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In a previous blog, we looked at how to maintain your business premises as an owner or commercial landlord. But what if you rent your premises? Do you know your responsibilities when it comes to property maintenance, and how do you make sure your premises are safe, secure and welcoming for staff and customers?

If you are looking for our blog for maintaining your business premises as a commercial property owner and/or landlord, click here.

Handy hints for commercial tenants

If you rent your business premises your responsibilities will largely be defined by your lease and you should check the terms of your lease to be clear about your obligations.

Some of the information below has been taken from general guidance provided by the Commercial Tenants Association (CTA) and the National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA). Please note it is important to always check your specific obligations with your lawyer or letting agent or refer to an industry organisation for the latest information and advice for landlords and tenants.

1. Health and safety

As a general rule, as a tenant you are responsible for ensuring the safety of any electrical equipment, maintaining gas appliances and pipework, and managing asbestos.

Carrying out a health and safety risk assessment in your rented premises and taking action to remove any hazards is a legal requirement.

2. Fixtures and fittings

As a tenant you are responsible for any fixtures and fittings you have installed, while your landlord will be responsible for any that are owned by them.

3. Gas and electricity

Depending on the terms of your lease, gas safety may be your responsibility, or it may fall to your landlord, so it’s important to check the wording carefully. If it is your responsibility, you should maintain any equipment according to manufacturers’ instructions, whether it is owned by you or by your landlord. The same applies to electrical installations and appliances.

4. General maintenance

You should check your lease carefully to ascertain your responsibilities as a tenant and ensure you fulfil any obligations it sets out. Pay particular attention to any requirements regarding the condition in which you return the premises at the end of the tenancy – a ‘full and repairing lease’, for example, could require you to return the property in a better state of repair than when you took it on

5. Landlords’ responsibilities

The property owner has a duty to make sure their business property is safe for anyone who uses it, including their tenants. They are responsible for complying with Fire Safety Regulations and for providing a workplace with a reasonable temperature, adequate lighting, space and ventilation, safe equipment, drinking water, toilets and washing facilities. They are also responsible for ensuring the property’s electrical system is safe and inspected in line with legal requirements and may be responsible for gas safety depending on the terms of the lease. Utilities in common areas will be the responsibility of the landlord, as will general maintenance of those areas

6. What to do in the event of a dispute?

Any responsibility that is not mentioned in the lease will often be assumed to be yours as the tenant unless there are legal requirements on the landlord. So, it is important to read the terms of your lease thoroughly to ensure that they are clear, and you are happy to abide by them.

A lease is a legally binding contract, so if a landlord does not fulfil a responsibility that is set out in it, you should be protected in the event of a dispute.

If you get into a dispute with your landlord, it is important that you continue to pay rent on your premises whilst the situation is being resolved. If you do not pay your rent, you risk being evicted, even if you have grounds for complaint, and this could prove devastating for your business.

What kind of cover should you have for your commercial premises?

As a tenant, you want to ensure your business is protected against perils such as fire, theft and natural disaster. It should be clear in your lease who is responsible for arranging and paying for cover, but here are the types of cover you should consider:

1. Buildings cover

This is usually covered by the landlord but there are a few cases where the responsibility for arranging buildings cover falls to the tenant.

2. Public Liability cover

If an incident were to occur in your shop, this type of cover may help with the costs of a claim. Depending on the responsibilities set out in your lease, landlords are likely to cover events such as a customer tripping on poorly maintained steps at the property entrance. However, your own Public Liability cover may protect you if a claim is brought against you for an event that occurs within your store, and for which you are legally liable.

3. Stock cover

Stock is the bread and butter of your corner shop, newsagent or convenience store so it’s important to make sure it is not undervalued. Do ensure that your limits of cover are sufficient to protect your business if you have to make a claim.

4. Contents cover

If you invested in your own fixtures and fittings when you took out a lease on your premises, you should take out cover for these items.

5. Legal Expenses cover

As a tenant, there is potential for a dispute with your landlord where you may need to seek the advice of a legal professional. Legal expenses cover can cover the costs of bringing or defending a legal action relating to the running of your business. Whilst many disputes are settled quickly and easily, others can be drawn out and costly, with possibly devastating consequences.

As an independent retailer, you need to make sure you protect your livelihood. Always check the terms of your lease carefully and ensure that you are clear about your own responsibilities. If you have any questions about your lease, ask a legal professional to take a look.

Are you a commercial landlord or own your business premises?

If you are looking for more information on how to maintain your business premises as a commercial property owner or landlord click here.

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