Q&A - Can I make alterations to commercial premises I am looking to rent?

Q: I am looking to open a high street hairdressing salon and have been offered a lease.  The shop front is perfect but I need to renovate the inside and possibly knock walls down.  As the inside is dark, I would also like to put in a skylight? Could I make these alterations to a rented property?

A: You would need to consider the demise of the property to be granted under the lease in order to determine what part of it is yours to renovate and decorate, and also to determine the extent of any repair and maintenance obligations you will be required to keep.

The lease will specify if there are any prohibitions relating to alterations.  Often, non-structural alterations to property are permitted provided you obtain the Landlord’s prior consent, for which you should be prepared to pay reasonable administration costs.  In a lease for this type of property there is likely to be an absolute prohibition against making any structural or external alteration to the property.  You should therefore determine if any of the walls you want to knock down are load-bearing. If they are you will not be able to knock them down.  Installing a skylight would be considered an external alteration to the roof which would not be permitted under the lease.

With this type of property, the Landlord will insist on a full repairing and insuring lease which means the Tenant is responsible for all maintenance, repairs and insurance costs for the property.  Ensure you are fully aware of the property’s condition before entering into the lease, as the lease will require you to “keep the property in repair” irrespective of whether it was in a poor state of repair at the commencement of the lease.  Your solicitor can advise how you can limit the repairing obligations in the lease.

(Published 08/01/2018)