Can I make my landlord green my home?

Green Commercial Leases

As of 2009, a tenant can't actually force a landlord to green his or her rental property anywhere in the Untied States. Most states only require that the dwelling is habitable. You can always make a request, but landlords are in the business of making money. If it won't save them money, it won't be a priority. In cases where the landlord pays the utilities, you may have more of a fighting chance, but even then, it can be a tough sell because of the up-front costs.

Commercial real estate is another matter. While a company can't force its landlord to go green, there are an increasing number of government incentives to encourage them to do so. All over the world, green leases are becoming more commonplace. A leasing attorney in San Francisco states that about 50 percent of the leases his firm worked on from 2003 to 2008 contained green elements [source: CA Real Estate Journal]. In 2008, the Building and Owners Management Association (BOMA) released a green lease guide to help landlords include language relating to environmentally friendly management practices. BOMA also has Web seminars on its site that help explain what green building is all about [source: BOMA].

Green leases usually state provisions for what a tenant can do with his or her office. The tenants also may be forced to share the cost of an improvement on the building if it reduces their monthly energy consumption. And a landlord can even require the use of Energy Star appliances. In the world of real estate, almost everything is negotiable.

Here are a few reasons why a commercial landlord might want to go green:

  • Reduced energy consumption and waste production means cost savings
  • State and local incentives to fast track permits for green projects
  • Enhanced image for public relations
  • Grants that help pay for LEED certification process
  • Ability to charge higher rents
  • Tax credits and incentives for green building

Many cities in the United States require LEED certification on all municipal buildings, and Boston has a new law on the books requiring it for all buildings more than 50,000 square feet (around 4/600 square meters). As the green building trend moves forward, it will become the norm instead of the exception. Older inefficient buildings are already becoming less appealing to potential tenants, and eventually, landlords will be forced to reduce their carbon footprint in order to stay viable.