COVID-19 Commercial Landlord Responsibilities

Thursday, 9 April 2020

COVID-19 Commercial Landlord Responsibilities

Our lives, both work and personal, have been turned upside down in the past few weeks. No one living today will have experienced anything like the COVID-19 pandemic before and we are all working through uncharted waters. As such, it is paramount that we all take steps to work together to support the business community, and ultimately pull in the same direction to help the UK economy in any way that we can – as individuals, as commercial landlords and as a unit.

Below is a summary of commercial landlord responsibilities during this time. It may also be of use for you to read our Frequently Asked Questions which covers a number of concerns commercial landlords may have about their premises in terms of leases and rent payments.

Although our offices are adhering to the government guidance on lock-down, our teams are still working to support our clients in our usual way, just from our homes as opposed to our offices. If there is anything we can do to help or advise you at this time, please call one of our offices on Rugby (01788 564 678) or Ashby (01530 877977 option 2) and the most appropriate person will call you back.

Commercial Landlords’ Duty of Care

In most cases, responsibility for the health and safety of staff, visitors, clients and employees of a business will lie with the tenant of the premises rather than the commercial landlord.

The law states that organisations must:

Commercial landlords who are also employers have the duty of care over their employees and others in terms of the risks brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic (and other infectious diseases), where failure to comply have serious legal consequences for both the organisation and the individuals in leadership roles.

Health & Safety

A commercial landlord has no specific health and safety laws to follow in terms of COVID-19 as they would in the case of, for example legionella, a water-borne bacteria which can cause ill-health that can be present in water systems – provision of which is absolutely the commercial landlord’s responsibility. The virus is, however, a biological agent meaning that its presence would fall within the COSHH regulations of 2002 (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) which provide a sensible framework to control risk. The level of responsibility will depend upon the lease of the building and the implied conditions within that lease. Commercial landlords and tenants are requested to work together to create the safest possible environment for all involved in the building.

Take, for example, a whole building being let in its entirety to a tenant who has run their business from the premises for a number of years with no direct input from the commercial landlord. Very little responsibility for the COSHH within this building will fall at the feet of the commercial landlord. The assumed responsibility will sit with the tenant. In a situation where a shared space is let to multiple individuals wither in sections or floors, where shared space exists and other aspects such as a shared air conditioning system, the commercial landlord must be in part responsibly for the maintenance and health and safety of the building. These responsibilities may include proper upkeep of the systems, cleaning of the shared areas, suitable hand washing facilities and equipment and so on. The commercial landlord in this situation must keep up to date with government and Public Health England advice as well as the onward communication of advice to their tenants.

Reasonable steps must also be taken by the tenant in shared buildings for the safety of employees and visitors to the building. In these times of uncertainty, it is the responsibility – morally if not legally – of all parties not to walk past an issue but to look out for one another’s’ safety and to work together to keep the whole community safe.

Support for commercial landlords

For any questions around leases and tenancies of commercial buildings or for any other aspect of commercial premises or agency, please contact our team on either Rugby (01788 564 678) or Ashby (01530 877977 option 2) and the most appropriate member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.