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Double Net Lease: Meaning, How It Works & How it Compares

You’ve come to the right place if you’re a potential investor seeking insights into commercial properties. In this article, we’ll demystify the concept of double net leases, explaining what they are, how they work, and why they are a compelling option for savvy investors in the commercial real estate market. 

Whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned pro, understanding the nuances of double net leases and the distinctions from other net leases can be a game-changer in your investment strategy. 

So, let’s dive in and explore this lease structure, comparing it to other options to help you make informed decisions and maximize your returns in the dynamic world of commercial real estate.

What Is A Double Net Lease?

A double net lease, commonly called ‘net-net’ or ‘NN,’ is a lease arrangement in commercial real estate where tenants must pay property taxes and building insurance premiums in addition to their base rent. 

This structure transfers the financial burden of these expenses from the landlord to the tenant. However, landlords maintain accountability for structural operating expenses. Each month, the landlord collects the base rent and the additional payments for property taxes and insurance from the tenant.

Potential investors in commercial real estate should be well-acquainted with the double net lease because it offers a unique combination of benefits. These leases provide investors with a stable income stream as tenants assume responsibility for crucial expenses, leading to predictable cash flow. 

Additionally, they reduce financial risks related to fluctuating property taxes and insurance rates. Understanding the nuances of NN leases is vital for investors looking to optimize their real estate portfolio and make informed decisions in a competitive market.

How Does A Double Net Lease Work?

A double net lease places unique financial responsibilities on tenants. Unlike other lease types, tenants are accountable for property taxes and building insurance premiums in a double net lease, shifting these financial burdens away from the landlord. Consequently, landlords typically offer a reduced base rent in such leases. 

In commercial properties with multiple tenants, such as shopping malls, the costs for property taxes and other factors can be distributed proportionally among the tenants, further highlighting the versatility of NN leases.

Commercial property owners must stay informed about property tax payments, even if the tenant is officially responsible, to prevent potential payment issues and ensure the seamless operation of their real estate investments.

What Are The Benefits Of A Double Net Lease?

Understanding double net leases empowers investors to make informed decisions and optimize their commercial real estate investments in a competitive market. In a double net lease, landlords can enjoy two significant benefits:

  1. Increased Profit: With tenants taking on the responsibility for property taxes and building insurance premiums, landlords retain a higher portion of the rent as profit. This means a more substantial and predictable income stream, enhancing the overall financial viability of the property.
  2. Protection from Price Hikes: NN leases act as a shield against the impact of escalating property taxes and insurance rates. Since these costs are the tenant’s responsibility, landlords are better protected from the financial strain of sudden price hikes, ensuring more stable financial returns from their commercial property investments.

What Are The Downsides Of A Double Net Lease?

Like any investment option, double net leases have their downsides to consider, particularly for landlords:

  1. No Reduced Workload: While NN leases shift some financial responsibilities to tenants, landlords still need to collect payments and oversee property management. The workload may not be significantly reduced compared to other lease types.
  2. Maintenance and Repair Duties: Owning commercial real estate entails managing maintenance and repairs, which can be time-consuming and costly. These responsibilities remain with the landlord in NN leases, potentially impacting profitability.
  3. Risk of Unforeseen Expenses: Even though tenants cover certain expenses, landlords can still face unexpected costs related to property upkeep or unforeseen issues. These expenses can erode profits and require careful financial planning to mitigate potential risks.

How Do Double Net Leases Differ From Other Commercial Lease Types?

Commercial real estate leases defy simple categorization, as they come in diverse forms like NN leases, triple net leases, single net leases, and gross leases. 

These intricate legal documents exhibit unique nuances and details, often reflecting the circumstances under which they were drafted and the parties involved. 

While a lease may bear a label like double net, its specific stipulations reveal subtle distinctions upon closer examination. We’ve outlined the differences between various commercial real estate leases:

Double net lease vs a single net lease

A double net (NN) lease in commercial real estate requires tenants to handle property taxes and insurance costs, while a single net lease only mandates tenants to pay property taxes. 

However, tenants are not responsible for reimbursing landlords for insurance expenses in a single net lease. These distinctions highlight the importance of understanding the specific nuances of each lease type, as both can come with complexities that impact the financial dynamics between landlords and tenants.

Double net lease vs a triple net lease

Triple net leases go a step further than NN leases by obligating tenants to cover property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs. This fundamental difference underscores the varying degrees of financial burden placed on tenants in these lease structures, with triple net leases being the most comprehensive regarding tenant responsibilities for property-related expenses.

A property owner might prefer a double net lease over triple net leases in commercial real estate due to a desire for a slightly reduced level of tenant responsibility. 

In a double net lease, the landlord retains responsibility for property maintenance and repairs, which can alleviate some operational burdens and uncertainties associated with tenant-maintained properties in triple net leases. 

Net lease vs a gross lease

A gross lease, also known as a full-service lease, places the responsibility for covering all operating expenses on the landlord. In contrast, NN leases transfer property taxes and insurance obligations to the tenant.

While a gross lease may appear more tenant-friendly by sparing these insurance costs, they often come with higher base rents to account for the landlord’s additional financial responsibilities. 

NN leases offer potential advantages for landlords by providing more control over expenses and a potentially more predictable income stream, as tenants contribute directly to property-related costs.

Net lease vs a step-up or ground lease

Ground and step-up leases differ significantly from double net leases in commercial real estate. Step-up leases incorporate predetermined increases in rent, effectively shielding landlords from inflation or a booming market, making them advantageous for long-term agreements. 

On the other hand, ground leases permit tenants to enhance the property during the lease, but upon lease conclusion, the land and any improvements revert to the landlord. 

The choice between these lease types depends on whether a landlord values rent stability over potential property improvements and the long-term ownership of any enhancements.

In scenarios where property improvements or predetermined rent increases are not a priority, NN leases provide a straightforward option for commercial property owners.

When Would I Use A Double Net Lease?

When landlords negotiate commercial real estate leases, they confront various options to suit their preferences and property management styles.

A double net lease emerges as an ideal choice when property owners desire tenants to assume financial responsibility for property taxes and insurance but still want to manage the property actively. 

Commercial real estate represents a substantial investment, prompting some landlords to prefer maintaining the property themselves to ensure it meets their standards.

With a double net lease, landlords maintain control over property upkeep, aligning with their vision, while tenants contribute to vital expenses like property taxes. This balance enables property owners to exercise hands-on management while sharing certain financial responsibilities with tenants, making it a compelling choice for those seeking a more involved yet financially sustainable approach.

When Would I Not Use A Double Net Lease?

While double net leases come with benefits, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. For example, A triple net lease may be more suitable if you prioritize investment over hands-on property management.

NN leases entail substantial responsibilities, necessitating active property management. If you choose to manage the property yourself or hire a manager, it can impact your profits. 

While direct property management has advantages, if your resources are better allocated elsewhere, opting for a lease that places more responsibility on the tenant is advisable. This lets you focus on your broader investment portfolio or other ventures while the tenant assumes more property-related obligations.

What Are The Tips For Choosing Whether To Invest In A Double Net Lease?

When considering a double net lease property as a potential commercial real estate investment over other net leases, it’s essential to heed these valuable tips. Firstly, dive deep into the lease details. Each double net lease can differ significantly, so thoroughly understand all tenant and landlord obligations before purchasing. Be vigilant for any clauses that might unexpectedly increase your workload or expenses.

Secondly, closely examine the state of the property. Since you’ll be responsible for maintenance and repairs, conduct a thorough inspection to identify any immediate issues and anticipate annual maintenance costs. This diligence helps you project expenses accurately and avoid unforeseen financial burdens.

Lastly, gauge your commitment to property management. Due to the double net lease, estimate the time and effort required for hands-on management. Assess whether you can handle this responsibility effectively. If it seems overwhelming, explore triple net properties or consider budgeting for a professional property manager to ensure the property is well-maintained while you focus on other investment opportunities.

About The Author

Jesse Shemesh

With a wealth of experience in nurturing diverse commercial real estate investment portfolios across multiple markets, I actively engage in the development and execution of deals spanning all asset classes. My expertise lies in collaborating with strategic partners, including corporate real estate professionals, fund managers, developers, and investors, to source, identify, and entitle opportunities. At Point Acquisitions, we take pride in our unique, proprietary platform that specializes in property acquisitions, generating a steady stream of organic deal flow that sets us apart from the competition. As a seasoned professional in the real estate industry, I am dedicated to creating lasting partnerships and delivering exceptional results for all stakeholders.


Please note that Point Acquisitions is not a tax expert or tax advisor. The information on our blogs and pages is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal, tax, or accounting advice. Any information provided does not constitute professional advice or create an attorney-client or any other professional relationship. We recommend that you consult with your tax advisor or seek professional advice before making any decisions based on the information provided on our blogs and pages. Point Acquisitions is not responsible for any actions taken based on the information provided on our blogs and pages.

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