Coronavirus: Empty commercial premises – are you protecting yourself?

30th March 2020

The current coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a significant number of empty commercial premises.

Tenants should check their leases to identify whether:

  • they are required to notify their landlord that the premises are empty
  • they are required to comply with specific security measures
  • the landlord must continue to provide services in the current climate
  • there are financial consequences if they claim empty rates relief because the landlord loses out
  • they have a break clause which could be exercised

Tenants and freehold owners should check their buildings insurance to ensure they are complying with the insurer’s requirements. If they do not do this, they risk invalidating future claims. Most policies require the insurer to be notified when premises become vacant. In addition, if a tenant does not comply with the terms of the insurance then they are likely to be in breach of the lease.

Empty premises carry a significant risk of malicious damage, squatters, structural damage and water leaks. Practical steps which could help to protect the premises include:

  • checking working security alarms,
  • securing windows and doors,
  • disconnecting utilities, and
  • visiting the premises when circumstances allow to limit damage as much as possible.

Premises which incorporate open land are exposed to the accrual of third party rights by members of the public. Tenants and freehold owners should consider security fencing and signs which make clear that the land is private.

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