USPS Chooses to Withhold Formerly Public Lease Data
December 8, 2017
In an unexpected and unfortunate reversal of a longstanding policy, the United States Postal Service (the “USPS”) recently stopped publishing critical information about post office leases. If it goes unchallenged, the change in USPS policy will make unavailable information which has routinely been relied upon by lessors negotiating lease terms with the USPS. AUSPL will be working to reverse the new USPS policy and ensure that critical lease information is once again made publicly available.
For many years, the USPS has made available on the internet a database of information regarding post office leases and their most important economic terms. Included among the information the USPS provided were such items as a building’s age and size, and the type of postal facility operated from the building (e.g., a “main post office,” etc.). Among the important lease information provided were such things as the date of the most recent lease or renewal, the annual rent paid and rent paid per square foot, whether the USPS or the lessor is responsible for maintenance, whether the lease includes a tax reimbursement rider, and the number of options remaining.
The lease information formerly provided by the USPS was very important to lessors negotiating lease renewals with the USPS. It gave lessors a database of information about the terms in the leases for other post offices near their buildings. The information in the USPS lease database served as a starting point for lessors attempting to determine appropriate lease rates and other lease terms for their lease renewals.
As a service to its members, AUSPL even developed an automated “rent calculator,” which is available in the “Members Only” portion of AUSPL’s web site. The rent calculator allows AUSPL members to search for leased post office buildings near their buildings and automatically generate information about the terms of leases of such other buildings. The search results provide a starting point for lessors looking for guidance in negotiations with the USPS. The data used for the rent calculator search is the lease data the USPS formerly made publicly available.
Earlier this fall, the USPS changed the public database of leased postal facilities such that it no longer provides the economic or other terms of the leases under which the USPS occupies the buildings listed in the database. The public data now provides information about building locations and uses (e.g., type of facility), but omits information about rent, maintenance responsibility, tax reimbursement and other important economic information. In its current form, the information the USPS makes publicly available about leased postal facilities will be largely useless for purposes of postal lease negotiations.
However, AUSPL is in the process of examining options for restoring the important lease information the USPS formerly made available. AUSL contacted the USPS to register its disagreement with the USPS’s decision to withhold from the public critical lease data which has long been relied upon by lessors. Having received an unsatisfactory response from the USPS, AUSPL will now work with its allies in Congress and explore other legal avenues to have such public lease information restored. As this article is being posted, AUSPL is heading to Washington, DC to enlist the assistance of its many allies there to cause the USPS to reverse its ill-advised decision.
For the time being, AUSPL members can still access and use the rent calculator available in the “Members Only” section of AUSPL’s web site. However, the rent calculator relies upon the data formerly provided by the USPS. Therefore, as time goes on and more and more leases are renewed by the USPS and lessors, the data behind the rent calculator will become further out of date. Because of that, the rent calculator should be used carefully and as a starting point in lease negotiations.