Landowners may choose the ground lease as a way to benefit an easy and risk-free investment vehicle and as a way to secure the long-term appreciation of the property. Sometimes a ground lease can put the lessor at risk. That is because the deal centers on the concept of sharing economic returns. The lessor becomes a partner of the lessee because the total rent is usually determined by the lessee’s net operating income or net cash flow. If the lessee does well, the lessor does too. However, if the lessee’s business is a loser, so is the lessor.

Therefore, the lessor must consider the financial feasibility of the project. Independent analysis should show that the project represents the correct improvement of the site and that the projected payments will actually be received by the lessor.

There are at least four things that a prospective land lessor should remember before entering into a transaction:

  • In most land lease transactions, the economic return to the lessor ultimately reflects the underlying performance of the real estate operated by the lessee.
  • The lessor’s evaluation of the deal must focus on the quantity of income projected pro forma but also must include a clear assessment of the likelihood of actual receipt of projected rent.
  • Because the conditions and complexities of a land lease can mask the risk associated with achieving the projected rent levels, accurate assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of the real estate is essential.
  • Land lease provisions must be tested against the current fee value of the land.