For those managing properties, you'll know what a challenge it can sometimes be when you suddenly hear about a new business tenant that is about to move in.
Maybe the landlord or letting agent has 'done the deal' and solicitors confirm that the lease has completed - so now the buck is passed to the managing agent to sort out details like keys and making sure this new tenant can actually begin using their new property interest.
Sounds simple, but there's often more to it. In fact it's so much easier if a property manager can be involved in the letting process way beforehand to make sure the detail is not only understood by everyone, but actually any leases and documentation changed to reflect this.
But that's another story, in the meantime let's see how you can resolve the issue at hand.
Here are various issues you'll need to look at and raise when a new business tenant is wanting to now move in, a mixture of both practical things to do and general principles and ways to go about things.
1. Scrutinising the Lease
Try and have a quick look at the new lease straight away, and if you haven’t received it yet then ask the landlord or solicitors to send through via email.
Although it will be a separate task afterwards to go through and help correctly set up charges like rent and service charges, and note factors on your main database system, at this stage just try and get the basics understood.
So, seeing what actual area they have, including a look at the plan and definition of the 'demise' to see if it includes detailed parts such as windows and doors.
Also see if there is any associated documents like a schedule of condition limiting repairs, or licence of alterations regarding what fit-out works have been agreed by the landlord.
2. Understanding the Utilities
This often takes far more input than what people think, therefore make sure it's all understood up front.
First confirm what supplies you're dealing with - probably electricity, but possibly water and gas as well. Even if they are practically supplied to the property, check whether the landlord needs to keep these under control and payment and therefore in actual fact there are no change-overs to make.
For those that do need changing, locate the meters and take readings and a photo of them, ideally on the day of completion and with all parties there present. The tenant will need to confirm the exact name and contact details that they want the utility accounts changed into, as the landlord or managing agent for them will need to be the ones to contact the utility suppliers and make the change-over afterwards.
Also don't forget the less mainstream ones such as internet and telephone lines, and even aerial connections.
3. Arranging Access
So the obvious one of course is handing over the new keys for the property, along with any spare copies and making a formal log of this.
However don't forget any extras as well, for example main entrance door locks for communal properties, any separate rear areas or electricity meter cupboards, and even any external roller shutters or barriers.
You might also need to issue access codes and fobs depending upon the type of access control system at the property.
And watch out for occupiers suddenly realising that they need extra copies for multiple people to use, which may mean separate arrangements for copies to be made and an extra charge raised. Practically it might be worth putting them in direct contact with a contractor who can provide in order to keep the middle-man property-manager out of the loop at this stage.
4. Security Alarms
These are worth a separate mention and handing over any codes or arrangements to get them working correctly.
It seems so straightforward, but it often needs a bit of thought as to how these are actually used and if any changes are needed for the new tenant’s own safety needs and even own insurance requirements.
Often these are part-and-parcel of the demise that the tenant will need to suss out themselves afterwards, with often limited information left by any former tenant, however if they're linked to any communal system then the landlord will of course still be involved with this.
5. General Services
A tenant is often quite rightly concerned about what actually works in the area, whether that's the heating, lighting, or even toilet facilities.
They may not appreciate that these are their responsibility going forward, unlike a typical short-term residential lease where the landlord is still responsible for main services and structures.
Suss out where stop taps are, and even get things turned back on okay and running.
There may also be general tips to communicate, such as having annual maintenance of these, and making sure items such as electric water heaters and supplies are turned off over, say, colder winter periods if the unit is empty for a long period of time.
A final point as well is knowing if these extend outside their demised area which they may well be still responsible for as a 'conduit exclusively serving' the area. So for example, the electricity or water meters may be in outside cupboards, but with the cables and pipes to them still being the responsibility of the tenant.
6. Fire Safety
This is actually a really important issue, not only formal information such as fire evacuation procedures, but a general common-sense chat through as to what needs doing by whom.
So smoke detectors may be within the tenant’s demise but linked to the main communal fire system that the landlord maintains, however with the tenant needing to still carry out their own fire risk assessment for their own area and maintain things like fire extinguishers within there.
And talking through the fire evacuation procedure is essential, along with any set fire drills, and how to deal with false alarms as much as real ones (in fact even just reminding them to actually call 999 if there is a real fire identified).
7. Housekeeping Habits
There will be a whole host of general housekeeping items that a property manager may well be aware of and worth explaining to new occupiers and clarifying whether these are the responsibility of the landlord or tenant.
So right down to where the refuse goes and any recycling arrangements, and areas for smoking outside.
Where people can park vehicles and bikes is also important, and arrangements for deliveries and supplies.
Even in colder periods you may need to explain what gritting arrangements are in place.
8. Property Condition
Of course this is a big issue; understanding what condition a property is in currently.
It may be that the tenant hasn't seen the area for a long time since first viewing, and therefore what they see is not what they expect.
Checking any agreements for this is worthwhile, and even a quick note of general conditions as a record anyway, along with what extra fixtures and fittings are being included and therefore issued back at the end of the tenancy.
And as a small issue going forward, see how they are going to be cleaning the premises, as there may be communal services just outside their demise like window cleaners and communal-area cleaners arranged by the property manager that they not only need to be aware of but may be able to liaise with, to instruct direct.
9. Signage & Advertising
One of those small day-to-day issues that in actual fact can mean a lot to a new tenant, even if they don't realise this until later on.
So making sure it's clear how they get mail delivered and access to any external mailboxes, and arrangements for separate parcel deliveries.
They will probably want their own business signage up somewhere as well, whether a simple name over the door, an addition to a main board of tenant names, or fully-fledged individual signs on their property.
Make sure it's not only clear what they need to arrange and what the landlord will need to do, say, shared sign-boards (and the exact business names to add), but any restrictions that apply, for example not littering any windows with all kinds of additional advertising.
10. Business Rates
In the majority of cases the business rates should be dealt with by the tenant, however a little helping hand and reminder will help everyone longer-term.
If the unit has been vacant for a while then the business rates have probably been in the name of the landlord anyway for paying, and therefore it’s worth the property manager also contacting the local authority to change-over just like the utilities and making sure any payments or credits back to the landlord are confirmed.
It's also worth seeing if the new tenant can benefit from any savings here, for example Small Business Rates Relief, or a reduction if they are a special interest like a charity, or even full exception because of the nature of the property or tenant interest.
And just like with utilities, check with them what name and contact details the new rates account should be now in.
Mopping up the New-Tenancy Mess
As you face the challenge of getting a new business tenant up-and-running at the premises as soon as possible, these above pointers will help identify the sort of issues you need to look at. It's important to get a handle on these beforehand, as you may suddenly get a call or email one day saying a new tenant has completed a new lease and therefore over to the property manager to get them moved in okay.
In fact, try and get involved beforehand, which although may mean more work upfront and possibly out of your mean property management remit, believe me it can pay off later with less hassle and issues bubbling up.
And remember that each scenario and property is different, and therefore no matter how much of a general list of issues you may have, it's having that unique take on the property at hand and almost instinct that will truly pay off.
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