Archive for February, 2013

Drafting commercial leases? A surveyor’s view

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Timely maintenance would have avoided this but who pays and when?If you’re drafting a lease for a commercial Landlord there are a few things to think about that go beyond the ‘standard’ template or precedent documents.

External redecoration – It’s better to paint in the summer than the winter so rather require painting ‘in the final year’ or ‘in the last three months of the term’ why not say, for example ‘between May and September’ preceding the Termination Date? This would require the redecoration to be done during the better weather?
Might it be also be possible to make an express requirement to the effect that if the Tenant defaults the LL can do the work and charge it as a debt?

Internal redecoration – The Landlord always wants the building freshly decorated at the end of the lease so why do leases allow Tenants to redecorate in the ‘final year of the term’, for example. What is wrong with ‘during the last month of the term’?

Retail units are always a source of dispute for surveyors. The sales area is often let as a ‘shell’ and a new Tenant will want to decorate and fit it out to suit his business so what is the point in redecorating and repairing minor defects? Claims for such could well be disputed on a Sn 18 basis anyway. In most cases redecoration of all parts excluding the sales area would be appropriate.

Painted and plastic coated metal cladding doesn’t last for ever without maintenance. Manufacturers give a time to first maintenance of between 20 and 30 years depending on aspect, colour, environment etc. Older coatings will be less durable requiring maintenance sooner.
In practice cladding receives no maintenance until the coating starts peeling and the cladding starts rusting. It does seem unfair to make the Tenant on, say, a three year lease of a 25 year-old unit pay for a maintenance treatment. Has anyone any ideas how the Landlord could be protected?

Leases often call for maintenance and reinstatement of the Landlord’s fittings. Without a schedule at the start who can tell what was there? I’ve had debates over whether ceilings and lighting were installed by the LL or by the Tenant; neither could prove one way or the other.

Lease plans – Often lease plans and the description of the demise are so poor that interpreting the scope of any alterations made by the tenant impossible. It follows that seeking reinstatement is equally difficult. Why not consider having layout plans attached to the lease; they need only be sketches.

Do you know a good builder who can fix my problems?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Would a couple of vent grilles get rid of this black mould?

Cracks in the wall, damp, black mould – all common building problems.

But how to get them fixed? I know, let’s call a builder for a free quotation.

But a builder will treat the symptoms without fully understanding the cause; you could waste £000’s on a ‘fix’ that’s not needed or might fail.

But don’t blame the builder; it’s not his fault; anyone can call himself a builder or a specialist in ‘this’ or ‘that’. He might be a trained bricklayer or joiner but he’s not trained to understand how buildings work and why they fail; that is what surveyors do.

A surveyor will investigate the underlying cause and tell the builder what to do to put it right.

For example, a friend recently asked me to look at a black mould problem in a small 1960s terraced house. He had two quotations from ‘specialist’ damp contractors. Both were offering their own different ventilation solutions at hugely different prices. Which one should he use?

I checked the place out and, as expected, found the house full of warm moist air from showering, cooking, laundry etc. Yes, ventilation was required, but that was not all.

The contractors’ solutions were only the starting point. Their venting proposals were inadequate alone and wouldn’t cure the problem.

They made no mention of the need to insulate the cold spots, fix the leaking rainwater pipe nor suggested ways to reduce the build-up of moist air in the house.

The same goes for cracks in walls and rising damp.

Most cracks are insignificant, the result of thermal movement or minor settlement, and require little or no remedial work. But a bullder will fix it for you!

And true rising damp, as a result of failed damp-proof courses, is very rare too; there is nearly always an underlying cause. I’ve seen leaking gutters, a running overflow and a split dishwasher hose all identified as ‘rising damp’. And until someone can explain to me how injecting chemicals into solid, hard, impervious clay bricks can create a damp-proof course I shall remain ever sceptical.

A builder’s advice might come for ‘free’ but what is the cost if he gets it wrong or the work is unnecessary? And he’s hardly impartial.

A surveyor will charge but he is knowledgeable, impartial and more likely to get things right….. and if it goes wrong you can sue him.