CAM (Common Area Maintenance) Overview
CAM or common area maintenance charges are an important element of the rent roll. As the name signifies, CAM charges refer to the expenses incurred by the Landlord on account of maintaining the common areas of the leased premises. Since these areas are common and shared by all tenants, landlords usually split the common area expenses amongst all the tenants. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, CAM is one of the most complex elements of the rent roll and it is extremely important from a tenant’s perspective to get it right. This is because there are various factors influencing the CAM charges right from how it is calculated to what elements are included therein. It is not uncommon for Landlords to overcharge their tenants when it comes to CAM expenses because of oversight or confusion regarding how the CAM expenses are to be calculated.
How are CAM charges calculated?
CAM charges are usually calculated on a pro-rata basis, meaning, the total CAM expenditure is divided amongst the tenants in the building based on the ratio of their leased space. For example, a tenant who has leased 2000 square feet in a building will pay a higher CAM amount than one who has leased 1000 square feet of space in the same building. Another factor that can affect the CAM charges’ calculation is the occupancy rate. Since the entire CAM expense is shared on a pro-rata basis among tenants, a higher occupancy rate translates to lesser CAM charges per tenant, as there are more tenants sharing the load.
What elements constitute CAM charges?
Usually, CAM charges include the costs associated with maintaining the common areas and facilities of the leased premises. This includes lobby areas, stairwells, elevators, parking lots (in some cases), etc., Generally, CAM charges don’t include any capital expenditure incurred with respect to the common areas, though they may be amortized by the landlord over a period of time.
Are CAM charges the same as operating expenses?
Though sometimes used interchangeably, CAM charges are not the same as operating expenses. The term, operating expense is much more vast and covers additional expense items apart from those included in under the CAM charges head. Examples include Taxes and insurance.
Are you being overcharged? Your lease has all the answers!
At the end of the day, the answers to all the questions regarding CAM lies in your lease. Your lease specifies everything you need to know about your CAM expense calculations such as,
What constitutes CAM in your case?
How are the CAM charges calculated?
Are there any specific exclusions to the CAM charges head?
To stay on top of your leases from the CAM charges perspective, you need to do two things. The first is obviously getting your leases abstracted. A lease abstract will provide you quick access to the CAM charges data that you need and, the second step is to get a CAM audit done annually. CAM audits and reconciliations by a reputed lease administration services provider can help you save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, especially if you are a tenant with leased premises across multiple locations. Plus, If there are any discrepancies in your CAM calculations, the lease administration company to which you have outsourced the CAM reconciliation work will be the one getting in touch with your landlord. In general, this scenario is better accepted by Landlords, as the lease administration company comes across as a more reliable, third-party than your own internal team when reaching out to your Landlord. Plus, lease administration companies specialize in this kind of communication and usually have a process or protocol which is generally well-received by the other party.