Posting for a friend...

There is a commercial property with a restaurant "we" lease. "We" have a vague 1-page commercial lease (no really!). There is a "no modification to building" clause but the walls need a paint job. We are getting blocked on signage changes (county realm not the landlord), and other expected and necessary maintenance like painting the walls.

The business name changed and we can't change the sign according to the landlord. There are more instances of similar behavior, documented. Rookie stuff, some of it embarrassing.

The current direction is to do as we need as if a normal triple-net lease under the understanding that judges tend to favor the tenant. We are reasonable people dealing with unreasonable situations.

We would prefer to not have confrontation (small town), avoid courts and arbitration, and get back to building the business.

The weak lease, non-standard communication or performance, and growing frustration with execution from the building owner dictate any move will exacerbate "our" problem. Should we get permission? Ask forgiveness? Fight it legally? We don't think there is a person-to-person amicable solution.

  • 1
    Where is this located? Laws differ in different places?
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 7, 2022 at 19:38
  • @ohwilleke rural Colorado.
    – Marc
    Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


I do a lot of land development work as a site design engineer. And a key component of a triple-net lease is that the tenant is essentially responsible for all costs associated with the property including property taxes, building insurance, and maintenance/repair costs. Because the tenant assumes these costs, the rent is typically cheaper.

From the landlord's perspective, this effectively means they have to do nothing and just receive a passive income stream. This is a really common means of income generation for land developers whom will assume the up-front costs associated with site and zoning permits to allow their tenants to then proceed on building whatever they need on the site. Depending on the site, these costs can run in excess of several hundred thousand upfront but net a return of a few million spread out over the course of a fully leased tenancy (15 years).

Assuming this is in fact a true triple net lease then they should simply proceed on making whatever improvements are necessary to the property for their business to succeed. This includes painting the walls, making whatever zoning applications are necessary for the signage, and any other repairs appropriate to facilitate the business' operation (i.e. don't ask for permission or forgiveness).

However, if their lease is either a double net or has some sort of odd clause that prohibits the tenant from making repairs then they're not really a triple-net anymore and they're going to need to figure out why the landlord is impeding necessary property improvements. On the face of things, this seems counter-intuitive to me because a tenant that's making improvements to my property is a tenant who is increasing my property's value.

As an aside, if the landlord is making this much trouble for them, it may be prudent to just break the lease and leave. Changing a sign is often a matter that requires zoning approval and while not hard to obtain, you often need the property owner's signature to make application to the zoning board; so if they're going to withhold it then it's going to be hard to run a business for ABC Business that has a sign for XYZ Shop.

  • Excellent analysis, very similar to my thinking. Clarification on the terms of the lease is #1, then your next decision is made for you. I agree with your points 100%, you would be shocked at the underlying "drama" that we walked into. We would break the lease, but...they undervalued rent by a few multiples. Signage: The change is on an existing, already zoned sign. So they are blocking the name change of the business. Not a new sign or new structure, just changing the name on the building from the old to the new business is a "problem".
    – Marc
    Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 17:16

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