Please note: The information contained in this article is correct as of 20/07/20. Due to the ongoing nature of the coronavirus situation, guidance is subject to change. As such, we would always recommend you speak with a solicitor for specific advice.
As the lockdown continues to ease, many firms are looking to open their offices back up and welcome staff, customers and visitors back on site. This must, of course, be done in COVID safe manner and therefore many landlords will be left wondering if their obligations have now changed.
For those landlords with multi-let buildings, careful consideration needs to be given as to how to best implement changes. Leases are likely to impose an obligation on landlords to comply with legislation and a right for the landlord to make new regulations for the building where appropriate. This right may extend to Landlords therefore need to consider ways to implement social distancing and reduce the use of common areas in the building so far as is possible. Extra signage, one way systems and perhaps even additional staff may be necessary.
Lifts and washrooms will present particular problems and so landlords should also consider if a more vigorous cleaning regime is now required for those areas or if those using them should be required to wear a mask.
Where such measures are required in order to comply with legislation or in order to maintain good estate management, they can likely be added on to the service charge as a service cost however the terms of each lease should be checked carefully in respect of this.
For those leases which impose hours of operation, variations to the lease may be necessary in order to allow offices to open longer so that staff working hours can be staggered. This will reduce the footfall in the building at any one time, meaning that it is easier for the landlord to maintain an acceptable level of risk in the common areas.
Finally, given that the building will likely have been unoccupied for many months, the heating, lighting and air conditioning system may have been switched off for a prolonged period of time. It may therefore be prudent to have these systems tested or undergo maintenance before welcoming tenants back into the building. Again, this is a cost which can likely be redirected to tenants through the service charge.
For further advice on your legal obligations as a landlord post-lockdown, please contact Farleys’ commercial property team on 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry through our online contact form.