27 May, 2020

Our sudden absence from the workplace means that everything from day to day maintenance to major projects like refurbishment or plant replacement will have been abandoned. The timing and pattern of a return to work has yet to emerge, but it seems unlikely we’ll occupy buildings the same way we did before, at least for the time being. Perhaps a reasonable assumption might be extended or staggered working hours at a lower density of occupation.

In all this it’s easy to overlook one of the fundamental principles of being a tenant; your obligation to comply with the terms of your lease. Particularly the covenants that bind you to look after the building. Amongst all the other pressing issues on your agenda some simple steps taken now will help manage the risk of being in breach. They will also put you in a strong position to move forward when business resumes.

  • Make sure all statutory and mandatory insurance inspections have been carried out and that certification is up to date. If any have been missed, they need to be scheduled now.
  • See if any new maintenance needs have arisen as a result of your absence from the building. For example, plant or building systems could have been closed down incorrectly because of the speed of the lockdown or the rapid imposition of social distancing.
  • Assess how much planned work wasn’t carried out, so it can be reviewed afresh, prioritised and absorbed into a new plan.
  • Review your Planned Preventive Maintenance strategy for the building. It will need to change; new patterns of occupation could mean longer operating hours for plant but less intense wear on other parts of the building. Carpets and finishes in areas adapted for distancing or for one way traffic may wear differently. The maintenance cycles for every element will need to be re-planned. That will change your budget too.
  • Money will be tight, so decide what can be deferred and for how long. Think strategically, focus on compliance and prioritise only what must be done.
  • Finally, keep talking to your landlord. The more it knows about what you’re doing to look after its asset the less likely it is to be concerned about the potential for any short-term breach.