There are many approaches to starting the conversation, including:
1) Explain to the property owner the hardships that your business has suffered due to the pandemic; for example, whether you’ve shut down entirely or reduce service. One of the property owner’s first questions may be if you have applied for assistance under the CARES Act. Be ready to tell the property owner if you have, or why you have not;
2) Acknowledge that this is an unprecedented situation and that you would like to collaborate with the property owner to find a solution;
3) Propose terms that you would be willing to accept;
4) Ask the property owner for confirmation that the property owner won’t issue any default notices (for nonpayment of rent or otherwise) during the period of the pandemic restrictions.
If you are thinking of telling the property owner that you won’t pay any rent, you may want to talk with an attorney first. Do not send a letter like the Cheesecake Factory, telling all of its property owners, including malls, that it would not pay rent in April. Cheesecake Factory is now likely facing lawsuits. Similarly, the property owner may take this as advance notice that you plan to breach the lease. Some leases provide that a threat to breach the lease puts the tenant in default. If your lease has this type of provision, the property owner may decide that your notice that you won’t pay any rent puts you in default. The property owner may then be able to exercise its remedies under the lease.
If you specifically cannot pay all or part of your rent because of Covid-19, instead call your landlord and follow the directions above about Governor Brown’s “no evictions” order for non-residential leases. In addition, you may send a letter with the same information, following the notice requirements in your lease. However, don’t just say you won’t pay rent; provide the required documentation and negotiate to make partial payments if you are able.
(Source: eater.com/2020/3/24/21192792/restaurants-cant-pay-rent-property owners-lease-covid-19-coronavirus)