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The Importance of the Tenant Improvement Clause

A tenant improvement (TI) clause is important in a commercial lease because it outline

s the terms and conditions for making modifications or improvements to the leased space to meet the tenant's specific needs. It plays a significant role in facilitating the tenant's business operations and ensuring the premises are suitable for their intended use. Below outlines the importance of the TI clause for commercial tenants:

  1. Customization of space: Each business comes with its own unique workspace requirements, and the Tenant Improvement (TI) clause enables the tenant to tailor the space to meet these specific needs. It's crucial to secure a detailed construction work letter that outlines the specifics of any modifications. This can range from adding extra offices or conference rooms, to updating lighting and flooring, adjusting electrical layouts, or installing new plumbing systems.

  2. Allocation of costs: When negotiating the T.I. clause, it is crucial that the tenant has a deep understanding of the costs to complete the desired build out. A comprehensive understanding of the potential costs of desired renovations helps tenants avoid unforeseen expenses and ensures they are fully aware of the financial implications of the desired changes. Tenant improvements can be costly, and the T.I. clause specifies who is responsible for shouldering these costs - the landlord, the tenant, or a combination of both. The main factors that determine the amount of T.I. a landlord may be willing to give include lease term, market conditions, tenants’ creditworthiness.

  3. Who is Responsible for the Build Out: Who Undertakes the Build Out: Sometimes, landlords stipulate that their internal construction team performs the work. However, there are instances where tenants have the choice. This latter option offers more flexibility for the tenant. For instance, if the landlord's quote is steep, it would be beneficial for the tenant to acquire at least one additional quote from an external contractor. Though it can demand more time and effort on the tenant's part, it provides complete control over the process, ensuring that the tenant gets precisely what they want.

  4. Building Standard/Quality of Improvements: Each commercial property has a different building standard materials list. For example, the quality of materials in a Class A building can differ drastically from a Class B building in the same area. When it comes to budgeting for the buildout it is vital to understand what the landlord considers building standard as opposed to what could incur additional charges.

  5. Adherence to Laws and Regulations: The tenant improvement (TI) clause should necessitate that all improvements made by the tenant comply with all pertinent laws, insurance obligations, regulations, and building codes. This ensures legal compliance and aids in preventing potential legal complications, fines, or penalties in the future.

  6. Landlord's approval and control: Clear outline of the responsibilities of each party to complete the build-out in a timely and efficient manner. These responsibilities vary depending on the terms of the lease and which party is responsible for completing the work. Landlord approval and control over tenant improvements are typically mandated to protect the property, ensure compliance with local laws and codes, and prevent disruptions to other tenants.

  7. Restoration obligations: A restoration clause in a lease contract binds the tenant to return the premises to its original condition before the tenant's occupancy. Leaving this clause in a lease can lead to substantial costs for the tenant. A critical first step is to have your attorney remove the restoration clause from the lease entirely, thus preventing potential disputes and considerable financial burden for the tenant upon vacating the space.

  8. Delivery Date of Improvements: Given that construction timelines can sometimes be unpredictable due to unforeseen issues or delays, it's critical for the lease to outline contingencies if the improvement delivery date is not met. The lease might stipulate penalties, rent abatements, or even provide the tenant with the right to terminate the lease if the delay is substantial. Once a Certificate of Occupancy is secured, arranging for an early access period prior to the lease commencement date can be highly beneficial for the tenant. This enables the tenant to set up IT infrastructure, arrange furniture, or make other necessary preparations, thereby ensuring a seamless transition without disrupting business operations.


In conclusion, the Tenant Improvement (T.I.) clause is a critical component of a commercial lease agreement, offering a clear roadmap for how a commercial space can be modified to suit the tenant's specific business needs. It defines the landlord's and tenant's responsibilities, ensuring that all improvements align with building standards, legal requirements, and preserve the property's integrity. It's also a significant financial consideration, as it outlines who will cover the cost of improvements and under what conditions. With potential impacts on a tenant's operations, budget, and the overall usability of the space, understanding and negotiating the T.I. clause is a key step in securing a lease that supports the tenant's business objectives.

At WRA, we help our clients understand every angle from budgeting, costs, finishes, etc. When negotiating the T.I. clause, tenants can protect their interests, mitigate risks, and ensure their new space is delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner.

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