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Ask the Expert: Trish Randles

9th October, 2014

Commercial Property Partner Trish Randles answers your questions on commercial property.

Do I need a lease?

Many property owners are happy to allow tenants into occupation without putting a formal lease in place. Indeed there is no legal requirement for a tenancy of less than three years to be in writing. This is fine, until something goes wrong.

For example, the property owner instructs his solicitor to seek back possession of the property because the tenant has failed to keep it in repair (there is a hole in the roof) and has also carried out significant alterations to the property without his consent.

The first issue will be identifying exactly who the tenant is. The landowner may think that it is that “nice Mr Jones” with whom he shook hands on the deal before handing over the keys to him. The property owner may be surprised to find out that it is, in fact, an off the shelf, newly formed, limited company with no assets.

In the absence of any agreement to the contrary, there is no restriction on carrying out alterations and no obligation to remove the alterations when the tenancy comes to an end.

Mr Jones thinks that the property owner agreed to take responsibility for the maintenance of the roof and that all he was required to do was maintain the interior of the property in the same condition that it was in when he took it over.

So, do I need a lease?

Answer “Yes”.

It is important to have a written record of the terms upon which someone is occupying your property so that both parties know what the others obligations are and, should something go wrong, you then have written evidence of the terms of the tenancy and will be able to enforce the terms of the tenancy against the defaulting party. The cost of putting this into place in the first place pales into insignificance in comparison to the legal costs of sorting things out when they go wrong. Having a written agreement will not stop things going wrong but it will certainly help you get matters put right.

What should I do next?

If you want to discuss granting or taking a lease of commercial property in more detail or any other legal issues about your lease, contact Trish Randles on 01743 453686 / 01244 405425 or email [email protected].

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