Commercial rental property: landlord and tenant responsibilities
Responsibility for health and safety and maintenance duties in business properties
If you are a landlord or tenant of commercial property you will have a duty to ensure the business premises are well maintained and safe, healthy places for people to work. Whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for certain aspects of the business property is determined by law and the terms of the rental lease.
This guide explains the health and safety responsibilities in rented business property including gas safety, fire safety and electrical safety. There is also guidance on how to manage asbestos in rented business property if it is present in the building. Energy performance in rented business property is also outlined in this guide.
Health and safety responsibilities in rented business property
Who is responsible for health and safety duties for rented business premises
The health and safety responsibilities in a rented business premises belong to the tenant, and in some cases the landlord.
If you are a tenant in commercial property and employ staff, you must ensure the workplace meets a number of basic requirements under health and safety rules. These include:
- ensuring temperatures in the wokplace are appropriate
- providing sufficient space, ventilation and lighting
- providing suitable sanitation and washing facilities
- providing drinking water
- maintaining equipment
- keeping the premises clean and free of waste
Landlords and commercial property managing agents may have a duty to share these responsibilities if they exercise any control over your workplace. This is particularly relevant where several businesses operate in the same building and they share the use of common areas.
If, for example, you pay a service charge for the stairs or for a lift to be cleaned and maintained and for use of toilet facilities, it's likely that your landlord will have responsibility for ensuring compliance with health and safety rules in these areas.
Serviced offices or business centres
In serviced offices or business centres, your landlord may also be responsible for conducting a regular health and safety risk assessment.
Remember, however, that if the landlord does take on such responsibilities, you must check that they are fulfilling them.
You should also co-operate with other tenants in the same building on health and safety issues.
The division of these health and safety responsibilities will often be the subject of negotiation between landlords and tenants from case to case. It's important to check what's set out in the rental lease. Commercial tenancy agreements often put the onus for safety on the tenant.
Gas safety in rented business property
Occupiers of rented commercial premises have responsibility to ensure that any gas appliance, installation pipework or flue installed in their workplace is maintained in a safe condition. This applies whether you are an employer or self-employed.
Annual boiler service
You must maintain gas equipment according to the manufacturer's instructions. This often means that you'll need an annual service by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Your rental lease or a separate contract can help ensure gas safety requirements are met. However, the legal responsibility remains with the occupier of the commercial premises.
Property owner responsibilities
The owner, or other person in control of the building, may also have duties under the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978. This could include ensuring heating equipment in common parts is maintained safely. The lease or separate contractual agreement can be used to determine how these responsibilities are allocated.
Fire safety in rented business property
Key responsibilities for tenants and landlords under fire regulations for commercial property
Anyone who has control of the commercial property, or some control over part of the business premises, can be responsible for fire safety. This means you need to:
- carry out and keep up to date a fire risk assessment, considering the possible risks to all people who could be affected
- take steps to prevent fires eg ensuring electrical equipment is maintained
- provide fire precautions to safeguard people using the workplace eg escape routes to a place of safety, fire-resistant doors and walls, fire alarms and fire-fighting equipment
- train staff in fire safety
Landlord and tenant fire safety responsibilities
In commercial property, both the landlord and the tenant normally share fire safety responsibilities. For example, in a multi-occupied office block housing a number of employers, all tenants have responsibilities for those parts of the premises used by their employees. The landlord or managing agent must ensure fire regulations are complied with on common staircases. The landlord is responsible for maintaining and checking shared fire safety equipment, such as a fire alarm system covering the whole building. Fire safety responsibility.
Electrical safety in rented business property
How responsibility for electrical safety in commercial premises is determined
The responsibility for electrical safety in rented commercial premises will be decided by the terms of the rental lease. This, or a separate contract, should set out whether you or your landlord (or managing agent) takes on electrical safety duties.
As a tenant you must assess the risks of your business' use of electricity at work and take steps to control these risks. This may range from ensuring electrical installations are safe and providing suitable equipment to carrying out preventative maintenance and ensuring safe systems of work.
Your landlord is also likely to have a duty of care for wiring systems and electrical equipment.
If your property is experiencing a power cut or flickering lights you can contact Northern Ireland Electricity Networks 24 hours a day on 03457 643 643. What to do if you have no electrical power.
Manage asbestos in rented business property
Responsibilities for managing asbestos in commercial premises, and who exercises them
Whoever is responsible for maintaining all or part of the commercial property must also manage any asbestos in the premises.
Depending on the terms of the rental lease, managing asbestos could be the responsibility of the tenant or the landlord (or managing agent). When maintenance responsibilities aren't clearly stated, the legal duty rests with the party which has the most control over the property.
Legal duties for managing asbestos on commercial property
If you hold this legal duty for managing asbestos on the business property, you must:
- Take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos. You may need to use an external surveyor. Find accredited asbestos surveying companies.
- Presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not.
- Keep an up-to-date record of the location and condition of the asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) or presumed ACMs in the premises.
- Assess the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to asbestos fibres.
- Prepare a plan setting out how the asbestos risks will be managed.
- Put the plan into action.
- Review and monitor the plan periodically.
- Provide information on the location and condition of ACMs to anyone who is likely to work on or disturb them.
- Make sure that material is analysed for asbestos content in accordance with ISO17025, which sets standards for both quality management and technical requirements in laboratories. Find an accredited asbestos testing laboratory.
Remember that even if you aren't legally responsible for managing asbestos risks in your business property, you must co-operate with the party who is.
Tenants must allow the landlord or managing agent access to the premises to conduct inspections. If the tenant has responsibility for managing asbestos, the landlord must disclose relevant information.
Energy performance in rented business property
Measures that landlords of commercial premises must take to comply with energy performance of building requirements
All owners of existing non-domestic premises are obliged to provide prospective buyers or tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This also applies to anyone building new non-domestic property.
The EPC provides information on energy efficiency using A-G ratings. It also includes recommendations for improvement in energy efficiency. Acting on the recommendations can help you cut energy consumption, save money on bills and help reduce carbon emissions.
If your commercial property has air conditioning systems you should ensure they are well maintained so that they don't consume too much energy or leak hazardous substances. See managing fluorinated gases and ozone-depleting substances.
The tenant or landlord or managing agent may be legally required to have the air conditioning system inspected regularly by a qualified engineer or energy assessor. Air conditioning inspections.
Boilers and space heating systems
The efficiency of your boiler has a big impact on the overall energy efficiency of a building. See checking boiler efficiency. If the capacity of your heating and hot water system is more than 20 kilowatts and it is more than 15 years old, you should get a heating engineer to assess it.
Improvements that may be recommended include:
- improved heating and hot water system controls such as thermostats, zone controls and sequencing controls
- improved insulation (where this is cost-effective) for boilers, water heaters, piping, hot water storage tanks and ductwork on hot air distribution systems
- installing renewable energy supply systems
You should get a heating system assessment every two to four years. See energy assessments for heating and hot water systems.
Responsibilities for maintenance of commercial properties
Division of responsibilities between landlords and tenants for maintenance and repair of commercial premises
When taking on a commercial property lease it's important that you understand your responsibilities for the repair and maintenance of the building you are renting.
Tenants are typically responsible for internal repairs and maintenance. In some cases you will also be responsible for external maintenance. This is more likely if you're the sole occupant of a building.
Maintenance responsibilities and the rental lease
Ultimately the division of maintenance responsibilities will be set out in the rental lease. As a result it's important to check a lease carefully before you sign.
Before you sign the lease you should check what your liability is for repairs needing to be done. If you're not careful you could end up having to pay for them.
You should consider having a survey done and insisting on any alterations, repairs and redecorations being completed before you sign the lease.
When signing a lease you should be clear on the repairs the landlord may require you to pay for at the end of the agreement - known as dilapidations. This can often be a problem area, so it's important to take it seriously.
You may be responsible for reinstating the premises to its original condition. As a result it's important to get professional help from a chartered surveyor, who will record the state of the premises when you took on the lease. This will prevent the landlord from making unjustified demands later on. Find a chartered surveyor.