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Assessing the situation

Cathryn Pernstich looks at statutory obligations in relation to commercial properties and what compliance/non-compliance with those obligations might mean.

Whether a property is owned as a freehold interest or you are a tenant under a lease, there will be a need to comply with statutory obligations imposed.

What statutory obligations?

There are many.  Some will be determined by the type of property owned or by its use – environmental permits, food hygiene, health and safety requirements.

Two statutory requirements apply to pretty much every commercial property regardless of what it is used for or if it is freehold or leasehold.  These are:

  • asbestos surveys
  • fire risk assessments

What are they?

With only specific exceptions, every property will need to have in place an asbestos survey and fire risk assessment.  An asbestos survey determines if there is asbestos in a property.  If there is, a management plan will need to be put in place.  A fire risk assessment looks at fire safety and escape.  This is also something that should be periodically received, particularly if alterations or changes to the layout of a property are made.

It is not just the landlord or freehold owner that must carry out the required survey/assessment.  It can be the tenant/occupier of the property.

Legislation stipulates the party having to put the survey/assessment in place “as the responsible person” for the property.

What if they are not in place?

Not having the required assessment or survey in place could:

  • invalidate any insurance for the property
  • slow down or halt a sale, letting or financing of the property
  • render the “responsible person” liable to a fine and/or criminal prosecution

As a stark example Marks & Spencers were fined £1million in 2016 for not having carried out an asbestos survey prior to doing works at a store.

The Marks & Spencers case is a costly reminder of how not doing what you are told can come back to bite you.  As annoying as it might be, spending the – in comparison – small amount to put the survey/assessment in place could be money and time well spent.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please feel free to contact Cathryn Pernstich, Senior Associate within our Commercial Property team.  Cathryn is contactable by telephone on 07737 854521 or by email on [email protected].


Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.

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