Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)

Summary of Significant Accounting Policies (Policies)

Summary of Significant Accounting Policies (Policies)
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2011
Summary of Significant Accounting Policies  
Basis of Presentation

The consolidated financial statements include the accounts of COPT, the Operating Partnership, their subsidiaries and other entities in which we have a majority voting interest and control. We also consolidate certain entities when control of such entities can be achieved through means other than voting rights ("variable interest entities" or "VIEs") if we are deemed to be the primary beneficiary of such entities. We eliminate all significant intercompany balances and transactions in consolidation.

        We use the equity method of accounting when we own an interest in an entity and can exert significant influence over the entity's operations but cannot control the entity's operations.

        We use the cost method of accounting when we own an interest in an entity and cannot exert significant influence over its operations.

Use of Estimates in the Preparation of Financial Statements

We make estimates and assumptions when preparing financial statements under generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"). These estimates and assumptions affect various matters, including:

  • the reported amounts of assets and liabilities in our consolidated balance sheets at the dates of the financial statements;

    the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the dates of the financial statements; and

    the reported amounts of revenues and expenses in our consolidated statements of operations during the reporting periods.

        Significant estimates are inherent in the presentation of our financial statements in a number of areas, including the evaluation of the collectability of accounts and notes receivable, the allocation of property acquisition costs, the determination of estimated useful lives of assets, the determination of lease terms, the evaluation of impairment of long-lived assets, the amount of revenue recognized relating to tenant improvements and the level of expense recognized in connection with share-based compensation. Actual results could differ from these and other estimates.

Acquisitions of Properties

Upon completion of property acquisitions, we allocate the purchase price to tangible and intangible assets and liabilities associated with such acquisitions based on our estimates of their fair values. We determine these fair values by using market data and independent appraisals available to us and making numerous estimates and assumptions. We allocate property acquisitions to the following components:

  • properties based on a valuation performed under the assumption that the property is vacant upon acquisition (the "if vacant value"). The if-vacant value is allocated between land and buildings or, in the case of properties under development, construction in progress. We also allocate additional amounts to properties for in-place tenant improvements based on our estimate of improvements per square foot provided under market leases that would be attributable to the remaining non-cancellable terms of the respective leases;

    above- and below-market lease intangible assets or liabilities based on the present value (using an interest rate which reflects the risks associated with the leases acquired) of the difference between: (1) the contractual amounts to be received pursuant to the in-place leases; and (2) our estimate of fair market lease rates for the corresponding space, measured over a period equal to the remaining non-cancelable term of the lease. The capitalized above- and below-market lease values are amortized as adjustments to rental revenue over the remaining non-cancellable terms of the respective leases;

    in-place lease value based on our estimates of: (1) the present value of additional income to be realized as a result of leases being in place on the acquired properties; and (2) costs to execute similar leases. Our estimate of additional income to be realized includes carrying costs, such as real estate taxes, insurance and other operating expenses, and revenues during the expected lease-up periods considering current market conditions. Our estimate of costs to execute similar leases includes leasing commissions, legal and other related costs;

    tenant relationship value based on our evaluation of the specific characteristics of each tenant's lease and our overall relationship with that respective tenant. Characteristics we consider in determining these values include the nature and extent of our existing business relationships with the tenant, growth prospects for developing new business with the tenant, the tenant's credit quality and expectations of lease renewals, among other factors; and

    above- and below- market cost arrangements (such as real estate tax treaties or above- or below- market ground leases) based on the present value of the expected benefit from any such arrangements in place on the property at the time of acquisition.

We report properties to be developed or held and used in operations at our depreciated cost, reduced for impairment losses. The preconstruction stage of the development or redevelopment of an operating property includes efforts and related costs to secure land control and zoning, evaluate feasibility and complete other initial tasks which are essential to development. We capitalize interest expense, real estate taxes and direct and indirect project costs, including labor and related administrative costs, associated with properties, or portions thereof, undergoing construction, development and redevelopment activities. We continue to capitalize these costs while construction, development or redevelopment activities are underway until a property becomes "operational," which occurs upon the earlier of when leases commence or one year after the cessation of major construction activities. When leases commence on portions of a newly-constructed or redeveloped property in the period prior to one year from the cessation of major construction activities, we consider that property to be "partially operational." When a property is partially operational, we allocate the costs associated with the property between the portion that is operational and the portion under construction. We start depreciating newly-constructed and redeveloped properties as they become operational.

        Most of our leases involve some form of improvements to leased space. When we are required to provide improvements under the terms of a lease, we determine whether the improvements constitute landlord assets or tenant assets. We capitalize the cost of the improvements when we deem the improvements to be landlord assets. In determining whether improvements constitute landlord or tenant assets, we consider numerous factors, including: whether the improvements are unique to the tenant or reusable by other tenants; whether the tenant is permitted to alter or remove the improvements without our consent or without compensating us for any lost fair value; whether the ownership of the improvements remains with us or remains with the tenant at the end of the lease term; and whether the economic substance of the lease terms is properly reflected.

        We depreciate our fixed assets using the straight-line method over their estimated useful lives as follows:

Buildings and building improvements

  10 - 40 years

Land improvements

  10 - 20 years

Tenant improvements on operating properties

  Related lease terms

Equipment and personal property

  3 - 10 years

        If events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying values of operating properties, properties in development or land held for future development may be impaired, we perform a recovery analysis based on the estimated undiscounted future cash flows to be generated from the operations and eventual disposition of such properties. If the analysis indicates that the carrying value of a tested property is not recoverable from estimated future cash flows, it is written down to its estimated fair value and an impairment loss is recognized. Fair values are determined based on estimated future cash flows using appropriate discount and capitalization rates or third-party valuations or appraisals. The estimated cash flows used for the impairment analysis and determining the fair values are based on our plans for the tested property and our views of market and economic conditions. The estimates consider matters such as current and future rental rates, occupancies for the tested property and comparable properties, estimated operating and capital expenditures and recent sales data for comparable properties.

        When we determine that a property is held for sale, we discontinue the recording of depreciation expense on the property and estimate the fair value, net of selling costs; if we then determine that the estimated fair value, net of selling costs, is less than the net book value of the property, we recognize an impairment loss equal to the difference and reduce the net book value of the property.

        When we sell an operating property, or determine that an operating property is held for sale, and determine that we have no significant continuing involvement in such property, we classify the results of operations for such property as discontinued operations. Interest expense that is specifically identifiable to properties included in discontinued operations is used in the computation of interest expense attributable to discontinued operations. When properties classified as discontinued operations are included in computations that determine the amount of our borrowing capacity under certain debt instruments (including our Revolving Credit Facility), we allocate a portion of such debt instruments' interest expense to discontinued operations; we compute this allocation based on the percentage that the related properties represent of all properties included in determining the amount of our borrowing capacity under such debt instruments.

        We expense property maintenance and repair costs when incurred.

Sales of Interests in Real Estate
We recognize gains from sales of interests in real estate using the full accrual method, provided that various criteria relating to the terms of sale and any subsequent involvement by us with the real estate sold are met. We recognize gains relating to transactions that do not meet the requirements of the full accrual method of accounting when the full accrual method of accounting criteria are met.
Cash and Cash Equivalents
Cash and cash equivalents include all cash and liquid investments that mature three months or less from when they are purchased. Cash equivalents are reported at cost, which approximates fair value. We maintain our cash in bank accounts in amounts that may exceed Federally insured limits at times. We have not experienced any losses in these accounts in the past and believe that we are not exposed to significant credit risk because our accounts are deposited with major financial institutions.
Investments in Marketable Securities
We classify marketable securities as trading securities when we have the intent to sell such securities in the near term, and classify other marketable securities as available-for-sale securities. We determine the appropriate classification of investments in marketable securities at the acquisition date and re-evaluate the classification at each balance sheet date. We report investments in marketable securities classified as trading securities at fair value, with unrealized gains and losses recognized through earnings. We report investments in marketable securities classified as available-for-sale securities at fair value, with net unrealized gains or losses deferred to AOCL and realized gains and losses resulting from sales of such investments recognized through earnings.
Accounts and Deferred Rents Receivable and Mortgage and Other Investing Receivables
We maintain allowances for estimated losses resulting from the failure of our customers or borrowers to satisfy their payment obligations. We use judgment in estimating these allowances based primarily upon the payment history and credit status of the entities associated with the individual receivables. We write off these receivables when we believe the facts and circumstances indicate that continued pursuit of collection is no longer warranted. When we earn interest income in connection with receivables for which we have established allowances, we establish allowances in connection with such interest income that is unpaid. When cash is received in connection with receivables for which we have established allowances, we reduce the amount of losses recognized in connection with the receivables' allowance.
Intangible Assets and Deferred Revenue on Real Estate Acquisitions

We capitalize intangible assets and deferred revenue on real estate acquisitions as described in the section above entitled "Acquisitions of Properties." We amortize the intangible assets and deferred revenue as follows:

Above- and below-market leases

  Related lease terms

In-place lease value

  Related lease terms

Tenant relationship value

  Estimated period of time that tenant will lease space in property

Above- and below- market cost arrangements

  Term of arrangements

Market concentration premium

  40 years

        We recognize the amortization of acquired above-market and below-market leases as adjustments to rental revenue. We recognize the amortization of above- and below- market cost arrangements as adjustments to property operating expenses. We recognize the amortization of other intangible assets on property acquisitions as amortization expense.

Deferred Leasing and Financing Costs, Net

We defer costs that we incur to obtain new tenant leases or extend existing tenant leases. We amortize these costs evenly over the lease terms. When tenant leases are terminated early, we expense any unamortized deferred leasing costs associated with those leases over the remaining life of the lease.

        We defer costs for financing arrangements and recognize these costs as interest expense over the related loan terms on a straight-line basis, which approximates the amortization that would occur under the effective interest method of amortization. We expense any unamortized loan costs when loans are retired early.

Revenue Recognition

We recognize minimum rents, net of abatements, on a straight-line basis over the non-cancelable term of tenant leases (including periods under bargain renewal options). The non-cancelable term of a lease includes periods when a tenant: (1) may not terminate its lease obligation early; or (2) may terminate its lease obligation early in exchange for a fee or penalty that we consider material enough such that termination would not be probable. We report the amount by which our minimum rental revenue recognized on a straight-line basis under leases exceeds the contractual rent billings associated with such leases as deferred rent receivable on our consolidated balance sheets. Amounts by which our minimum rental revenue recognized on a straight-line basis under leases are less than the contractual rent billings associated with such leases are included in deferred revenue associated with operating leases on our consolidated balance sheets.

        In connection with a tenant's entry into, or modification of, a lease, if we make cash payments to, or on behalf of, the tenant for purposes other than funding the construction of landlord assets, we defer the amount of such payments as lease incentives. We amortize lease incentives as a reduction of rental revenue over the term of the lease.

        We recognize tenant recovery revenue in the same periods in which we incur the related expenses. Tenant recovery revenue includes payments from tenants as reimbursement for property taxes, utilities and other property operating expenses.

        We recognize fees received for lease terminations as revenue and write off against such revenue any (1) deferred rents receivable, and (2) deferred revenue, lease incentives and intangible assets that are amortizable into rental revenue associated with the leases; the resulting net amount is the net revenue from the early termination of the leases. When a tenant's lease for space in a property is terminated early but the tenant continues to lease such space under a new or modified lease in the property, the net revenue from the early termination of the lease is recognized evenly over the remaining life of the new or modified lease in place on that property.

        We recognize fees for services provided by us once services are rendered, fees are determinable and collectability is assured. We recognize revenue under construction contracts using the percentage of completion method when the revenue and costs for such contracts can be estimated with reasonable accuracy; when these criteria do not apply to a contract, we recognize revenue on that contract using the completed contract method. Under the percentage of completion method, we recognize a percentage of the total estimated revenue on a contract based on the cost of services provided on the contract as of a point in time relative to the total estimated costs on the contract.

Interest Rate Derivatives

Our primary objectives in using interest rate derivatives are to add stability to interest expense and to manage exposure to interest rate movements. To accomplish this objective, we primarily use interest rate swaps as part of our interest rate risk management strategy. Interest rate swaps designated as cash flow hedges involve the receipt of variable-rate amounts from a counterparty in exchange for our making fixed-rate payments over the life of the agreements without exchange of the underlying notional amount. Derivatives are used to hedge the cash flows associated with interest rates on existing debt as well as future debt. We recognize all derivatives as assets or liabilities in the balance sheet at fair value. We defer the effective portion of changes in fair value of the designated cash flow hedges to accumulated other comprehensive loss ("AOCL") and reclassify such deferrals to interest expense as interest expense is recognized on the hedged forecasted transactions. We recognize the ineffective portion of the change in fair value of interest rate derivatives directly in interest expense. When an interest rate swap designated as a cash flow hedge no longer qualifies for hedge accounting, we recognize changes in fair value of the hedge previously deferred to AOCL, along with any changes in fair value occurring thereafter, through earnings. We do not use interest rate derivatives for trading or speculative purposes. We manage counter-party risk by only entering into contracts with major financial institutions based upon their credit ratings and other risk factors.

        We use standard market conventions and techniques such as discounted cash flow analysis, option pricing models, replacement cost and termination cost in computing the fair value of derivatives at each balance sheet date.

        Please refer to Note 11 for additional information pertaining to interest rate derivatives.

Share-Based Compensation

In 2010 and 2011, we issued two forms of share-based compensation: restricted common shares ("restricted shares") and performance share units ("PSUs"). In years prior to 2009, we also issued options to purchase common shares of beneficial interest ("options"). We account for share-based compensation in accordance with authoritative guidance provided by the FASB that establishes standards for the accounting for transactions in which an entity exchanges its equity instruments for goods or services, focusing primarily on accounting for transactions in which an entity obtains employee services in share-based payment transactions. The guidance requires us to measure the cost of employee services received in exchange for an award of equity instruments based generally on the fair value of the award on the grant date; such cost is then recognized over the period during which the employee is required to provide service in exchange for the award. No compensation cost is recognized for equity instruments for which employees do not render the requisite service. The guidance also requires that share-based compensation be computed based on awards that are ultimately expected to vest; as a result, future forfeitures of awards are estimated at the time of grant and revised, if necessary, in subsequent periods if actual forfeitures differ from those estimates. If an award is voluntarily cancelled by an employee, we recognize the previously unrecognized cost associated with the original award on the date of such cancellation. We capitalize costs associated with share-based compensation attributable to employees engaged in construction and development activities.

        When we adopted the authoritative guidance on accounting for share-based compensation, we elected to adopt the alternative transition method for calculating the tax effects of share-based compensation. The alternative transition method enabled us to use a simplified method to establishing the beginning balance of the additional paid-in capital pool related to the tax effects of employee share-based compensation, which was available to absorb tax deficiencies recognized subsequent to the adoption of this guidance.

        We compute the fair value of options using the Black-Scholes option-pricing model. Under that model, the risk-free interest rate is based on the U.S. Treasury yield curve in effect at the time of grant. The expected option life is based on our historical experience of employee exercise behavior. Expected volatility is based on historical volatility of our common shares of beneficial interest ("common shares"). Expected dividend yield is based on the average historical dividend yield on our common shares over a period of time ending on the grant date of the options.

        We compute the fair value of PSUs using a Monte Carlo model. Under that model, the baseline common share value is based on the market value on the grant date. The risk-free interest rate is based on the U.S. Treasury yield curve in effect at the time of grant. Expected volatility is based on historical volatility of our common shares.