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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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