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Essential Questions every gym owner should ask a landlord

Gym owners are not isolated from the various problems that plague other small businesses. We recently delivered a lecture directed toward trampoline parks regarding compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That type of gym does a lot with the disabled and access to facilities and activities. We don’t see this as much in cheer, gymnastics, and weightlifting gyms (like CrossFit and Power Lifting). However, the threat of an issue still exists.

A powerlifting gym owner reached out asking for our help with an ADA issue. A disgruntled client reported the gym owner to the City government and State Department of Justice to start an investigation. Sure enough, the building is not ADA compliant. So, the gym owner is now being forced to pay for updates. It looks like these updates could cost upward of $45,000.00. However, is it the responsibility of the gym owner to pay? Or should the landlord be on the hook for the updates to its building?

At this point, we can only rely on what the lease says. If the lease is silent, then the gym owner is on the hook, at least partially. So, what can you do to avoid problems like this? What if you are a new gym owner just about to sign your first commercial lease?

Be Your Own Advocate!

Navigating the complexities of commercial leases can be daunting for anyone, especially new business owners. To safeguard your business and avoid unforeseen legal complications, it’s crucial to ask the right questions before committing to a lease. Below, we outline key inquiries that can help you ensure that you head off issues like the one above.

1. ADA Compliance: Who Bears the Responsibility?

  • Ask the landlord, Is the building currently compliant with the ADA?
  • If not, who is responsible for making necessary modifications – the landlord or the tenant?
  • Is the landlord going to provide improvements, like adding bathrooms? If so, will the landlord assure that the upgrades or improvements are ADA compliant?

2. Fire and Safety Regulations: Clarity on Compliance

  • Ask the landlord, Can you provide recent proof of compliance with local fire codes?
  • In case of any fire code violations, who is accountable for addressing these issues?
  • Are there any specific fire safety requirements for a gym that I should be aware of?

3. Zoning and Use Permissions: Ensuring Operational Legality

  • Ask the landlord, Is the property zoned appropriately for a gym or fitness center?
  • Have there been any recent changes in zoning laws that might affect my business?
  • Are there any restrictions on the type of equipment or activities allowed in this space? What about noise?

4. Business Permits/License: Staying Ahead of Local Regulations

  • Ask the landlord, Are there any known issues with obtaining business permits for gyms in this area?
  • Have tenants faced challenges in the past regarding permit approvals for similar businesses?
  • Can you provide assurance that the space is eligible for all necessary business permits? Can I get out of the lease if the local government denies me a business permit?

5. Lease Terms and Clauses: Understanding Your Obligations

  • Ask the landlord, Are there any clauses in the lease that could affect my ability to operate a noisy gym?
  • Can we review any clauses related to maintenance, repairs, and compliance with laws together?
  • How flexible are the lease terms in case of regulatory changes affecting my business? Can I get out of the lease if a regulatory change prevents me from operating?

Prepare for the Worst

Securing the right lease terms is vital for the success and legal compliance of your gym. By asking these essential questions, you can better protect your investment and navigate the complexities of commercial leasing with confidence. Always consider seeking legal consulting from those of us familiarly with running a gmy business to review lease agreements and ensure they align with your business needs.

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