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What Negotiation Skills are Needed During the Lease Audit Process?

By Janet Forrest, MBA

Senior Auditor, Account Manager

When most people envision an auditor, they conjure up an image of an isolated individual hunched over multitudes of ledger books with one hand on a calculator or 10-key pad. While the goal of the lease auditor is to calculate, identify and recover savings, the vision of how they work is outdated. Interaction with landlords and agents is critical to success, and the negotiation skills of the lease auditor determine not only the ease of process but a client’s bottom line.

At Chelepis, we know that respect between the auditor and landlord can lead to many benefits, including a healthy working relationship among the parties involved. Negotiation skills are every bit as important to the lease audit process as good accounting techniques and a thorough knowledge of the commercial real estate industry. After all, what good is it to identify the issues that are not in compliance with the terms of the lease if the associated dollars are not recovered for the client? With that being said, there are certain skills to obtain in order to negotiate in favor of your client. Skills, developed through experience, that can improve your overall lease auditing process.

Evaluate your execution of communication. How you speak to someone is heavily influenced by how you feel. Our strong emotions can often impede effective communication, as most people have learned through trial and error. The best policy is to leave your emotions at the door; do not bring them to the negotiating table. Instead, bring a solid understanding of the issues to the table.

Know your BATNA, or Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Emotions, pride, and ego all get in the way of digging underneath your partner’s stated position to learn his or her interests: what they really want to achieve. Once both parties have explored and revealed their underlying concerns, it is time to explore options.

Brainstorming is a non-committal method of exploring options to maximize potential gains. In order to brainstorm effectively, you need to take each parties’ desires into consideration. While some ideas may turn out to be impractical, others will encourage further exploration. This process fosters effective communication from which creative solutions emanate.

Legitimize issues by referring to industry operating procedures, market standards or outside third-party opinions. Before committing to a proposed resolution to the issues, always compare it to your BATNA. If the proposed resolution is better than your BATNA, commit to the resolution; if your BATNA is better than the proposed settlement, be prepared to walk away from the table and exercise your BATNA.

The goal at the end of the negotiation session is to emerge with a fair and equitable solution (without defaulting to our BATNA) for all parties while maintaining a working relationship among the tenant, landlord, and auditor.

Our success is based on knowledge of how each occupancy dollar is consumed, calculated, and billed. We offer real estate industry experience from an operations, accounting, and engineering viewpoint; proven experience not offered by any other firm in the industry.


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