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Coronavirus: how to negotiate with your landlord(s)

With this short piece, I hope to contribute to help individuals and organizations in China, which need to reduce fixed costs to face the dive in revenues created by covid-19, to negotiate better terms with their landlords.

1. Critical research: do your homework. What does your local government say? What does your lease say? What about MAC and force majeure? What is your landlord’s decision-making process? You may have to consult your lawyer.

2. Mission & Purpose: ask yourself what it will do for your landlord to agree to adjust your rent. It might be that they will keep you as a tenant with a history of on-time payment and a potential for growth. It might be that their portfolio’s vacancy rate will be kept low. How can keeping a AAA tenant help them maintain their portfolio’s rating? And so forth.

3. Massive rapport: it is not you against them, it is you and them engaged in a mutual effort to bring about an agreement to resolve together a situation which concerns everybody. Start with empathy, step in THEIR shoes.

4. Project Accelerate: Help the landlord see with numbers how they will benefit from keeping you (possibly in exchange for a new, longer lease, with better conditions for you) vs. losing you as a tenant and having to chase tenants in a VUCA market.

5. Questions are the answer: carefully craft your questions, not only to get answers, but to help your landlord see the problems that you see, build the vision of what they would miss without your proposed solution, and how they would benefit from at least hearing you out. Remember: if you say it they can doubt you, if they say it it’s true.

6. Think right toward people: to get them interested in your story, be interested in their story first. Genuinely. How are they impacted by the situation? What are the human dimensions for them? Focus on the “how are you?” not on the “how much are you?”. You will not touch their heart with dry data.

7. Move in increments: 一步一步, one step at a time. The journey of 10,000 li starts with the first step. What does your ideal first step look like? What about theirs? If you don’t know, ask them.

8. Build your alternatives: launch a survey of availabilities in your area. Use the best real estate agents. This can be done from your home office, and the information you get will give you the strength and confidence you need to approach these critical negotiations.

9. Invite the No: they have the right to say No to your proposed solution, as well as you have the right to say No (under the conditions of your lease contract) to staying in their premises.

10. Plan your next move: what will you do if they are open to a solution, what will you do if they are not. Never enter a negotiation meeting without a clear vision of what you will do next.

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