What is common area maintenance (CAM) and why should you keep track of it?

Welcome to MRI Software’s exploration of a critical aspect of commercial property management: Common Area Maintenance (CAM). But what is Common Area Maintenance, and how does it intersect with real estate expense recoveries?

CAM encompasses the tasks and costs associated with maintaining shared spaces within a commercial property, a fundamental component of real estate management. Understanding the common area maintenance definition is vital for anyone involved in commercial real estate, whether landlords, tenants, or property managers.

Here at MRI Software, we specialize in innovative commercial property management software designed to simplify and optimize CAM and other complex real estate expenses. In this article, we will unravel the details of CAM – Common Area Maintenance, shedding light on its significance and demonstrating how our state-of-the-art solutions can transform the way you manage your commercial properties.

What is Common Area Maintenance (CAM)?

Understanding the operational intricacies of a commercial retail space requires comprehensive knowledge of various aspects, including Common Area Maintenance (CAM). But what is common area maintenance, and why is it so vital for commercial retail managers?

The common area maintenance definition is the process of maintaining shared spaces within a commercial property. These shared spaces typically include lobbies, parking lots, elevators, restrooms, and landscaped areas that are used by multiple tenants. CAM is essential for maintaining the aesthetic appeal and functionality of these common areas, thereby contributing to a comfortable and inviting environment for shoppers and clients.

CAM charges are usually included in the lease agreements between landlords and tenants, with costs being allocated based on the tenants’ proportional usage of the shared spaces. As a commercial retail manager, understanding what common area maintenance is helps you in the effective negotiation of lease agreements and in maintaining positive tenant relationships.

The precise services encompassed under CAM can vary but generally include cleaning, landscaping, snow removal, security, and routine repairs. Overlooking the importance of CAM can lead to a deteriorated shopping environment, impacting customer satisfaction and potentially affecting sales and reputation. Property owners and operators that don’t accurately track and reconcile CAM charges can end up losing money by not properly recouping their costs.

Common Area Maintenance is an integral component of commercial real estate management, directly influencing the overall quality and appeal of the retail environment. Commercial retail managers should carefully review CAM clauses in lease agreements and work collaboratively with landlords to ensure that all common areas are maintained to the highest standard. By doing so, they contribute to a flourishing and welcoming commercial space that attracts and retains customers.

How does Common Area Maintenance work?

Common Area Maintenance (CAM) is an essential aspect of managing commercial retail properties. It involves the upkeep of shared spaces such as hallways, restrooms, parking areas, and other common facilities that tenants and customers use.

The expenses related to CAM are typically borne by the tenants, allocated according to their proportionate share of the entire property. The landlord or property management company usually oversees the CAM, handling tasks such as cleaning, landscaping, security, and general maintenance. CAM charges are often clearly defined in lease agreements, outlining the exact services and the calculation method for each tenant’s share.

Understanding the mechanics of CAM is vital for retail managers, as it ensures the property’s appearance and functionality are maintained to high standards, promoting a vibrant and appealing retail experience.

What is included in Common Area Maintenance?

Common Area Maintenance (CAM) encompasses the care and upkeep of shared spaces within a commercial property. This includes responsibilities such as cleaning, landscaping, security, snow removal, and routine repairs of areas like lobbies, parking lots, and restrooms. CAM ensures that these common spaces remain functional, safe, and aesthetically appealing.

It’s important that you understand the difference between usable area and common area and how they both apply to CAM.

Usable area

In commercial real estate, usable area refers to the space exclusively occupied by a tenant, such as the interior of a retail store. When calculating Common Area Maintenance (CAM) charges, the usable area plays a significant role.

CAM expenses are typically split up among tenants based on their proportional usable area within the commercial property. By tying CAM costs to the usable area, it ensures that tenants contribute to maintaining shared spaces in alignment with the size of their specific leased premises.

Retail managers must be attentive to how the usable area is defined and measured in lease agreements, as it directly influences the CAM charges. Accurate understanding and calculation of usable areas foster transparent and fair distribution of costs, vital for maintaining harmonious landlord-tenant relationships.

Common area

Common areas within a commercial retail complex include shared spaces like lobbies, restrooms, walkways, parking lots, and landscaping areas that are accessible to all tenants and visitors. Common Area Maintenance (CAM) specifically focuses on the maintenance and upkeep of these common areas.

This includes regular cleaning, repairs, security, and other tasks that ensure these areas remain functional, tidy, and welcoming. The CAM charges, typically outlined in lease agreements, are allocated to tenants based on a defined method, often linked to their proportionate share of the total space.

Including common areas as part of CAM ensures that all tenants contribute to maintaining these shared facilities. For commercial retail managers, comprehending the scope of CAM and its inclusion of common areas is fundamental to effectively managing property expenses and ensuring the continuous appeal and functionality of the commercial environment.

What are CAM reconciliations?

Common area maintenance reconciliations are an integral aspect of managing commercial properties, especially in retail environments. This process ensures that the actual CAM expenses align with the estimated charges that were passed on to tenants throughout the lease term.

Tenant responsibilities for CAM charges are typically outlined in the lease. Depending on the type of lease, tenants will either be required to pay specific expenses or a flat sum annually. These charges are then prorated and billed to the tenants on a monthly or quarterly basis. At the end of the year, a reconciliation process is undertaken to compare the charges against the actual expenses incurred.

If the actual CAM costs were higher than estimated, tenants may be billed for the difference. Conversely, if the actual costs were lower, tenants might receive a credit or refund for the overpayment. The reconciliation process requires a detailed review of all invoices and expenditures related to common area maintenance, ensuring accuracy and transparency.

CAM reconciliations can be complex and may lead to disputes if not handled properly. It is vital for retail managers and landlords to maintain clear communication and provide detailed documentation of all CAM-related expenses. This collaborative approach enhances trust and minimizes conflicts, resulting in smoother relationships between landlords and tenants, and assuring that common areas are consistently maintained to the highest standards.

What happens when CAM fees are inaccurate?

Inaccurate Common Area Maintenance fees can lead to conflicts between landlords and tenants. When CAM fees are either overestimated or underestimated, it disrupts the budgeting process for tenants and can cause financial strain. Overcharges may lead to tenant dissatisfaction and potential legal disputes, while undercharges could result in unexpected bills for tenants at reconciliation time. In either scenario, relationships may be strained, and the credibility of the property management team may be questioned.

Accurate CAM calculations are essential for maintaining harmonious relationships and ensuring that shared spaces within the commercial property are maintained appropriately.

Is Common Area Maintenance considered as rent?

Common area maintenance charges are typically separate from rent but are closely related in commercial lease agreements. While rent covers the cost for the exclusive use of a tenant’s specific space, CAM charges are allocated for the maintenance and upkeep of shared areas used by multiple tenants. These charges are often outlined explicitly in the lease and may be billed separately or together with the rent. Even though CAM is not considered rent in the traditional sense, it is a regular and obligatory financial responsibility for tenants, much like the rent itself.

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At MRI Software, we’ve helped lots of commercial real estate businesses speed up the CAM reconciliations process by optimizing their systems and workflows. To find out more about how we can help, contact us today.


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