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Remus2004, Barrister
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 69255
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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Commercial lease question. We signed a commercial lease

Resolved Question:

Commercial lease question.
We signed a commercial lease about 7 months ago. The landlord now claims that there are serious electrical problems in the building that were caused by another (current) tenant and immediate remedial work is needed. She is also claiming that a fire alarm needs to be fitted in the building, but a representative from the local fire service has said otherwise.
She intends charging us for part of these works through a service charge.
We have just discovered that she was aware of the electrical issues before we signed the lease, and we believe that she had probably decided to fit a fire alarm before we had signed the lease. Prior to signing the lease at no time did she advise us of any serious or dangerous issues with the building, and at no time did she tell us that she wanted to install a fire alarm.
Had we known that there were electrical problems - especially problems as serious as she is now claiming - we would not have signed the lease. Had we known that she was planning significant and unnecessary expenditure we would not have signed the lease.
Do we have any recourse under these circumstances?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Remus2004 replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Did you do any enquiries or ask for any electrical certificate?
Did you have any kind of survey done?
Are you responsible for repairs to the building and is this covered by the service charge?
Did you have a solicitor advise you with regard to the terms of the lease?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Jo, my name is Andy.

Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you: I need to check some details before replying.

Expert:  Remus2004 replied 1 year ago.
No problem.
Whenever you can.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Jo,

Sorry for the delay.

To answer your specific queries relating to my original question:-

1. Before signing the lease we received a substantial set of paperwork that included an electrical certificate from the previous year. This had some advisories but nothing that appeared serious.

2. We did not have a survey done as the lease is for 3 years only and the building appears sound.

3. Repairs to the building are recovered through a maintenance charge.

4. We did have a solicitor act for us.

Things have now changed somewhat in that our landlord's solicitor is claiming that their original statement that their client was aware of serious issues with the electrics in the building before we took occupation was a mistake.

We are reviewing the documentation pack we have to try and clarify this situation.

I would be grateful of advice on a different but related aspect please.

The lease is I believe a standard commercial lease that includes a clause allowing the landlord or her agents access to our premises for any purpose on giving 3 days prior notice.

Is this enforceable as it is written, or do we have some right to expect such requests to be limited in number and for a reasonable purpose?

For example, if such a request is for a purpose where the lease does not impose a responsibility on the landlord, or where we have reasonable grounds to believe that the landlord is being vexatious, or where we have reasonable grounds to believe that the landlord or her agents are making false or exaggerated claims, can we refuse entry?

Long story, but the landlord's solicitors are threatening to seek an Injunction allowing her entry to our premises even though there is an ongoing legal dispute with the other tenants of the building over work that she claims is urgently necessary in the loft above our premises.

We have a copy of a certified structural engineer's report from the other party refuting this claim, and based on my knowledge as a qualified mechanical design engineer, I believe that the landlord's advisor has grossly exaggerated any problem and any necessary remedial work at her behest in order to try and force entry.

Sorry if this is a bit rambling and convoluted!


Expert:  Remus2004 replied 1 year ago.

They are allowed access on reasonable noticeor three days as it says in the lease and there is nothing to be gained by refusing them access. If they abuse the privilege however it can amount to breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment which literally means leaving you alone to use the property without interference.

Whilst they may have made a mistake with the electrical certificate (I don't know how they could make a mistake with it) you are entitled to rely on what they say and in that respect is they have no claim for any electrical work which is required as a result of anything which you enquired about and which they did not disclose.

If they could rely on making a mistake as a defence to any claims that you bring in this respect, then there would be absolutely no reason to raising enquiries if you could not rely on the responses.

The solicitor would normally carry out precontract enquiries in a standard format known as the Commercial Property Standard Enquiries (CPSE) which are lengthy and comprehensive documents (there are two different ones for each property) and they ask whether any major expenditure is envisaged.

If they didn’t answer truthfully you have no liability to the landlord.

If the enquiries were not carried out by the solicitor then you have a potential claim against the solicitors indemnity insurance.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Hi Jo,

Thanks for the information, which is clear and helpful.

Enquiries were carried out by our solicitor and we have the CPSE.

One further question though.

We have been in the premises for only 7 months and so far the landlord has requested (and been granted) entry for non-essential purposes on 5 separate occasions spread over those 7 months.

When the landlord requested entry on this occasion to carry out the disputed works we advised her that we had critical deadlines between the time of her request and mid-December. We advised her that we could not accept interruptions at this time but would accommodate her in December.

Do you feel we have a case in this instance?

Expert:  Remus2004 replied 1 year ago.
I would tell the landlord that she has one more opportunity to come into the premises (except in genuine emergency) and after that you will consider it to be in breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment. Every six months is to be honest over the top except in emergency
Remus2004, Barrister
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 69255
Experience: Over 5 years in practice.
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