Keeping in repair

Six little words: “keep the premises in good repair”.  That’s what leases usually say, and the trouble, expense and uncertainty those words can sometimes cause at the end of the lease have to be seen to be believed.

Imagine you had a five-year lease of a single storey shop with a flat roof.  The premises were a bit old and tatty, but so long as the shopfront and interior were good enough, that didn’t bother you much, and in fact it meant you got the lease cheaply.  You had a bit of trouble with the flat roof, and patched it from time to time.

Months after the lease ended and you moved out, out of the blue you got a repair bill from the landlord, and it turns out he’s completely replaced the flat roof, and now he wants you to pay for it.  Surely he can’t do that?  You took a lease of a shop with a dodgy old roof, so how can you be made to pay to leave the landlord with a shop which now has a completely new roof?  Can you be asked to leave the place better than you found it?

The answer is in those words “keep the premises in good repair”.  If the premises are not in good repair when you take the lease, logic says that in order to keep them in good repair, you first have to put them into good repair.  So yes, you can be asked to leave the place better than you found it.

When you take a new lease, one of the crucial things to do is to nail down the detail of what you can and can’t be required to do by way of repair.  And if you can’t agree to limit the risk in a way that works for you, you should walk away and find other premises.

Author: Mark Shelton