Property Issues Checklist
2020 has caused disruption to all of our lives and, to some, COVID has meant not only health and isolation issues, but also financial stress.
Many businesses now find themselves with properties that just don’t fit with the new ways of working during this pandemic.
If you are struggling with a lease or licence to premises you find you no longer need, I’ve compiled a checklist of actions you can try to reduce your liabilities.
- Know whether your office has a lease or a licence agreement. If you have a serviced office, you will probably have a licence and if you are in a more traditional office, you will probably have a lease.
- Licence Agreements – these are usually attached to a licenced office in a communal space where you share facilities with other tenants. As with a traditional lease, they will have a start date and an end date; however, they sometimes have a ‘roll-over’ term included in them. This means that if the licence isn’t terminated after the initial term, it may ‘roll-over’ for a determined period – usually a further 12 months as a minimum. Ensure you read the termination clause in your licence agreement to ensure this doesn’t happen to you.
- Licence Agreements – are you getting the service your licence states you must receive? If you are experiencing any problems with your office facilities and your landlord isn’t fulfilling his obligations, then your landlord may be in breach of contract and you can negotiate an exit.
- Leases – ensure you read your lease. Whilst you may know the end date of the lease, does your lease have the provision of a break clause? A break clause gives the tenant the option to determine the lease earlier than the end date. There is usually a notice period attached to the break clause date – notices are usually six months; however, some may be 12 months – so as long as you give your landlord the required notice prior to the break date, you have the right to exit your lease early.
- Can you sublet? Whilst I appreciate that a lot of businesses in the recruitment sector are moving away from offices, this is not the case in other sectors. Read your lease to see if it is possible for you to sublet your office. Whilst this doesn’t negate your liability as far as the lease is concerned, at least you won’t be paying the rent and business rates on the premises as this will be covered by the new tenant.
- Speak to your landlord – any landlord worth his salt will be open to negotiation regarding the lease. Remember, a landlord would rather have a tenant than an empty building.
Points of discussion can be:
- Renegotiate your rent. If your business has been adversely affected by the pandemic then advise your landlord of this and it’s not unknown for landlords to lower the rental for a period of time.
- Amend your payment terms – can you amend the payment terms from quarterly to monthly? This could help your cashflow.
- Suggest a payment plan. Be honest, if you can’t afford the rent and the landlord won’t let the rental drop on a permanent basis then offer a payment plan, detailing how much you can afford to pay and when and also a schedule of how and when you intend to make up the arrears.
- Can you decrease the size of your office? Could you offload some of your office space back to the landlord? Do you have an easily partitionable space that the landlord could take back and re-let to another company? This will decrease your rental and business rate liability.
- Renegotiate your lease. The landlord would rather have some money coming in than none at all so explain what you need and negotiate.
The above list is not exhaustive; however, it gives you an idea of how you can limit your liabilities in this tough year.
Please remember, every lease and every landlord is different; therefore it’s important to read the terms of your licence/lease and speak to your landlord. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
If you require any specific assistance with any lease issues you may be experiencing at the moment, please contact me at Docea Contract Review Services Ltd – email@example.com – and I’ll be happy to look into these for you.