and/or the building does not result in a casualty. Office landlords may also want to expressly state that condemnation does not include a closure of the premises or building in order to comply with governmental orders or public health and safety recommendations."

Some existing provisions already allow for rent abatement if the property is unusable. These provisions are usually broad. "Some leases include provisions that allow a tenant to abate rent if the tenant cannot use its premises due to a failure by the landlord to provide access or some required service," says Ouvrier. "However, since some of these abatement provisions are drafted broadly, landlords should review them to ensure that they are not triggered by government required shutdowns or actions taken by a landlord in implementing operational and physical upgrades at its building to address public health and safety recommendations."

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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on GlobeSt.com and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.