Watch Out For A “Bad Commercial Landlord?”

Posted by Gordon Lamphere

Navigating the world of commercial leasing can be a daunting task, especially when it involves identifying and dealing with a ‘bad’ commercial landlord. Especially in today’s financial climate, a bad landlord can even come down to poor building financials. Nonetheless, a commercial landlord plays a pivotal role in the success of your business, and a negative relationship can lead to significant challenges. In this post, we’ll explore the hallmarks of a bad commercial landlord, and provide tips on how to spot and handle them effectively.

Bad Commercial Landlord

Signs of a Bad Commercial Landlord

  1. Lack of Transparency: A good landlord is upfront about costs, lease terms, and any potential issues with the property. If a landlord is vague about terms or evasive when you ask questions, it could be a red flag.
  2. Poor Communication: Timely and clear communication is key in any business relationship. A landlord who is consistently unresponsive or unclear can cause unnecessary stress and misunderstandings.
  3. Neglecting Maintenance and Repairs: One of the landlord’s primary responsibilities is to maintain the property. If they are slow to respond to repair requests or outright ignore them, it can hinder your business operations and pose safety risks.
  4. Unreasonable Lease Terms: Overly restrictive clauses, hidden fees, or terms that seem designed to trap or penalize the tenant can indicate a landlord more interested in profit than in a mutually beneficial relationship.
  5. Inflexibility: Business needs can change, and while a landlord isn’t obligated to accommodate every request, an unwillingness to discuss any adjustments or negotiate can be problematic.

How to Spot a Bad Commercial Landlord

  1. Do Your Research: Before signing a lease, research the landlord or management company. Look for reviews from current or past tenants, and don’t hesitate to ask for help from a commercial broker. Experienced commercial real estate agents through past dealings and their broad landlord networks will usually know the quality of the landlord through past client and business interactions.
  2. Read the Lease Thoroughly: Understand every aspect of the lease agreement. Look out for unusual clauses, and consider having a lawyer review it.
  3. Scrutinize the Property: Check for signs of neglect or poor maintenance. How a property is kept can be a good indicator of how a landlord manages their responsibilities.
  4. Ask Questions: Prepare a list of questions and concerns and see how the landlord responds. Their answers can give you insight into their communication style and transparency.
  5. Notice How They Handle Negotiations: A landlord’s approach to negotiation can reveal a lot about how they do business. Are they open to discussion, or do they insist on their terms without consideration?

Bad Commercial Landlord

Handling a Bad Commercial Landlord

  1. Keep Records: Document all communications and agreements with your landlord. This includes repair requests, email exchanges, and notes from phone conversations.
  2. Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with tenant rights and commercial lease law in your area. This knowledge can empower you to negotiate and act more confidently.
  3. Maintain Professionalism: Even in challenging situations, maintain a professional demeanor. This approach can prevent escalation and keep communications clear.
  4. Seek Professional Advice: If you feel your rights are being violated or you’re being unfairly treated, consult with a commercial real estate agent and legal professional. Both can offer guidance specific to your situation in terms of the legal implications and business implications and can operate as both a shield and a sword against a troublesome bad commercial landlord.
  5. Consider Mediation: A neutral third party can sometimes help resolve disputes more effectively than in direct negotiation.


Dealing with a bad commercial landlord can be a significant challenge, but with the right knowledge, strategies, and professional assistance, you can navigate this complex terrain. By being vigilant in your initial selection, staying informed about your rights, and maintaining clear records and communication, you can mitigate many risks associated with a less-than-ideal landlord.

Remember, the key is to approach any lease agreement with a sense of caution and thoroughness. Your business deserves a location and a landlord that supports its growth, not one that hinders it. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be better equipped to spot and handle a bad commercial landlord, ensuring a more stable and prosperous environment for your business.

Moreover, if you are currently struggling with a difficult commercial landlord, our team of agents is here to help. We have experience in negotiating and navigating complex landlord-tenant relationships, and we can provide you with valuable advice and guidance. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for assistance.

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Gordon Lamphere
AuthorGordon Lamphere
Gordon is a licensed Illinois Real Estate Broker, who manages the commercial sales and leasing team. Gordon also leads Van Vlissingen and Co’s media marketing team. He is an honors graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and holds a Juris Doctorate from Tulane University Law School.