Commercial Leases: Maintenance and Repair
Responsibility for maintenance and repair is meant to be shared between the landlord and the tenant in a commercial lease. Rent may be a negotiating tool, but before you sign that lease, be sure that you understand what your obligations are -- knowing what you cannot do is equally important.
General expectations will always be restricted to your rented space. Bear in mind, this may be the entire building if you are the sole tenant. You will be counted on to keep the property neat and in good order. Any nonstructural problems that you cause in your rented space are likely yours to remedy.
Waste, Nuisance and Quiet Enjoyment
The three terms that are key to understanding this clause are “waste,” “nuisance” and “quiet enjoyment”. Different types of activities may constitute an example of one or a violation. Allowing garbage to pile up or destroying property are examples of waste. They are also examples of a nuisance, as are odorous emissions or cacophonous sounds. Most leases will clearly demand that tenants refrain from committing or causing such issues.
So, what does “quiet enjoyment” refer to? This is an old legal principle. It refers to your neighbor’s right to enjoy the benefit of his or her lease and prohibits you from acting in any way that makes this impossible or overly difficult.
Tenant Expectations vs. Landlord Expectations
Both ultimately come down to what you and the landlord decide as to set forth in your lease. However, generally you will be expected to clean and repair carpets; and lighting and wall coverings will be your responsibility, as will bathroom and kitchen fixtures. These are non-structural elements.
Structural aspects, or major building systems, are off limits. This includes the building shell, foundation, roof, electrical, heating and ventilation systems. Most property owners do not want anyone making decisions involving the building’s walls, roof and major systems.
If you are clear and comfortable with your list of duties, you can generally assume that all the housekeeping and repair chores concerning anything other than your rented space belong to the landlord. The lease may or may not get into this. It is up to you to make sure that the lease spells out the landlord’s responsibilities.
Watch Out for These Maintenance Issues
Both taking on additional responsibilities and turning others over to a landlord can lead to problems. Try not to get in over your head. If you take on jobs that your landlord would normally handle, he or she might lower your rent. However, in return for money saved, you might end up wasting way more trying to tend to maintenance issues that you lack the experience, time or skills to manage. For example, building, fire and safety code compliance should never be your concern. Finally, be sure that you are covered by the appropriate amount of insurance -- you will need to consult an insurance broker or agent for this.
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