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Wake-up call: Can you refuse to let your landlord into your business?

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Wake-up call: Can you refuse to let your landlord into your business?

Landlords have to abide by certain rules when it comes to carrying out repairs to a leasehold property. Debra Kent looks at your rights

The bar and restaurant is full with happy customers. Suddenly, without notice, your landlord turns up with a team of builders and surveyors. Do you have to let them in and disrupt your guests? Or can you turn them away?

The law
The landlord’s rights of entry are generally covered by the terms of the lease. There are some standard provisions that usually allow the landlord to check that the tenant has complied with the lease or to show possible buyers around a building. Your neighbours might also need to enter your property to carry out works of repair – for example, to the drainage or utilities. The landlord can also enter to forfeit the lease for breach in certain circumstances.

Expert advice
A well-advised tenant of a new lease would insist on a number of protective measures before anyone could exercise a right of entry so as to protect the business.

Written notice should first be given with a specified time period when access is needed, specifying the reason for entry and who wishes to enter. Only after service of the notice and expiry of the time period should the property be entered, except in an emergency, when no notice is required.

There should only be certain specified reasons for the landlord to enter, and these should be negotiated from the start. Ideally, there should not be a ‘general right’ of entry for any reason to do with the landlord’s interest in the property. Also, there should be restrictions on what can be done at the property, the hours of entry during which any works can be carried out, as well as robust obligations on the landlord to make good any damage to the property and to minimise any interference.

To-do checklist
If a landlord or other person turns up without having gone through the procedure in the lease, then, except in an emergency, you are entitled to politely decline entry – especially to areas where customers would not normally go, such as storage and cooking areas. If you do receive notice of a potential visit, you should check the following:

  • Was notice given in accordance with the lease, within the agreed time period, in writing, to the correct party, and specifying an agreed reason?
  • Are other persons permitted to accompany the landlord?
  • Are there any time periods during which entry is prohibited?
  • Have these visitors complied with their obligation not to cause damage to property and to minimise any disruption or interference?
  • If damage to property is caused, have they complied with the obligation to fix this?

You may permit the landlord to enter if the particular visit does not unduly concern you, even if the correct procedure has not been followed. However, if the visit could be disruptive or there is another reason to refuse entry, you might think it more cautious to politely decline and suggest that the lease is followed.

If you try to stop entry when the landlord or other person is properly exercising their right of entry, then you would be in breach of your lease obligations. If you continue to refuse entry, you might be subject to a court order to allow access and would potentially be liable for the costs of this application. It would also make the landlord wonder why you were so concerned not to let them into the property.

Debra Kent is a partner at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

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