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Tenant Improvement (TI) allowances play a crucial role in commercial real estate leases, providing tenants with the funds needed to customize and improve their leased space to meet their specific business needs. However, understanding how TI allowances are allocated between landlords and tenants can be complex and may vary depending on the terms of the lease agreement. In this blog post, we’ll demystify TI allowance allocation and explore what landlords typically pay for and what tenants are responsible for in commercial real estate leases.

1. Landlord-Paid Tenant Improvements: Landlords typically cover the costs of certain basic tenant improvements that are necessary to make the leased space suitable for occupancy. These may include:

  • Base building improvements: Landlords are generally responsible for providing a base building shell, including essential infrastructure such as walls, floors, ceilings, HVAC systems, and plumbing/electrical connections.
  • Building code compliance: Landlords are often responsible for ensuring that the leased space complies with building codes and regulations, including accessibility requirements and safety standards.
  • Structural modifications: Landlords may cover the costs of structural modifications or alterations necessary to accommodate the tenant’s space layout or configuration, such as adding or removing walls or partitions.



2. Tenant-Paid Tenant Improvements: Tenants are typically responsible for funding tenant-specific improvements or upgrades that go beyond the landlord’s standard offerings. These may include:

  • Customized build-outs: Tenants may incur costs for customizing their leased space to meet their specific business requirements, such as installing specialized fixtures, finishes, or equipment.
  • Interior finishes: Tenants are usually responsible for selecting and installing interior finishes such as flooring, paint, wall coverings, and lighting fixtures to match their branding or aesthetic preferences.
  • Furniture and furnishings: Tenants may need to furnish their leased space with office furniture, fixtures, and equipment, which are generally not covered by the landlord’s TI allowance.
  • Specialized infrastructure: Tenants may be responsible for installing or upgrading specialized infrastructure or systems unique to their business operations, such as IT/networking infrastructure, security systems, or specialized equipment.

3. Negotiating TI Allowance Allocation: The allocation of TI allowance between landlords and tenants is typically negotiated as part of the lease agreement and may vary depending on factors such as market conditions, lease term, tenant creditworthiness, and the extent of improvements required. Landlords may offer a lump sum TI allowance or a per-square-foot allowance based on the size of the leased space, while tenants may seek to maximize their TI allowance to cover as much of their improvement costs as possible.

4. Strategies for Maximizing TI Allowance: Tenants can employ various strategies to maximize their TI allowance and minimize out-of-pocket expenses for tenant improvements:

  • Prioritize essential improvements: Focus TI allowance funds on essential improvements that directly impact business operations or tenant comfort, such as functional layout enhancements or HVAC upgrades.
  • Negotiate favorable lease terms: Negotiate lease terms that provide a generous TI allowance, favorable reimbursement terms, and flexibility in TI expenditure timing to accommodate business needs.
  • Explore alternative funding sources: Consider alternative funding sources such as tenant improvement loans or equipment leasing to supplement TI allowance funds and spread improvement costs over time.

Conclusion: In conclusion, understanding how TI allowance allocation works is essential for both landlords and tenants in commercial real estate lease negotiations. By clarifying what landlords typically pay for and what tenants are responsible for in terms of tenant improvements, stakeholders can navigate lease agreements more effectively and ensure that tenant improvement projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Based in Alexandria, Louisiana, Justin Giallonardo is a skilled commercial real estate and construction professional, a dedicated community member, and a loving family man.