Not sure who's responsible for the repairs to a building? See RICS' guidance notes below for advice to tenants:
What are dilapidations?
The term is normally used to cover defects or disrepair which you as tenant will be required to deal with or pay to have remedied when you vacate the premises that you have leased.
When do I need to start thinking about dilapidations?
Before you take a lease. A survey will establish the condition of the premises , giving an indication of work that may be needed, both immediately and later. If the premises are already in bad repair, special considerations apply (see below). During the term of the lease, regular or planned maintenance can avoid greater expense later.
What if the premises are in a poor state at the outset?
Most commercial leases require the tenant to put and keep the property in repair. Unless you and the landlord specifically agree otherwise, the fact that the premises were in a poor condition when you took them on is irrelevant. You still have to put them right. So negotiate for a lower premium or a lower rent to compensate for costs that you face.
Alternatively, persuade the landlord to agree that the premises be returned at the end of the lease in a condition similar to the state in which you took them. In this case, after you have had the premises surveyed, make sure that their condition is established, recorded and attached to the lease as a "schedule of condition".
When is the landlord likely to submit a dilapidations claim?
Generally speaking, landlords do not serve dilapidations claims earlier than three years before the end of the lease. If you, as tenant, have a statutory right to a new lease, the landlord probably will not serve a dilapidations claim unless or until you indicate that you are unlikely to renew your lease.
What is the position on alterations I have made?
This depends on the terms of the lease and any licences that the landlord granted you to make alterations. On granting consent for alterations the landlord probably required that at the end of the lease you restore the property to its original state if requested to do so. Therefore, unless the landlord thinks your alterations have added value, you will probably be required to reinstate the property at the end of the lease or pay the cost.
The exception is if neither the lease nor the licence for alterations gives the landlord the option of requesting reinstatement.
Do I have to accept the landlord's dilapidations claim in full?
No, do not accept it without taking professional advice. The cost may be inflated or the claim may include items which are not valid items of disrepair. And possibly the landlord may not in fact intend to repair the property; he or she might plan to demolish it. In this case you would have a good defence at law to the claim.
What if I cannot reach a compromise with the landlord?
If you cannot reach agreement, the landlord has recourse to the court. But this is a slow process and expensive for both sides. Landlords will generally avoid it if they can. Consult your solicitor as well as your chartered surveyor if things look like taking this course - in a court hearing your chartered surveyor will be able to act as an expert witness on you behalf.