The pandemic has put extra pressure on both landlords and tenants, leading to difficulties and uncertainty for many. Here we provide guidance on what to do if you're struggling or want to be confident about what action you should take.

What steps do I need to think about when going back to the workplace?

1. What are the first steps that I need to take?

The tenant will need to ensure the safety of the workplace for their employees and the landlord will need to ensure the safety of the common parts of the building for occupiers. Both parties should undertake a risk assessment in line with the Health and Safety Executive's guidance. Guidance to help landlords and tenants understand how to prepare their spaces safely can be found on the Government's website.

2. How will the building operate going forward and who will pay for this?

It is likely that the landlord will introduce new services in light of the pandemic in addition to the usual services that are provided. The costs of these new services are likely to be passed down to the tenants through the service charge. If a tenant has a cap on their service charge then they may not feel this as much.

Some examples of services the landlord may look to introduce include:

  • deep and increased cleaning;
  • providing hand sanitiser stations;
  • providing and maintaining social distancing measures;
  • installing screening at reception desks;
  • re-commissioning services and utilities in the building post lockdown; and
  • temperature screening.

Landlords must generally only provide services which are required for the proper management of the building and the benefit of the tenants.

Tenants will be responsible for the costs of measures that need to be implemented to comply with laws and safety regulations for their part of the property.

3. I'm going to reconfigure my space to ensure it is safe, can I do this?

You can move free standing furniture and lab equipment (and similar items) around within your existing space. However, you need to be careful because you may be able to do less than you think before you need to get the landlord's consent.

Some tenancy agreements do allow tenants to erect and relocate internal partitioning without consent provided such partitioning does not adversely affect the building (such as impacting on air conditioning and drilling into walls). The tenant will usually have to provide the landlord with as-built drawings within a set timeframe following completion of these works. However, if you want/need to reconfigure the space, you will usually have to apply for the landlord's consent to do so.

You should check the terms of your tenancy agreement (usually the alterations clause) and if consent is required contact your landlord. As a first step, your landlord will expect to see detailed drawings of your proposals. Your landlord is also likely to ask that you pay their reasonable professional fees (i.e. lawyers and surveyors' fees) for reviewing the works and documenting their consent (usually in the form of a licence to alter).

It is important to obtain the landlord's consent before you commence your works because if you don't you would be in breach of your tenancy agreement. Your landlord will require time to review and approve your works and to enter into the licence to alter.

In carrying out the works to the landlord's reasonable satisfaction (which is a standard condition of a licence to alter), the landlord may inspect the works carried out. In the current environment, sensible measures may need to be put in place for the inspection.

Originally published 16 Jun 2020

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.