Landlords are responsible for the buildings they own. But increasingly this responsibility is being extended to encompass the behaviour of their tenants. This is not just a question of activities that might upset or offend nearby occupiers; it seems that landlords are now required to take on some of the work of the police or of HMRC. Is this part of a Government move to reduce the burden on the state or is it merely a perception magnified by the media? In this piece we discuss this trend and advise landlords on the current extent of their liabilities.
The landlord/tenant relationship
Leases typically require the tenant to comply with the law as far as it relates to the premises and the tenant's use of the premises, and not to use the premises for an illegal act. However, they do not include a general obligation to comply with the law in the running of their business – and a tenant would surely object to such an obligation. It is also likely that a landlord would not want to include this sort of provision. If the landlord has power to stop the tenant doing something then this power may come with an enforcement responsibility – as with the concept of being a "knowing permitter" under environmental legislation. The knowing permitter becomes liable if it has the ability to stop something but doesn't do so.