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Breaches of lease and COVID-19: A guide for managing agents

In these strange times there are certain steps which property managers can and should take to protect residential and commercial tenants from…

In these strange times there are certain steps which property managers can and should take to protect residential and commercial tenants from breaches by other tenants. Actions in respect of breaches of lease are still being handled by the Court and Tribunal (albeit more slowly on occasion). Whilst general management duties will have been dramatically curtailed, there are new situations arising of which you need to be ready to take action.

Residential premises

The enforced lockdown is critical to the safety of all of us. If, within a block, there are reports of a resident flouting such order by constant visits or outings then this will constitute an unlawful action and a nuisance to other residents and should be dealt with as an urgent breach matter.

  1. The enforced lockdown is critical to the safety of all of us. If, within a block, there are reports of a resident flouting such order by constant visits or outings then this will constitute an unlawful action and a nuisance to other residents and should be dealt with as an urgent breach matter
  2. The fact that everyone is at home is very likely to cause noise issues, from Children, music, moving around the apartment… These are not urgent issues. A warning letter is usually all that will be required.
  3. The most critical breach is Air BnB- there can be no excuse in the present climate for apartments to be let out on this basis and all such lettings, which will, in any event, contravene various covenants within the lease, must be stopped as a matter of urgency
  4. Many workers will be working from home. If this is simply a temporary office type situation then it should be overlooked- technically it’s a breach but no one would choose to enforce this. If, however, there are leaseholders setting up businesses from home on a larger scale as they cannot work from their normal premises, then there is a need for action. Such businesses would be nail salons, hairdressers, food production enterprises, all of which have the capacity to generate significant footfall, nuisance, increase the insurance ( due to potentially flammable substances being on site) and breach lockdown rules.

Commercial premises

  1. Ensure that non-essential businesses are not continuing to operate and have obeyed the government lockdown orders.
  2. It is very often the case that, where finances are tight, commercial units are used for residential purposes. Any such reported usage needs to be dealt with as a breach as there are Health & Safety issues and potential insurance invalidation if this takes place.
  3. Check that there is no unlawful sub-letting. Where business activity is contracting it is inevitable that small businesses will seek to share space and this should only be done with proper assessment and written permission.
  4. Keep a close eye on activity. Many businesses will cease to trade permanently. There may be dilapidations issues and rent owing which, although you may not wish to collect this immediately, are a long term issue. Try to obtain as much contact information as possible on current tenants to make any tracing easier once we are all free of Covid-19.

We are, of course, here to assist with any residential or commercial tenancy issues at any time.

Helena Bannister helena.bannister@weightmans.com

Sian Evans sian.evans@weightmans.com

Charlotte Collins charlotte.collins@weightmans.com

 

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