In a case of a commercial landlord with a courtyard development, where are a number of
commercial tenants have access from the highway to their units via the development’s yard,
the question arose whether the landlord, just because rights of access have been granted over
it has an obligation to provide “COVID Safe Access” on account of the pandemic, otherwise
tenants’ employees cannot safely access their work unit.
It seems reasonable this could have some application in the residential sector particularly to
common parts of residential blocks.
It seems there are no specific requirements to provide an access that takes account of any recommended measures dealing with COVID-19. However, even if there are no express duties set out in legislation or in the lease in relation to the access areas, the landlord may have some duties to keep it safe in order to comply with statute and its legal obligation of quiet enjoyment covenant, which of course has nothing to do with noise.
Provision of services should take account of the restrictions and requirements for social distancing under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and guidance from Public Health England, which is being reviewed and updated regularly.
An obligation to clean, and keep safe, the common parts of the premises may well require the landlord to provide deep cleaning. In the commercial sector section 4 of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc 1974 requires owners, occupiers and others (including employers) to take reasonable steps to ensure their premises are safe, including means of access and egress, and plant and substances inside. Commercial landlords are subject to an overriding duty to ensure that they take reasonable measures to ensure that premises they control are safe. In some cases, duties falling upon landlords and tenants can overlap, with both parties having co-existing duties in relation to health and safety issues.
If you wish for commercial specific guidance on COVID-19 secure guidelines that apply to eight workplace settings with specific guidance for working safely in each of those settings, please let us know. In general, the guidelines suggest that employers should work collaboratively with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenanted premises to ensure consistency across common areas. Whilst there may be no specific statutory requirements to provide a COVID-19 risk free access, it is hoped that landlords and tenants together would seek to provide an access that minimised risk to those using the premises.