Three veterinary hospital construction nightmares—and how to avoid them - DVM
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Three veterinary hospital construction nightmares—and how to avoid them
Expanding your practice into a new facility doesn't have to keep you awake at night—if you take necessary precautions ahead of time.


Nightmare No. 2: The end of the lease

Obviously, no veterinarian wants to pay rent on an old place after moving his or her practice to a gleaming new facility. So generally veterinarians try to correlate the end of their old practice lease—or the closing of sale on their old building—with the completion of the new practice digs.

But consider this scenario: The builder isn't quite finished with the new building, but the old building is sold or has a new tenant effective on the date when the new building was supposed to be finished. The result? Rented trailers on your new building lot, office calls for surgery that you have to refer to other hospitals, zero income on radiology and so on. Oh yeah, and then there are the Port-a-Johns.

The fix: For renters, try to amend your lease before signing on the dotted line to provide an option to convert to month-to-month tenancy around the time your new office is supposed to be finished.

For property owners, negotiate a flexible occupancy from the buyer of your old space. If you draft in a right to rent the old place back for a few months, you'll have a cushion that will prevent sleepless nights as the construction deadline approaches.

If you're really clever, you can use the same lease-back figure included in your sale contract to establish the late-completion penalty clause you demand from your builder. That way your tardy contractor can pay the economic consequences of his slow work instead of you.

Nightmare No. 3: Underestimating bureaucracy

I have a client in Southern California who had to wait three years for her locality to issue all the zoning, environmental and public hearing approvals she needed to allow her new animal hospital to open its doors. The fact is, government red tape can be a business-killer.

The problem is that local government has so much autonomy that it has no incentive to be fair or expeditious. Therefore, it's highly unpredictable whether or not bureaucratic delays will affect you. If a delay should occur, your goal is to minimize the amount of delay.

The fix: First, do your due diligence before getting started. Find out what time frame others in the area have encountered working through city, town and village obstacles.

Second, hire an attorney with experience in obtaining construction permits in the jurisdiction you want to build. Keep in mind that in municipal law, it's often better to have a local lawyer than a brilliant lawyer.

Third, pay your architect a few extra bucks to help represent you before the zoning and other local boards—she has more experience than you do. And just as importantly, she has experience behaving calmly and rationally in the face of irrational words and deeds generated by government agencies.

While the idea of growing into a new facility may not initially sound like a nightmarish endeavor, it can quickly become one. But with some good planning and wise safeguards, you can minimize your growing pains and focus on the opportunities your new facility will bring your way.

Dr. Christopher Allen is president of Associates in Veterinary Law PC, which provides legal and consulting services to veterinarians. Call (607) 754-1510 or e-mail


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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