Commercial Property Repair Claims Solicitors
A commercial lease will usually include obligations for tenants and landlords relating to repairs to the property. It should clearly set out who is responsible for which repairs, not only so that both parties are clear on their obligations from the outset but to avoid the risk of a dilapidation claim.
Our commercial property disputes solicitors advise landlords and tenants across the UK from our offices in Bristol and the surrounding area in Bedminster, Bishopston, Bristol city centre, Kingswood and Thornbury. If you need advice about commercial property repairs, call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online form.
Who is responsible for commercial property repairs?
It is common for a commercial property lease to be a full repairing and insuring lease. This is where the tenant is responsible for repair (including maintenance) and insurance of the property.
The extent of responsibility depends on whether the lease is a lease of whole, or a lease of part.
A lease of whole is where the property is let as a whole and the landlord does not retain any part of the building. Accordingly, the tenant will likely be responsible for both the interior and exterior of the property in terms of repair, maintenance and insurance.
A lease of part is where the property is part of the whole of the premises. The tenant’s responsibility is likely to be limited to the interior of the property. The landlord is likely to be responsible for the exterior and common parts of the premises in terms of repair, maintenance and insurance. However, the landlord will claim the costs from the tenant/s by way of service charge, as set out in the lease.
Repair obligations for tenants
Commercial leases usually include covenants that set out the types of repair obligations for tenants to bear in mind. Examples include repairing covenants (tenants must keep the property in good condition and carry out repairs to ensure this) and decorating covenants (the tenant is required to decorate the interior of the property on a regular or set basis).
Standard of repair
Most leases require the tenant to keep the property in ‘good and substantial repair’. What is considered as ‘good and substantial repair’ depends on several factors and isn’t always clear-cut. Examples include:
- The age and size of the property: a new build will typically require less upkeep or repairs than an older building
- The length and type of lease: is it a new long-term lease or is the tenant taking on the property part of the way into its term?
- The extent of repair obligations: is the tenant obliged to maintain the interior or both the interior and exterior?
- Whether the lease includes a Photographic Schedule of Condition. This provides a factual and photographic record of the condition of the property
If the property is not in good repair at the start of the lease, the tenant may have to carry out repairs or improvements and then maintain it to bring it into ‘good and substantial repair’.
Schedule of condition
When a tenant is looking to rent an older or run-down property, they may ask a Building Surveyor to prepare a Schedule of Condition. This document records the state and condition of the property at the time the lease was entered and can include photographs. Not only does this provide peace of mind for the tenant, but can provide invaluable evidence should a dilapidation claim arise further down the line.
If a Schedule of Condition is prepared, the tenant will not be liable to return the property to the landlord in a better state of repair than it was upon entering the lease.
Repair obligations for landlords
Generally, landlords are responsible for structural repairs such as exterior walls, foundations and roofing. Maintenance issues, such as plumbing or electrics, are normally part of the tenant’s obligations unless the lease specifies a management or maintenance fee paid by the tenant as part of their rent.
Any repairs or improvements needed for communal areas will also usually be the landlord’s responsibility.
Can a landlord enter a property to carry out repairs?
Although in most cases the tenant is obliged to carry out or organise and pay for repairs, a landlord can enter a commercial property and carry out the work at their own expense. Under a Jervis v Harris clause, the cost of this repair work can then become a debt due from the tenant.
This clause is beneficial for landlords as it means that repair works are carried out in a timely fashion and to the landlord’s preferred standard. It also means that the costs incurred are classed as a debt rather than being part of a damages claim.
The Jervis v Harris clause must be written into the commercial lease to be enforceable, however, and it can lead to disputes between landlords and tenants, especially if the tenant claims that they were not served a notice.
Landlords cannot enter a property to carry out repairs that are the tenant’s responsibility if the lease does not contain a Jervis v Harris clause.
What happens when disputes arise over repairs?
The best way to avoid disputes over commercial property repair works is to ensure each party’s obligations are clearly set out in the commercial lease. If a landlord or tenant’s responsibilities are not clear in a lease or they are breached and a dilapidation claim arises, disputes can happen quickly.
If a dispute over repairs happens, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. Dilapidation claims are normally resolved out of court through mediation but a specialist commercial property disputes solicitor can advise you on the process and support you should the claim go to court.
Need advice on repair claims? Contact our commercial property disputes solicitors
Whether you are a landlord looking to include repair obligations in a commercial lease or you are seeking legal advice about a repair claim, our expert solicitors can help. Call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch.