Commercial Premises: A Leaking Roof
By Linley Hawkes
Joe and Emily run a small company which owns commercial rental properties. Part of their property portfolio includes a large building leased to a furniture store which has been a good long-standing tenant. The furniture store uses the front of the building as its shop and the rear for storing excess stock.
The tenant complained to Emily a few months ago that the roof was leaking. There had been a couple of weeks of stormy, wet weather so Emily wasn’t too concerned that some water had leaked inside and suggested to the tenant that they just mop up the water. A couple of months later Emily received another complaint from the tenant that the roof was leaking and causing damage to their furniture. This second complaint was made in writing during the lead up to the Christmas break. Because Emily was busy with the pre-Christmas rush she forgot to mention the issue to Joe or do anything to sort out the damage.
In the New Year, the tenant contacted Emily for the third time and was extremely grumpy because Joe and Emily had ignored them and not even looked at the leaky roof. A significant amount of the tenant’s furniture stock had become water damaged. The tenant complained they had given written notice and because of the delays they now wanted Joe and Emily to also compensate them for the damage to their stock.
Joe and Emily were unsure what to do and became very concerned about the amount they might be liable to pay for the tenant’s damaged stock. They were unsure what their obligations were under the lease and who was even responsible for fixing the leaky roof. In the end, Joe and Emily phoned a solicitor for some advice.
The solicitor reviewed the lease and found that because the tenant had notified Joe and Emily of the issue and they had not taken steps to undertake repairs within a reasonable timeframe, Joe and Emily were liable for the structural repairs to the exterior of the building and also to compensate the tenant for water-damaged stock.
This scenario outlines why it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible when issues are raised between parties under a lease. Ensuring you fully understand your obligations as either a Landlord or a Tenant is extremely important, especially as lease terms are not always the same. A solicitor can help review the lease terms and advise on the parties’ obligations based on the terms of the particular lease document.