If you are a tenant of commercial premises, almost certainly your lease will contain obligations that you have to keep the premises you occupy in the condition they were at the commencement of the lease.

Also at the end of the lease return the premises to the condition they were at the commencement of the lease.

Most tenants will be familiar with the term “Dilapidations” which refers to items of disrepair that are covered by repairing obligations contained in a lease. Shortly before or upon expiry of a lease a Landlord will instruct a building surveyor to serve on a tenant a schedule of dilapidations (in the form of a long list), which sets out the repairs which the Landlord expects the tenant to undertake.

It is fair to say that often Landlords encourage their building surveyors to “go to town” on the schedule of dilapidations, with a view to making the financial claim against the tenant as large as possible or include within the schedule items or repair that actually amount to an improvement or upgrade.

So what can a tenant do. Well firstly, the standard of repair expected in most leases is to return the premises to the age and character of the premises at the original date of letting, even if that would leave the landlord with old and unlettable premises in the current market. This means that the older the lease, the lower the standard of repair that is expected. A common example of this might be the boiler in an older building might be uneconomic and in need of replacement. However, a tenant cannot be asked to replace with a modern, more efficient boiler.

Another area to check is whether the Landlord is trying to pass on the cost to a tenant of complying with new legislation which Landlords are expected to comply with in any new letting. The common example here are works that are required to make premises comply with energy efficiency standards.

If a Landlord has an intention to redevelop the premises or carry out any building or improvement works, then this may “supercede” and replace a tenants obligation to carry out repair work that might otherwise be required.

Any tenant faced with a schedule of dilapidations should take immediate legal advice as there are likely to be several legal arguments available to a tenant to reduce and in some case remove a tenants repairing liability.

Claire Moss is a Senior Associate at Lupton Fawcett LLP and advises in all types of property disputes, including commercial property disputes, as well as advising individual clients.  For expert legal advice, she can be contacted at claire.moss@luptonfawcett.law or on 0113 280 2089.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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