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Commercial Landlord Repair and Maintenance Requirements

Silvestri Law, P.A. June 16, 2023

A commercial lease agreement is generally a much more varied and complex document than a simple residential unit lease. There can be issues of signage allowed, subleasing clauses, allowed business operations, and more—as well as local zoning and other restrictions. A commercial lease must be carefully negotiated. 

When you enter into a commercial lease with a landlord, what are the duties of the landlord to maintain the property in the condition in which you initially found it? What about repairs and maintenance? Whose responsibility are those? Are they the landlord’s, the tenant’s, or are they shared? These are all issues that must be addressed. 

If you as a tenant or landlord in or around St. Petersburg, Florida, are facing a dispute over property repair—or over the overall rights of either party—contact me at Silvestri Law, P.A.  

My sole focus is on commercial and residential real estate, with an emphasis on commercial leases. I will review the circumstances of your dispute and clearly spell out your best legal options going forward. As a commercial real estate attorney, I also proudly serve clients throughout the Greater Tampa Bay Area. 

What Repairs Are Commercial Landlords Required to Make? 

A commercial lease is a completely different legal instrument than a residential lease. The one thing guaranteed by Florida’s laws is the right of the commercial lease tenant to “the covenant of quiet enjoyment rights.”  

This guarantees that the tenant can enjoy unhindered possession of the property during the lease period. In other words, the landlord cannot swoop in, clear out your possessions, and change the locks. There must be court action if there is any dispute regarding rent payments, required maintenance, or anything else. Another term for this sort of action is self-help evictions, which Florida does not allow. 

As for who repairs what, commercial leases should generally include a “duty to repair” clause that spells out the requirements of both landlord and tenant regarding the maintenance of the property. The clause should address the repair of property damages, any rent reduction for repairs done by the renter, and the liability for business losses due to property defects.

Duty to Repair Clauses in Commercial Contracts 

Florida law does not require that a commercial landlord perform maintenance as a default, so the language in a commercial lease is vitally important. The law, however, does require that commercial leases explicitly cover the duties of the landlord and tenant regarding maintenance.  

Thus, when negotiating a lease, a tenant should insist upon a “duty to repair” clause. A lessee, with the help of experienced counsel, should consider provisions in the lease that: 

  • Allow the tenant to perform repairs themselves, with the tenant covering the cost through reimbursement or a temporary rent reduction; 

  • Make the landlord liable for any loss to business due to a premises defect; 

  • Mandate rent reduction for as long as a defect remains. 

Withholding Rent Until Repairs Are Made

Whether or not a tenant can withhold rent depends upon the wording in the lease regarding maintenance. If the landlord agrees to provide for maintenance and repair but fails to do so, there’s the possibility that the tenant can withhold rent until the specific problem is fixed.  

However, it’s not just a simple “I’ll pay when you repair.” You must give at least 20 days’ notice to the landlord regarding the repairs or maintenance issues you have. Legal standards are fairly strict as well. The building must be unusable for your purposes to begin this process. A leaky faucet is not going to justify withholding rent.  

When Can Your Landlord Enter Your Commercial Lease Property?

Unlike residential leases, there are no real restrictions on when a commercial landlord can enter your property for inspection or other purposes. Again, many of these issues will depend on the language you negotiate in your lease regarding maintenance and repairs.  

If you as the lessee are responsible for upkeep, your landlord can make frequent visits to determine your compliance. There is also something often called a “use clause” in your contract, which can allow the landlord to make inspections to see that you’re not violating the lease and its allowed uses. The lease may also include an “alterations clause” that restricts the lessee from modifying the premises. The landlord can certainly inspect for such alterations. 

Seek Skilled Representation Today

If you as a tenant or landlord find yourself in a disagreement over repairs or other aspects of a lease or commercial rental/lease arrangement, contact me at Silvestri Law, P.A. Issues with leases and rental agreements are my focus. I can help everyone sort through what’s going on and work to come up with a solution that is beneficial to all. Remember, everything starts with the lease terms. Let’s get those right for you as a tenant or a landlord. 

I have decades of experience in commercial real estate law. Set up a consultation today.