Building managers, owners, landlords, and anyone in control of premises will be subject to additional responsibilities to deal with the immediate impact of the Coronavirus on users of their premises. The extra responsibility will extend to common areas or serviced facilities and other areas that they have control of.

The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act includes duties to do everything reasonably practicable to ensure that people working in or visiting the building are not exposed to risks to their health, including exposure to COVID-19.  Reasonable measures must be taken to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the building and all means of access to and egress from the premises, and any plant, such as lifts, within the building are without risks to health.

The extent of the landlord’s obligations will depend on how much control it has over the property under the terms of the lease. If a whole building has been leased to a tenant on a full repairing and insuring (FRI) basis, there is very little the landlord will be expected to do. In these cases, compliance with health and safety law rests with the tenant in full.

Where the building is multi-let, the landlord or building manager may well have duties in relation to the common areas. A risk assessment should be conducted, and cleaning will be a key consideration.

For example, in the case of services offices, the owner will have a greater level of duty since the landlord has a more active role in managing the premises. In these circumstances we would expect that the landlord will be required to take advice from a competent health and safety professional on how to manage risks within the premises.

For properties that are now closed, these obligations may extend to a full decontamination of the common areas and landlord’s may be looking to recover these costs via the service charge from their tenants.  In these cases, the provisions of the lease should be consulted to determine whether this sort of action is required by the landlord and as to whether it is considered a reasonable requirement of the landlord.

Further information

Please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our Real Estate team on 01619414000 or at lawyers@myerson.co.uk

We also recommend paying close attention to any new government guidance at www.gov.uk and following our COVID-19 blog series.