Who is Responsible for Plumbing in a Commercial Lease?

When it comes to a commercial lease, it is often highly complicated to determine who takes responsibility for various aspects of repair and maintenance.

Regarding plumbing and heating, the lease terms will determine precisely whether the landlord or tenant takes charge. However, some general guidelines in the law can help you understand the division and confusion.

In this guide, we will examine the possible responsibilities for maintaining, repairing and replacing the essential components of the plumbing and heating system in a commercial property.


Responsibilities of a Commercial Landlord and a Tenant

Commercial landlords are bound by duty to ensure their property is safe for the tenant and all those who use the building.

As commercial property lettings are more complex than residential, there can be some confusion over the finer details of a lease.

In fact, it is common for responsibilities between the tenant and the landlord to overlap.

Let’s look at the aspects of the law that can affect the responsibility for plumbing and heating.


Health and Safety

While the commercial landlord has some legal responsibility, a proportion will also fall on the tenant.

Some laws govern a tenant’s responsibility. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 gives specific responsibility for fire regulations to the tenant, including:

  • Keeping the premises at a reasonable temperature
  • Providing adequate ventilation
  • Providing safe drinking water
  • Providing toilets and washing facilities

Where any of these areas are compromised due to problems, it will be the tenant’s responsibility to ensure that the issues are fixed. An exception will be where a landlord is responsible for health and safety in shared communal areas.

Gas and Electricity

In commercial leases, the tenant will usually be responsible for maintaining gas equipment by following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Even if the landlord fitted it, the tenant would typically be expected to organise an annual inspection of a gas central heating system by a registered gas safety engineer.

In addition, the tenant will be responsible for maintaining any gas equipment they have installed themself.

When it comes to electricity, that is the landlord’s responsibility. Indeed, the law clarifies that they are responsible for maintaining the electrical installation to a safe level for the tenant, occupiers and visitors.

At the beginning of a lease, the landlord will usually get an Electrical Condition Report (EICR) from a registered electrician and have the property inspected every five years.

Electrical appliances should be maintained and kept safe by the tenant, whether they bought them or not. This may involve getting regular inspections by an electrical safety engineer.

Where there are electrical or gas installations in a communal area, the landlord will assume responsibility for the safety. 

The Difference Between Fixtures and Fittings

It can be helpful to clarify the definitions of fixtures and fittings.

  • Fixtures are items that attach to the property. It will include the heating system and pipes.
  • Fittings are items that are not attached except for by a nail, such as a picture.

A commercial landlord will assume responsibility for fixtures which means they are responsible for installing and maintaining the central heating and plumbing in a property. However, the tenant is responsible for the safety and maintenance of these fixtures during their tenancy.

You can see why this is a complex issue. Both tenants and landlords must be clear about their stated responsibilities in the lease and raise any conflicts before the lease is signed.

Repair and Maintenance of Central heating and Plumbing

The lease terms will determine how much repair and maintenance will fall on an individual tenant.

Often the tenant is responsible for repairs for the duration of the lease. At the end of the tenancy, they may be required to pay the costs of returning the premises to the original state. 

However, it is not always the case that maintenance and repairs are the tenant’s responsibility.

Usually, the landlord takes care of structural problems such as the foundations and flooring of a property or external issues such as the roof. External pipes may be the responsibility of the landlord.

If this is not the case, there might be specific details about the expected contribution from either tenant or landlord.

The tenant will usually handle non-structural problems such as plumbing and central heating. 

Replacing the Central Heating

What happens if the heating system is beyond repair? It is most common for the landlord to be responsible for replacing the central heating system if necessary. 

The EPC rating of a commercial property must also fall above E for new or renewed leases, and it may be in the landlord’s interest to ensure that the heating system meets energy requirements.  

In many instances, the tenant may only be responsible for repairs. However, it is vital when negotiating the terms of a commercial lease to discuss for what aspects of repair and replacement the tenant will take responsibility. 

Legal advice is essential, and questions should be asked before a lease is signed. Failure to make this clear at the outset can be costly for a commercial tenant.

How to Look After Your Plumbing and Central Heating in a Commercial Property

The best way for either a tenant or a landlord to ensure that the central heating and plumbing is maintained to a good standard in a commercial property is to take out a service contract with a reputable commercial plumbing and heating company.

An annual service will take care of issuing a gas safety certificate and ensure that the system runs safely and efficiently. A regular service visit can help to prevent minor issues from becoming more severe, saving costs and time. 

Building a relationship with a company means you always have the number to call in case of an emergency, hopefully ensuring negligible disruption to the business.

If you are the tenant or landlord of a commercial property responsible for the plumbing and heating, get in touch with Roma Heating Services Ltd to find out how we can help you keep your system working efficiently. All our engineers are extensively experienced and qualified to work in commercial settings.

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