If you’re a commercial tenant or landlord in the Maryland, Virginia or DC area, you are legally bound by the terms of a commercial lease. To violate the lease’s terms could result in a legal dispute, including breach of contract. Such contract litigation can be extremely costly, even if you win.
Like many other things in life, prevention a problem is easier than fixing the problem. The following are tips on how to prevent a commercial lease dispute and avoid going to court.
Maintenance and Repair Responsibilities
A misunderstanding over who has the responsibility of maintaining and repairing certain areas of the leased property is a very common source of lease disputes. Unlike residential leases, commercial leases are not governed by the same laws that protect tenants. Therefore, every potential repair or maintenance task must be delegated as the responsibility of either the commercial tenant or landlord. Failure to do so can cause problems in several ways.
First, if there is confusion over who has to repair the roof or maintain the HVAC system, there will likely be disagreement over who should pay for it. Unless there is an amicable commercial landlord-tenant relationship, this disagreement can cause serious problems.
Second, clearly delegating the repair and maintenance responsibilities is important because it ensures necessary tasks are quickly taken care of. And in situations where the party responsible for a given repair or maintenance task refuses to fulfill his or her duty in a timely fashion, the lease should contain language that explains what should happen. For instance, the non-responsible party should have the ability to make necessary repairs and seek reimbursement at a later time.
The parties should make sure the lease is clear on the number of parking spaces the commercial tenant will have access to. The lease should also set out what happens if the landlord doesn’t make available the promised number of spaces or the tenant takes up more spaces than they’re supposed to.
Holding over refers to a tenant who continues to stay at the leased property even after the lease’s term has ended. Without holdover language in the lease, once the lease has terminated, the tenant is at the mercy of the landlord. This can lead to angry commercial landlords doing everything he or she can to remove a holder tenant or a commercial tenant complaining about a massive rent increase after the original lease ends.
Premises Is Unavailable
If something happens to the premises that makes it unusable, the lease should explain the rights of each party. For example, if a fire destroys part of the property, does the tenant still have to pay full rent? If not, does the tenant also have the right to immediately terminate the lease? And if the tenant must continue under the lease, what sort of deadlines or requirements must the landlord comply with to make necessary repairs? All of these questions must be answered before entering into a commercial lease. Otherwise, either side could find themselves searching for a good commercial lease lawyer if disaster strikes.
Get it in Writing
This should go without saying, but in the excitement of opening a new business or signing a new tenant, it’s easy to forget to add last minute details to the lease. At the very least, any details should be recorded in a letter or email.
For More Information
To learn more about how to avoid getting into a commercial lease dispute, contact the Thomas Law office and ask to speak with a commercial lease lawyer.