What Is a Triple Net Lease (NNN)?

A triple net lease (triple-net or NNN) is a lease agreement on a property whereby the tenant or lessee promises to pay all the expenses of the property, including real estate taxes, building insurance, and maintenance. These expenses are in addition to the cost of rent and utilities. In contrast, in standard commercial lease agreements, some or all of these payments are typically the responsibility of the landlord.

NNNs are just one type of commercial property net lease. A single net lease requires tenants to pay property taxes in addition to rent, and a double net lease typically tacks on property insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • With a triple net lease (NNN), the tenant agrees to pay the property expenses such as real estate taxes, building insurance, and maintenance in addition to rent and utilities.
  • Triple net leases are commonly found in commercial real estate.
  • Triple net leases tend to have lower rents because the tenant assumes ongoing expenses that would otherwise be the responsibility of the property owner.
  • Other net leases are a single net lease, in which the tenant pays property taxes, and a double net lease, which includes property taxes and property insurance.
  • Triple net leased properties have become popular investment vehicles for investors because they provide low-risk, steady income.
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Understanding Triple Net Leases (NNN)

In commercial real estate, a net lease is a lease in which the tenant is required to pay a portion, or all, of the taxes, fees, and maintenance costs for a property.

If a property owner leases out a building to a business using a triple net lease, the tenant is responsible for paying the building's property taxes, building insurance, and the cost of any maintenance or repairs the building may require for the term of the lease. Because the tenant is covering these costs, which would otherwise be the responsibility of the property owner, the rent charged in the triple net lease is generally lower than the rent charged in a standard lease agreement. The capitalization rate, which is used to calculate the lease amount, is determined by the creditworthiness of the tenant.

Other Net Leases

Triple net leases NNNs are just one type of commercial net lease.

Double net (NN) leases are also common in commercial real estate. In a lease like this, the tenant pays two instead of three obligations: property taxes and insurance premiums in addition to the rent. The base rent— payable for the space itself—is generally lower because of the additional expenses the tenant must bear. All maintenance costs, on the other hand, remain the responsibility of the landlord, who pays for them directly.

Single net (N) leases are not as common. Here, the landlord transfers a minimal amount of risk to the tenant, who pays just the property taxes.

Special Considerations

Triple net leased properties have become popular investment vehicles for investors seeking steady income with relatively low risk. Triple net lease investments typically consist of a portfolio of three or more high-grade commercial properties fully leased by a single tenant with existing in-place cash flow. The commercial properties could include office buildings, shopping malls, industrial parks, or free-standing buildings operated by banks, pharmacies, or restaurant chains. The typical lease term is for 10 to 15 years, with built-in contractual rent escalation.

Commercial property is real estate that is used for business activities or profit-generating purposes. It usually refers to buildings that house businesses, but can also refer to land used to generate a profit, as well as large residential rental properties.

The benefits for investors include long-term, stable income with the possibility of capital appreciation of the underlying property. Investors can invest in high-quality real estate without management concerns like vacancies, improvement costs, or leasing fees. When the underlying properties are sold, investors can roll their capital into another triple-net-lease investment without paying taxes through a 1031 tax-deferred exchange.

Investors in triple net lease investment offerings must be accredited with a net worth of at least $1 million excluding the value of their primary residence or $200,000 in income ($300,000 for joint filers). Smaller investors may participate in triple net lease real estate by investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs) that focus on such properties in their portfolios.

Is a Triple Net Lease a Good Idea?

For both tenants and landlords, triple net leases can offer some benefits. A tenant has more freedom with their structure; they can customize their space for more brand uniformity without the capital investment of a purchase. Another advantage is that these leases tend to be quite flexible: caps to tax increases, insurance increases, etc. For the landlord, triple net leases can be a reliable source of income and have very few overhead costs. The landlord also does not have to play an active role in the management of the property.

Can You Negotiate a Triple Net Lease?

With a triple net lease, almost all responsibilities fall on the tenant. The tenant is responsible for paying rent, as well as all overhead costs associated with owning the property: taxes, insurance, operating expenses, utilities, etc. As a result, the base rental amount can become a key negotiating term. Because the tenant is taking on the risk of the landlord's overhead, they may be able to negotiate a more favorable base rental amount. Also, in some cases, tenants can negotiate what aspects of repair costs and/or utilities the landlord is responsible for.

Do I Have to Worry About Paying Net Lease Obligations on the Apartment I Rent?

Probably not. Net leases are most commonly used in commercial real estate and not for residential units. Residential tenants may be required to pay some or all of their utilities, and will often be encouraged to purchase their own renter's insurance. A residential landlord, however, would typically pay for the property and liability insurance and real estate taxes.

How Do You Calculate a Triple Net Lease?

There are various ways that the amount of a triple net lease can be calculated. Sometimes landlords will add up all the property taxes, insurance, maintenance expenses, and common area expenses for a building and divide the total by 12. This number is the monthly cost. This process is simplified when only one tenant is leasing a building. The monthly base rental amount is typically calculated based on a rate per square footage.

What Is the Landlord Responsible for in a Triple Net Lease?

The tenant is responsible for most expenses related to a commercial property with a triple net lease. However, the landlord may be responsible for the roof and the structure, and sometimes the parking lot.