Tremors and Tenants

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Tremors and Tenants


The purpose of this study was to explore the changes in commercial office occupiers’ preferences in their building choice as a result of a recent natural disaster which triggered policy changes in building safety.


This study follows a qualitative research design comprising semi-structured one-on-one interviews with 24 property professionals (commercial leasing agents and property managers) in Auckland, New Zealand. A thematic analysis was employed for identifying, analysing and reporting themes emerged within data.


Tenants across New Zealand now incorporate earthquake issues in their leasing decisions. Most tenants are familiar with the impending policy changes related to earthquake-prone buildings. The degree to which building standards are incorporated into office occupiers’ choice varies with the size of the organization and their willingness to invest in their Corporate Social Responsibility. A certain level of overreaction was observed in tenants’ behaviour in the face of risk and uncertainty following the earthquakes. However, risk appears to be subsiding and emphasis is placed on availability of space in desirable locations.

I have been doing leases for years and it has never been a problem. … Quite a dramatic change in the attitude of tenants now.

Property professional (interviewee)

Overall, this study revealed a number of challenges faced by tenants in the commercial property market in the wake of recent earthquakes. The events allowed some tenants to improve their office accommodation options while others were put under additional stress of increasing operating costs without improvements in the quality of their space. This study demonstrated that for larger firms the decision to locate in high-strength buildings is often influenced by their desire to maintain status and retain talented staff. Therefore, building owners of high seismically rated office buildings can add value to their investment by attracting quality tenants to their premises. Meanwhile prudent landlords will be upgrading their assets in order to catch those tenants who are vacating earthquake-prone buildings. This study highlighted the powerful position of larger tenants. Although the new seismic requirements add time to tenants’ due diligence, office landlords are keen on attracting/retaining major tenants even if it is at a cost of structural upgrades.

This research study has been submitted for publication and is currently under review.  To learn more about this study, please contact Dr Olga Filippova.
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Commercial Property, Earthquake-prone Buildings