The following is provided as a simple explanation of common leasing arrangements within a small business transaction. It is not intended to provide legal advice.
The New Lease
A new lease is created generally when the prior lease has expired or is about to and when there are going to be substantial changes to the existing lease. A new lease would be executed between the purchaser of the business and the landlord. It is a new document either drafted by an attorney or used in a standard form that is available at stationery stores and in many books. A new lease involves negotiations between the owner or purchaser of the business and the landlord.
A sub-lease is nothing but a lease within a lease. For example, if the seller of a business is permitted to sub-lease the premises, he or she, as far as a new owner is concerned, is the landlord. In this case, the actual landlord is still dealing with the seller and has no relationship with the buyer. Obviously, the seller needs the permission of the landlord or lessor to assign or sub-lease.
The Assignment of the Existing Lease
This is the most common form of allowing a buyer the use of the premises in which the business is located. In an assignment, the seller is “assigning” all rights to the existing lease to the new buyer. Once the assignment is executed, the seller usually has no more rights in that lease. However, in most assignments, the landlord reserves “all rights” in the lease. In other words, the seller, who may be a tenant or an assignee, is still responsible to the landlord if the buyer does not perform.