Lease Accounting: When Early Access is Granted to Part of a Building at First, then the Rest Later

George Azih Lease Accounting, FASB Topic 840

Today’s article is a response to a question we received about calculating straight-line rent. We decided to write an article about it because it is a very common scenario that the vast majority of companies account for incorrectly.

 *editor’s note, 3/5/18, this article was originally published 11/22/16. We have updated the article for accuracy and timeliness. Additionally we have included clarification for a question from a reader like you.

The question is as follows:


We have a lease with a landlord. While construction is taking place, the landlord lets us use a smaller space during the construction period, and only charges us for partial rent during that period. My question is whether or not we should include the early occupancy period / construction period in order to calculate straight-line rent. In other words, should the full lease term include the early occupancy period / construction period?"

This is a VERY complicated issue, but we will simplify it in today’s blog. The complexity here is not just when you start straight-lining the lease, but what amounts you straight-line, AND when. The simple answer to the question is yes, the lease term should include the early occupancy period where the tenant is granted access to the smaller space. (To read our blog that explains when to start straight-lining a lease, click here).


One of our readers, a Director of Finance and Accounting, asked to clarify about partial square footage:

“In your example about early access, the tenant was using partial square footage during construction. What if we aren't occupying any part of the building during the construction period but the lease is signed?”

The answer: For accounting purposes, the lease does not start until you have possession of the asset. Therefore, you will not start accounting for the lease until you are in possession even if the lease has been signed.

Now let’s get to the complex part, what amounts do you straight-line?

Under current lease accounting rules, the FASB requires that if rents increase because the tenant gets access to additional property, then rent expense should be allocated proportionally to the fair value of the additional property. Sound complicated? Sure. Well, as we always do here at LeaseQuery, let’s simplify it with an example:


Example: Assume a tenant signs a 10-year lease with a landlord commencing on July 1, 2016 and ending on June 30, 2026. The lease is for a building with a total of 100,000 SF. Significant improvements are required to get the building ready for the tenant’s use, so the landlord allows the tenant to use 10,000 SF starting from January 1, 2016.

Per the lease agreement, occupancy is as follows: From January 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016, the tenant will occupy only 10,000 SF of the building (early occupancy period/construction period).  From July 1, 2016 (the commencement date per the lease document) through June 30, 2026, the tenant will occupy the entire building.

Payment schedule is as follows: From January 1 through March 31, 2016, rent is fully abated (no rent payments in those three months). From April 1, 2016 through June 30, 2016, rent is $21/SF (or $17,500/month) for the 10,000 SF occupied. From July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017, rent is $24/SF (or $200,000/month) for the full 100,000 SF occupied. Thereafter, rent increases by 3% annually every July 1.   

Assume the following:

1. This is an operating lease

2. This is not classified as a sale leaseback transaction

3. Because it is in the same building, each SF in the first 10,000 occupied is deemed to have the same fair value as each SF in the 100,000 building.

4. The Tenant does NOT have access to the other 90,000 SF during the construction period. This is a very important point, and next week’s blog will address why and how this can change the entire accounting treatment.

Before we get to the answer, we would like to stress that if you have any questions about lease accounting, you can either leave a comment below at the end of this post, or drop us a note at

We at LeaseQuery are not just passionate about lease accounting. We’re not just in love with lease accounting either. We are obsessed with it. This obsession is reflected in our software and our client service (don’t take our word for it, just ask our clients).

As a result, we welcome any comments or questions you have. Who knows, we might feature your question in our next blog, and address it in detail with comprehensive examples, as we are doing here. Now let’s get to the analysis.

Take the Free Capital vs. Operating Lease Test

The first step is to calculate the total lease payments. Per schedule 1 below, our total lease payments for this lease is $27,565,810.

 Lease Accounting Schedule 1 early access

We now have to allocate the total payment between the first 10,000 SF and the remaining 90,000 SF. Because the fair values are equal (assumption 3), we just use a percentage allocation based on the weighted average SF occupied each period. See schedule 2 below:

Lease Accounting Schedule 2 early access

The schedule above is calculated as follows: In the first 6 months, the company occupies 10,000 SF, so the average occupancy over a year is 5,000SF. As a result, the expense allocated to the first 10,000 SF in the first 6 months is 137,143 (calculated as 5,000 divided by 1,005,000 multiplied by the total payments of 27,565,810). The expense calculated in the next year (July 2016 through June 2017) is 2,742,867 (calculated as 100,000 divided by 1,005,000 multiplied by 27,565,810).

On the income statement, there will be 6 months of expense of 22,857 (which is 137,143 divided by 6). There will also be 120 months of expense of 228,572 (calculated as 2,742,867 divided by 12).

Now let’s take some time to discuss journal entries. In January 2016, the journal entry is as follows:

Dr Rent Expense     22,857

Cr Deferred rent     22,857

To record straight-line expense and deferred rent (free rent)

Note that because no cash is paid in January 2016, the only credit is to deferred rent.


In April 2016 (the first time the company actually pays rent), the journal entry is as follows:

Dr Rent Expense     22,857

Cr Cash                     17,500

Cr Deferred Rent     5,357

To record straight-line expense, cash paid and deferred rent for the difference.


In July 2016 (the first month the company occupies the remaining 90,000SF), the journal entry is as follows:

Dr Rent Expense     228,572

Cr Cash                     200,000

Cr Deferred Rent     28,572

To record straight-line expense, cash paid and deferred rent for the difference.

There you have it; a detailed explanation of the accounting treatment for a lease when early access is granted to only a portion of the leased asset. 

As always, we write detailed blogs like this to demonstrate that our experts at LeaseQuery are not just real estate professionals, but also lease accounting experts. Trust us, there’s a difference. Our clients have unlimited access to our accounting professionals, and we consult with them on complex lease accounting issues.

We understand the challenges faced not just by real estate and equipment leasing professionals, but also the accounting departments supporting both groups. Our lease management software reflects our expertise.

If you liked this post, consider reading the following:

Key Differences Between Current GAAP and The New Lease Standard

About LeaseQuery: LeaseQuery is lease management software that helps companies manage their leases. Rather than relying on excel spreadsheets, our clients use LeaseQuery to get alerts for critical dates (renewals, etc), calculate the straight-line amortization of rent and TI allowances per GAAP, provide the required monthly journal entries (for both capital and operating leases) and provide the commitment disclosure reports required in the notes and the MD&A. Contact us here.

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