As a tenant, should you be concerned with building works carried out by a landlord before you enter a lease with them?
Let’s consider a typical scenario. You want to take a lease of two adjoining units, but you want to remove the dividing wall to give you a single open-plan premises. The landlord says, “no problem – I’ll remove the wall for you before you sign the lease”.
“Great” – you’re thinking. “I’ll just move in when the work’s done and that’s that”.
But are you missing something?
Keep in mind that if you have a typical ‘full repairing’ lease, the onus is firmly on you to keep the premises in good repair and condition. So, if the landlord did a poor job when removing the wall and a few months down the line the ceiling collapses – it falls on you (literally!) to fix the damage.
What should you do?
- An obvious point, but make sure you have a robust agreement in place which protects your position.
- Insist on warranties from the landlord’s contractors. The landlord should ensure that these are handed over to you before you enter the lease.
- Agree on a ‘rectification period’ with the landlord. Typically, this will be a period of 12 months from completion of the work. If anything goes wrong during this period, the landlord and/or their contractors should fix the problem.
- Exclude your liability for damage caused as a result of the landlord’s work.
- In some cases it may be better to get the work done yourself, using your own contractors, but with a financial contribution from the landlord (if they agree to this).