September 23, 2023 in Tenant Improvements

Tenant Improvement vs. Leasehold Improvement: Understanding the Differences

Tenant Improvement

In the realm of commercial real estate, two essential terms often arise – Tenant Improvement and leasehold improvement. While they share similarities, they serve distinct purposes and are critical to understanding for both tenants and landlords. This article will explore the differences between tenant improvements (TI) and leasehold improvement (LHI), shedding light on their unique characteristics and significance.

What are Tenant Improvements?

Tenant improvements, commonly referred to as TI, are alterations, modifications, or additions made to a leased commercial space by the tenant. When a business or individual leases a property for their use, they might find that the existing layout or design doesn’t meet their specific needs. In such cases, the tenant can negotiate with the landlord to implement custom changes to the space, tailoring it to suit their business requirements.

Tenant improvements (TIs) include a wide range of alterations, modifications, and upgrades made to a leased commercial space by the tenant. These improvements are intended to tailor the space to the specific needs and requirements of the tenant’s business operations. Tenant improvements can encompass various aspects of the leased property, ranging from simple cosmetic changes to more significant structural alterations. Some common examples of tenant improvements include:

Interior Modifications

Rearranging the space layout to create functional work areas, offices, or meeting rooms.


Installing walls or partitions to divide the space into different sections or rooms.

Electrical and Lighting

Upgrading the electrical systems and installing custom lighting fixtures to suit the tenant’s needs.


Replacing or installing new flooring materials, such as carpets, tiles, or hardwood, to enhance the aesthetics and functionality.

Painting and Decor

Adding fresh coats of paint and decorative elements to reflect the tenant’s brand or style.

HVAC Systems 

Upgrading or installing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

Restrooms and Amenities

Renovating or adding restroom facilities and other amenities to comply with accessibility standards.

Technology Infrastructure

Incorporating IT infrastructure, cabling, and networking to support the tenant’s technological requirements.


Implementing soundproofing measures to minimize noise disruptions within the space.

Security Enhancements

Installing security systems, access controls, and surveillance cameras for increased safety and protection.

Furniture and Fixtures 

Providing custom furniture and fixtures to align with the tenant’s functional and design preferences.

What are Leasehold Improvements?

On the other hand, leasehold improvements (LHI) refer to the enhancements or modifications made to a leased commercial property by the landlord. These improvements are intended to increase the property’s value and attract potential tenants. LHI is an essential aspect of commercial property management, as it allows landlords to offer competitive and attractive spaces to potential lessees.

Key Features of Leasehold Improvements

  • Landlord’s Investment: The responsibility for financing and overseeing LHI lies with the landlord, as it is their property investment.
  • Long-Term Impact: Leasehold improvements are typically permanent enhancements that remain even after the tenant leaves.
  • Appealing Spaces: By investing in LHI, landlords can create appealing and modern spaces that attract high-quality tenants.

Key Differences Between Tenant Improvement and Leasehold Improvement

While both TI and LHI involve making changes to commercial property, fundamental differences set them apart.


The primary difference lies in ownership. Tenant improvements are owned by the tenant, who pays for the modifications and enjoys the benefits of the customized space. In contrast, leasehold improvements are owned by the landlord, who finances the enhancements to add value to their property.

Financial Responsibility

As mentioned earlier, tenants are responsible for the cost of Tenant Improvements. Conversely, landlords bear the financial responsibility for leasehold improvements.

Nature of Changes

Tenant improvements focus on meeting the specific requirements of the tenant’s business. They may include changes to the layout, partitioning, electrical systems, or decor. On the other hand, leasehold improvements are generally broader and may involve upgrades to the building’s structure, facade, and common areas to attract potential lessees.

Duration of Impact

Tenant improvements are often temporary changes that can be reverted to the original state at the end of the lease term. In contrast, Leasehold improvements are intended to have a long-term impact and remain in place, benefiting future tenants.


Tenants can negotiate with the landlord for leasehold improvements if it aligns with their business needs and benefits the property’s long-term value. Landlords may consider such negotiations to attract high-quality tenants and create appealing spaces.

Landlords may be eligible for tax deductions on qualifying leasehold improvements. These deductions can help offset the costs of the improvements and encourage landlords to invest in enhancing their properties

Can a Tenant Make Significant Structural Changes Under Tenant Improvements?


Understanding the differences between tenant improvements and leasehold improvement is crucial for both tenants and landlords in the commercial real estate market. Tenant improvements allow businesses to customize their leased space, whereas leasehold improvements enhance the property’s overall value for landlords. These two aspects work in tandem to create a thriving and dynamic commercial property landscape.

With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Varisco Design Build Group is a reputable and experienced company specializing in commercial property improvements. Our expertise and knowledge can help you create a customized and efficient workspace that aligns perfectly with your business needs. Whether it’s interior modifications, electrical upgrades, or complete office renovations, Varisco Design Build Group can provide expert guidance and high-quality services to bring your vision to life. Choose Varisco Design Build Group for a successful and rewarding tenant improvement journey.

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