8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Giving up Your Office, and Options for Long Leases
by Barbara Griswold, LMFT
October 10, 2020
So, let’s say you think it will likely take 10-12 months minimum until a vaccine could be developed and widely distributed to everyone. Are you willing to pay rent for those months as a “placeholder,” so you have your office to come back to at that point?
2. How much do you love that particular office space?Think about how you feel about your office. How sentimentally attached are you to the space itself? Would you find it hard to part with it? Imagine moving all your items out and turning in the key. How would that feel? If you gave up the office and had to rent a different office space next year, how would that feel?
3. If the rent were lower, how would you feel? Would you keep the office?If so, try talking to your landlord about a rent reduction. Think carefully about how much of a reduction would make a difference to you. Go in with a proposal for a specific number.
4. Can you afford to pay the rent each month?If your income is diminished due to the pandemic or other reasons, even a reduced rent may make no sense. Keeping your office may be a luxury you can’t afford, no matter what your feelings are about it.3
5. Where are you in your career?If you are planning to retire in the near future, it may not make sense to pay months of rent on an unused office when you won’t have much time to use it, even after a vaccine.
6. When the pandemic is over, do you intend to see clients again in-person, or could you see yourself being happy and earning a good living doing an all-telehealth practice from home?
7. As I said in my last blog post, some plans may not continue to cover telehealth after the pandemic passes. This means clients currently covered by those plans would no longer be covered at all if you don’t have an office. If you go all-telehealth, can your clients afford to pay out of pocket to continue to see you?
8. Do the insurance plans you work with require you to have a physical office? Contact the plans you work with. Some health plans require network providers to have a physical office location, other than a home address. Also, the NPI Enumerator requires a physical office address. Read more about these topics at www.theinsurancemaze.com/nooffice
What if you have a long lease?
Many therapists (including me) are in the middle of a multi-year lease. What options do you have?
- Read the lease carefully. Ideally, go over it with an attorney. Look for a force majeure clause, which frees the renter from obligation “when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, epidemic or an event described by the legal term act of God, prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.” (Wikipedia) If there is no such clause, see if there is any provision for early termination.
- Ask the landlord to consider a rent reduction. Make the case that you aren’t sure you can keep paying rent at the current rate, and don’t want to be forced to break the lease. Propose a rate; It can help if you know nearby comparable office rents you can cite. In many areas, rents have been slashed, as landlords try to hold on to tenants.
- Some landlords are giving rent deferments, allowing you to pay less now, and pay more later in the lease (or extend the lease a little). Consider if this would be a good deal for you.
- Ask to convert to a month-to-month lease. This gives you the ability to reconsider each month if you want to keep paying rent.
- If the landlord won’t let you out of the lease, ask if s/he would be willing to advertise the space as “available,” and let you out of your lease if they (or you) are able to find someone else to lease it.
- Consider asking if the landlord would be willing to accept a lump sum to let you out of your lease. While it may be painful to write that large check (ex. equivalent to 3-4 months of rent), overall it might be cheaper than paying a year or more of rent for an unused office.
- Consider asking the landlord to move you into a less expensive office in their complex.
- Try finding a temporary subletter (or several) for your office on a month-to-month sublease if you think you might return.
Schedule your personal consultation with Barbara to help you make this big decision — go to www.calendly.com/barbgris.
Check out my other articles at www.theinsurancemaze.com/articles.