The Changing Roles of Lease Administration Professionals

by Paul Kinney, NRTA Executive Director

The role of today’s lease administration professional has changed significantly in recent years, creating challenges for lease administrators and the companies that employ them. These professionals are not the “lease administration workers” of yesterday. In fact, they’re not the lease administration professionals of even five years ago.

The role of the lease administrator has been shaped by the recession and its aftermath, evolving technology, and an improving economy. The shift in responsibility and required skills is the big news. The role has grown from general team support and paperwork processing. Over the past couple years many lease administrators have been empowered to make decisions. Having strong business management and project management skills seem to be the direction the position is moving towards.

That being said, now more than ever, this new generation of lease administration super pros rely on access to a professional resource to study the strategy behind dependable best practices, and solution-building ideas. The National Retail Tenants Association (NRTA) is meeting this challenge. Not surprisingly, the NRTA curriculum offers an education track devoted to professional development skills a lease administration professional must acquire.

There’s been a lot of talk about retailers and commercial real estate tenants making do with less staff, which has become the new reality. This means working in an environment in which a retailer is in an aggressive expansion mode with pressure to improve earnings each quarter. The additional sites must contribute to value, so that means that each member of the team will have to cover more and more locations. How? What processes do you need to modify? How can you continually produce additional findings with more locations and fewer staff?

There is also more of an emphasis on teamwork. In the past, a lease administrator typically reported to one manager. Today, there may still be one official boss but the lease administrator likely interacts regularly with staff specialists representing a diverse number of business disciplines from within an organization. More often lease administrators are expected to take leadership roles. They are supervising peers, spearheading projects, and reviewing negotiation elements. Most importantly they are challenged to ensure that the conflicting/confusing language of a lease has been modified to insure that discrepancies no longer occur in the future. This shift from purely assistant to a managerial role has happened relatively quickly.

Lease administration professionals are being utilized to manage projects, manage direct reports, and even make decisions on behalf of their company on a more routine basis. With or without a title that accurately reflects the job function, the role has changed. No longer a 9-5 support position, lease administrators are now a business partner to the executive, and in most cases, responsible for a much greater role in coordinating the execution of lease obligations.

The requirements for lease administration jobs have expanded in recent years and employers are seeking versatile administrative professionals who can ‘wear many hats’ within an organization. At the same time, use of advanced technology has placed new demands on organizations, and has accelerated decision-making. The result is a more dynamic and faster-paced work environment. As an example, a lease administrator must wrestle with the issue of co-tenancy. One must determine if it is material or is it an excuse to cover poor business decisions? Is the true intent of co-tenancy to create a true marketplace or to shut out competition? Today’s lease administrator must understand why some companies insist on co-tenancy while others demand exclusives; and how they’re going to monitor situations in these days of fast entry and exit from the marketplace. They are required to help top management understand a true replacement tenant: To answer the question…“is a school equivalent to a supermarket?”

Need For Skill Development

Today’s lease administration professional must have access to industry knowledge. For the past 20 years the NRTA has been the singular industry resource fulfilling this skill set. The availability of 50+ “how to” presentations and numerous small group workshops, along with forums promoting candid peer-to-peer networking, makes the NRTA’s Annual Conference a must-attend for anyone within the lease administration field. The conference is a meeting place for practitioners to gain knowledge and interact with the top talent in the industry.

Education Has A Value

The need to better prepare people for work is very real and urgent. The value of education is fundamental as retailers and other commercial real estate tenants strive to improve their leasing profile and maintain quality landlord relationships. In practice, there is no better place to gain the hands-on understanding of important issues necessary to manage a property portfolio and move the lease administration obligations along a constructive path. Education, the NRTA way, encourages sharing of ideas and proven solutions. It encourages practitioners to become contributing members of a profession by teaching morals, ethics, and sound skill sets; thereby improving how we not only exist but succeed in this high-pressure field.