Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Equipment Leases - Don't Sing Those End of Lease Blues

Leasing is one of many financing tools available to help businesses fill their equipment needs. Leasing allows fixed rate financing and is usually accompanied with little or low up-front costs.

Most surprises, however, come at the end of the lease. By then it is too late to negotiate changes in the lease contract. The lease is "in place"--the customer has been making payments for some time period.

End of lease surprises can easily result in increased fees and automatic renewals.

There are nine things that businesses can do to avoid these surprises and minimize the risk for added costs and renewals.

1. Give Adequate End of Lease Notice: Give the leasing company adequate written end of lease notice. The most common notification period reads "no less than 60 days before the end of the lease." Sometimes notification requirements are as long as nine months before the lease ends.

2. No More--No Less Than: Occasionally, leases say customers must give notice no more than 120 days and no less than 90 days before lease end. The means the customer has only 30 days within which to give notice. Miss giving timely notice and the lease renews automatically with the total lease cost increasing. The automatic renewal adds as much as 12 lease payments.

3. Certified Mail: Send all notices to the leasing company via certified mail. Faxes and emails are not sufficient.

4. Start Early: Begin negotiations well in advance of the return date, especially if you plan to purchase the equipment.

5. Payments Due: Verify the number of remaining end of lease payments using internal company accounting records. Leasing company payoff may vary due to how the leasing company recognizes lease payment timing. Sometimes this happens if late payment penalties are involved.

6. Late Fees: Negotiate all late fees... just because you can and should.

7. Property Taxes: Check property tax assessments on the final invoice. Verify that the charges agree with your state, county and city tax rates. Sometimes tax rate errors are uncovered at the end of the lease. This is the customer's last opportunity to correct errors and receive refunds for tax rate errors.

8. Early Termination: If paying off the lease before the end of the original term, determine if discounts are applicable. Sometimes the lease language provides reasons for discounts. Check the default paragraph, the insurance paragraphs or end of lease section for discount justification.

9. Security Deposits: If the leasing company requires a Security Deposit at lease commencement, make sure the deposit is applied to the final payment or returned to your company at the end of the lease.

Leasing is one of many asset financing options available for companies. Not all leases are alike nor are lease contracts the same. When companies review leases thoroughly and negotiate them aggressively leases are tailored to fit company needs.

If companies do not review and negotiate leases frequently, they might consider retaining the services of an independent lease review specialist. These specialists assist companies in all phases of the lease selection, bidding and negotiation process. Their services save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars on every lease.

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