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Repairs and Maintenance

By taking a proactive approach to looking after your building or office space you are likely to minimise the amount of time and money you spend. Be sure that you understand what responsibilities for repairs and maintenance you have in any lease. This will be set out in the agreement between tenant and landlord.

Types of repairing obligation

There are two main types of repairing obligation found in leases:

  • a full repairing and insuring lease requires the tenant to pay for the insurance of the building and for all repairs to the premises
  • an internal repair and decoration only lease requires the tenant to repair and decorate the interior of the premises and the landlord to take responsibility for external and structural maintenance. The exact division of responsibilities will depend on the specific lease. Elements such as windows and window frames are often deemed to be internal and therefore the tenant’s responsibility

If the building is shared between several tenants, then repairing obligations should apply only to the elements of the building that each tenant occupies exclusively. The costs of repairing and maintaining communal areas and shared elements of the building are the responsibility of the landlord and will be recovered through a service charge.

When working out your overheads for occupying an office, you should ideally include a reasonable amount of money for repairs and maintenance. This fund can be used for on-going repairs or for larger works required before you move out.

Planned maintenance

Planned maintenance is a proactive approach to looking after your premises. Rather than reacting to problems as they occur, planned maintenance keeps premises in good order to avoid break downs and emergencies. Benefits include:

  • enabling better financial planning
  • minimising occasions when maintenance has to be carried out at short notice. This takes staff away from other work and can be more costly eg. emergency call out fees. This is most important when maintenance includes structural elements such as the drains and roof, but flickering light bulbs also need to be dealt with immediately
  • reducing wastage eg. dripping taps, inefficient lighting
  • maintaining equipment in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines can prevent more serious, potentially costly problems
  • ensuring compliance with the law eg. servicing of gas boilers, lifts, fire alarms etc.
  • safer working environment, projecting a positive, professional image for the organisation

A programme of planned maintenance needs to be based on meeting your obligations under the lease and keeping your offices safe and welcoming.

You can engage a building surveyor to assist with drawing up a schedule of planned maintenance. They will review any lease agreements to understand the repairing responsibilities you have as landlord or tenant, assess the condition of the building, and work with you to draw up a schedule of planned maintenance.  This can be used to help budget for building maintenance. You will need to allocate responsibility for implementation of the planned maintenance programme to a member of staff.

The Maintain Your Building website provides valuable online resources and training sessions on how to look after old buildings and avoid costly repair projects. Advice and guidance covers everything from rooves to drains

At the end of the lease -Tenants

You should review your lease, ideally 12 months before the expiry date to give you time to plan necessary works or enter negotiations to minimise the claim for dilapidations from your landlord.

As soon as you know that you are going to move out, open discussions with your landlord about the work that is likely to be required. You want to avoid a last minute discovery that the work you have had carried out falls short of the landlord’s expectations. A large bill for dilapidations can come as a nasty shock.

For more information go to our Dilapidations page.

At the end of the lease – landlords

If your tenants fail to keep the premises in the state of repair and decoration as set out in the lease you may serve a 'schedule of dilapidations'. Be sure to serve the schedule well before the end of the lease (preferably 6 months) so that you have time to negotiate the works that need to be carried out and decide who will organise and pay for them. For more information on administering dilapidations, visit our Dilapidations pages.

Contracting out maintenance

If your premises require substantial or specialised maintenance, you may wish to contract one or more external companies to undertake the work for you. You need to develop a clear brief of the work that you require done and get a minimum of three quotes from potential contractors. If quotes vary substantially, ensure that all the contractors have understood and followed your brief. You should not necessarily always choose the cheapest quote. You should ask contractors to provide a method statement, risk assessment and a copy of their public liability insurance certificate.

There are companies who will deliver comprehensive maintenance programmes on your behalf, engaging and managing the required contractors.  Alternatively, it is cheaper (though more time consuming) to manage the different contractors yourself.