In the real estate business, it’s no secret in Manhattan that when you get out into the boroughs or suburbs, the quality of the landlords changes quite dramatically. It’s not true of all landlords, but there is a definite mindset that begins to take hold as soon as you cross the Hudson or East River: Tenants are a necessary evil, not valued customers.
As a tenant representative broker, the landlord is an important consideration; the landlord provides a multitude of services, including security, construction, elevator service, electric, cleaning, and maintenance. This is the background from which I am approaching a particular client’s final deliberations on two properties: A Tale of Two Landlords.
Property A is in a nice location, has curb appeal, and is generally a building people want to work in. My client will likely not have any trouble attracting talent, and his sales team will be able to use the location to impress potential clients.
The downside to Property A is that the landlord is completely unresponsive to his tenants’ needs. Calls for maintenance go unanswered, and as beautiful as the lobby and public places are, a flickering light is likely to stay that way.
Property B’s owner is very conscientious, puts money into the building, and is responsive to maintenance requests. He aims to make his relationship with his tenants a positive one by doing such things as maintaining a safe lobby floor and clean bathrooms.
The downside to Property B is its appearance. It’s not as new and crisp as Property A, so the sales staff will not be as likely to dazzle prospective clients with a trip back to the office. Everything else about it, including internet access and electrical supply, goes above and beyond code and industry standards. The landlord for Property B views his building as an investment that must be kept up, and small improvements are made year round. Property B has little vacancy.
From my perspective as the tenant representative broker, I'd rather put a tenant in a building with a landlord that's going to be responsive, helpful to the tenant, and who wants the tenant to prosper in their building—as opposed to a landlord who's going to be antagonistic toward the tenant for asserting the rights agreed upon in the lease. Even if the space is gorgeous, if you have to fight for every little thing that the landlord is obligated to do for you, there comes a time when the negatives outweigh the positives, and I'd rather my client be in a space that may not be quite as nice, but with a better landlord.
It's an issue that comes up periodically, and my job as a tenant representative broker is to explain to the tenant what the potential problems will be with one landlord over another. My obligation is to warn them and make sure they understand what they're getting themselves into. Ultimately, it is the tenant’s decision—and business considerations often outweigh the annoyance of a slacking landlord.
George E. Grace
G.E. Grace & Company, Inc.
232 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016