Follow Customary Square Footage Calculation Methods

Many commercial properties have more than one level, which will mean that there is at least one set of stairs. You may be wondering if you could include the stairs leading to, say, the dance studio in the square footage, and whether it’s customary, or even legal, to include stairs leading to a second-story office or retail property when calculating the square feet to be leased. What if the stairs are the only access to the leased area?

Although it is legal, it is not customary to include stairs when calculating square footage. The standard definitions of “floor area” do not include stair space; rather, stairs usually are seen as “common areas” because tenants are given a nonexclusive license to use stairways in common with the owner and other tenants in the building to enter and exit.

If the stairs are part of the public areas of the building, you will be hard-pressed to successfully make an argument to include the stairs as part of the leased floor space. However, if the stairs could be accessed only by a secured door that only the tenant has a key for, the answer may be different. But even if the stairway is the only access to a leased area, stairs shouldn’t be included in a space’s square footage for the same reason that an elevator and its surrounding area shouldn’t be included: They are common areas.

If you decide to include stairs in a space’s square footage, be prepared for a prospective tenant to object if it thinks that it will be responsible for repair and maintenance of the stairs even though it would be unable to secure the area, or that including the stairs may increase its proportionate share of common area maintenance and real estate tax contributions.