Even with careful management, it is rare for commercial properties to enjoy uninterrupted tenancy and landlords are not always aware of the importance of maintaining commercial property while it lies vacant.
Here, Jon Latham, Associate Director in our Cardiff office, gives a summary of steps that can be taken to avoid liabilities.
Check your insurance
Policy details should be reviewed once you have notice that a building will be vacated. Building insurance policies contain specific requirements that landlords must adhere to, for example a requirement for the property to be frequently inspected on either a weekly or fortnightly basis and for an inspection report to be produced and reviewed by a responsible person.
Raise the alarm
If the property was specified as having an operational fire alarm system, intruder alarm system or sprinkler system for example, the insurer may stipulate that they are kept fully operational while the property is vacant.
The policy may also state that the systems must be independently monitored by a remote service station, with appropriate response contractors appointed to attend site promptly in the event of alarm activations. To allow monitoring of the systems, telephone lines often need to be installed and line rental contracts negotiated.
System maintenance contracts can represent a considerable void cost for landlords and so we recommend that they are appropriately specified, tendered and monitored.
Look at viewings
It is worth bearing in mind that viewings can present risk and landlords should undertake Liability Risk Assessments to identify potential issues. Quotations can then be obtained and remedial works carried out to safeguard a property and viewers.
It is useful to note that exposure to liability under the Occupiers Liability Acts, the Health & Safety At Work Act 1974 and other associated Health & Safety legislation are covered within these Risk Assessment reports.
Keep your services safe
In order to ensure that the vacant property is ready for tenants, landlords should ensure that the electrical installation is in a good state of repair. A five year test of electrical fixed wiring installations is a statutory requirement, regardless of whether there is a tenant in occupation, if landlords intend to continue using electrical systems such as lighting and alarms within the property
As for other services, any gas supplies to the property should be appropriately isolated, whilst the water supply should also be isolated and drained down to minimise risk of water leaks.
Any central heating systems including any radiators should be drained down, whilst letter boxes and any other openings should also be suitably sealed to ensure that the premises is left in a safe and secure condition.
Let management take the strain
Lambert Smith Hampton provides landlords with a comprehensive vacant premises management service, ensuring that insurance obligations are met and any associated liabilities covered.
Through our online Risk Management System, we constantly monitor all open risk items together with managing contractor quotations and issuing instructions to complete works. We employ a range of contractors throughout Wales to service vacant properties, all of which hold suitable health & safety and trade qualifications, ensuring that any contractors working on site have the relevant expertise and hold all requisite insurances to mitigate potential liabilities.
We also instruct emergency reactive works on behalf of landlords, subject to an agreed maximum expenditure threshold. Along with a 24 hour Helpdesk Service for any maintenance or security issues arising outside of normal working hours, we deal with all day to day issues relating to the maintenance of vacant properties.
With the service tailored to each individual landlord’s requirement, it is a tried and tested way to manage voids effectively.