Covid-19: Businesses urged to review disaster plans and check landlords’ building closure intentions

The Government advice at the date of this article is that you should not undertake non-essential travel and stay at home where possible.

However, many buildings remain open currently and key support staff are still present doing the essential services work that cannot be done from home.

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted a "hole" that exists in the disaster management/recovery planning of many businesses. That "hole" is that most businesses plans rely on an assumption of being able to  retain at least one central or core location, where essential services can be carried out.

As the Government tightens self-isolation controls landlords are starting to close down their properties. Many of the buildings which are open presently may not be for much longer. These properties include multi-let offices, retail centres and shared industrial spaces. Landlords will consider that they are behaving responsibly, as they are no longer able to guarantee adequate safeguarding of their staff, or the provision of the necessary resources and supplies to provide estate and service charges to keep the buildings fully functioning.   

What can seem like a reasonable response to the crisis from a landlord can be an existential threat to a tenant whose business may no longer be able to trade without access to the core location. We are already starting to hear reports of building closures happening in practice.

All businesses should be reviewing their disaster management/recovery plans urgently to ensure they have a means of guaranteeing access to premises and the facilities and services within those premises which are necessary to continue trading. This should include early engagement with their landlords and putting in place contingencies for the landlord to maintain at least essential access to premises and facilities. In some instances, planning could include tenants taking over responsibility for undertaking certain elements of building management on an interim basis.  

Landlords should think carefully about the consequences of taking actions to close premises may have on their tenants. They also risk claims from their tenants arising from breaches of their legal responsibilities.

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