Any legal document requires close scrutiny before you sign it, and this is certainly true of a commercial lease. The ideal solution would be to have the agreement drawn up by a commercial law solicitor working for you, who’ll ensure there are no nasty surprises.
Often, however, your landlord will present you with a ready-made agreement. Most landlords won’t be trying to cheat you, but the agreement will have been drawn up with their own interests in mind. It’s essential to have your own solicitor look through it carefully, to pick out any potential pitfalls that could have an impact on your business, finances and reputation.
There are three things in particular to look out for.
1) Make Sure Your Lease Agreement Complies with the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954
A solicitor who specialises in commercial property will be able to compare your lease agreement with the legal requirements and ensure it’s in compliance. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study this yourself, but a solicitor will be able to spot issues you might miss, and will suggest changes to you and the landlord.
2) Find Out Who’s Responsible for Repairs
A property in need of repair may have an impact on adjoining properties. Failure to carry out the work required could result in the affected parties suing you. Alternatively, they may have the work done themselves and either send you the bill or claim damage to their property on your insurance — which could have a serious impact on your premiums.
It may not be clear from the lease agreement, though, whether you or the landlord are responsible for these repairs, leading to argument or misunderstanding. Your solicitor needs to make sure the agreement specifies exactly which of you is responsible for repairs in which circumstances — and, of course, that you don’t get an unreasonable share of the responsibility.
3) Negotiate a Rent-Free Period, If Necessary
If there are repairs to be made before you can start using the property, it means you’re losing out while you’re unable to trade from it. Besides any rent due, you’ll be responsible for council tax and utility bills as soon as you sign the lease agreement. In this situation, it’s reasonable to ask for a rent-free period while repairs are being carried out.
This is a situation where I can only point you to an expert solicitor. If you’ve made sure of your lease agreement, though, but lost out because of the landlord’s failure to keep it, get in touch for help with recovering what’s due to you.