Is the landlord
responsible for unsafe electrical supply?
This is a question that
commercial tenants often ask me:
We leased a shop a couple of months ago and recently
decided we needed to change some lighting. An electrician
came to do the job, and found that there were no earth
leakage circuits in our shop.
We decided to be safe. We got him to install earth
leakage circuit breakers.
He came yesterday and found that every appliance, light
and several circuits were being tripped. After a few hours
of fault finding, he failed to identify the cause.
I initially asked the landlord to help us pay to install
the circuit breakers to which he replied no- it’s our
expense because it comes from the box in our shop.
Does he have any responsibility to provide safe
electrical circuitry in the lease of the premises? The
electrician is amazed nobody has been electrocuted.
This is my answer:
One of the beautiful things about being a commercial
landlord is that you hand over the premises to the tenant
‘as is’. There is no obligation on a commercial landlord to
make the premises ‘fit for purpose’.
This is in contrast to residential landlords who must
make property ‘habitable’.
The sole exception is if something is faulty outside of
the four walls of the premises, but within the building. The
landlord is responsible to fix these faults.
Experienced commercial tenants have the services such as
electricity, water, sewerage and phone lines checked before
they sign the lease, so that they can insist upon the
landlord fixing them or obtain a rent concession.
In your case, so long as there is a working electricity
connection to the premises, the landlord has done all that
they need to do.
You of course need to make the electrical supply safe, at
your expense, otherwise you may become liable now that you
know of the problem.
Disclaimer: Because lenders assess borrowers differently,
and because each borrower’s circumstances are different, the
comments made in this newsletter are not to be relied upon
in specific cases.
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