Kenny McDonald from DM Hall, one of Scotland’s largest firms of independent chartered surveyors, has shared his view on the best time for landlords and tenants to get advice on dilapidations claims.
The leased used to formalise the agreement between the landlord and its tenant must have a clear and concise context that represents the requirements of the parties. Prior to entering into any lease agreement, it is important for the tenant to seek advice from an experienced building surveyor to minimise risk and avert potential claims.
The state of the premises at the commencement of the lease can have significant bearing on dilapidations claims, especially because tenants have a common misconception that they are not obliged to repair, maintain or replace building components or landlord’s fixtures that were in poor condition at the outset of their tenancy.
An experienced surveyor will be able recognise the merits and deficiencies of a lease and put this in context for their respective clients.
Most commercial leases will ask the tenant to ‘put the premises into repair or keep in repair’, which obliges the tenant to maintain it to a prescribed standard, often “good and substantial or good and tenantable condition, irrespective of the cause of damage”.
However, the standard of repair can be varied within the lease by a Schedule of Condition, most often in favour of the tenant, often requiring the tenant to return the premises in “no better or no worse condition” than evidenced in the schedule of condition.
Tenants should also be aware that any alterations or additions made to the demised premises will be subject to the same repairing obligations as that of the existing premises. Tenant fixtures and landlord fixtures are usually treated differently at the end of a lease; therefore the expertise of a building surveyor is beneficial for both parties, especially at the end of the lease term.
Once appointed the surveyor will be able to make an assessment of the type of service required and provide strategic advice to the client. This advice can be invaluable in minimising risk prior to the commencement of a lease for landlord and tenant alike. At lease end, the appointment of a chartered building surveyor can be the difference between a good and bad outcome for the client.