Free rent in a commercial lease is a time when the tenant occupies the space but does not pay rent, also called abatement. It is a concession on the part of the landlord to attract new tenants. In a market where you have a lot of vacancy, landlords are more likely to give free rent to attract tenants to their property. In a tight market, its more difficult to get. Typically landlords do not offer to give you free rent, you have to know when to ask for it and how much is reasonable to ask for.
In a retail scenario, when a retail tenant goes into a property there is usually a period of time when the tenant has taken occupancy, but is not open for business because they are building out the space. So there is free rent during this period. However, in the case of office and industrial leases, the free rent is more of an incentive that will help offset the costs of moving and money that you might put into the space.
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