Commercial property leases – whether you’re a landlord or a tenant – can be fraught with difficulties and the devil is often in the detail. These are some of the questions we get asked:

We have a landlord and tenant guide that we can email or post to you. It gives brief explanations of what the various terms mean to help you understand your lease better.
Other than your rent, usually payable quarterly or monthly in advance, you’ll be liable for the business rates. You may also incur a service charge and insurance costs. Utility bills will be your responsibility as well as maintenance and any repairs, depending on the wording in the lease.
This should be in the terms of your lease, but if you’re not sure you should consult your solicitor. If you can sub-let, it’ll usually be with certain conditions attached, such as whether you can sub-let all or part of the premises or what rent you can charge. Do remember, however, that your original lease stays in force, including your liabilities. A sub lease will usually be limited by your own lease – you won’t be able to grant a sub-lease that’s longer than yours for example – and the landlord may have a right to approve the sub lease before consenting to it.
Leases generally make you responsible for some or all of the maintenance and repairs to the property so it can be important to get a survey done depending on the premises and their internal condition. If you’re just taking office space, where you’ll be responsible for the internal condition of the building, it might be that a visual inspection is all that’s required, although if possible, and the landlord agrees, it’s worth investing in a photographic survey as evidence of the condition of the premises in case there’s a dispute in the future.
In essence, your lease should include your right of access to the premises, use of any shared facilities such as parking spaces and the benefits of utility services. Think about what you’ll need for your business. For example, if you’re a retailer you’ll need a right of access for deliveries and perhaps enough signage to make your business easily identifiable to customers.
If your property requirements change while you’re leasing commercial premises, it can leave you in a difficult position. Your lease may include a break clause which allows you to terminate it early, but often there are conditions attached which make it difficult for you to leave. You could try to negotiate with your landlord to surrender your lease early, but there’s likely to be a cost to do this. Also, depending on the terms of your lease, you may be able to assign it to someone else, although you’re likely to need the landlord’s consent and it may not get you out of the lease completely as you could be required to guarantee the next tenant’s rental payments.

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