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Dilapidations Claims

Dilapidation disputes are common at the end of commercial tenancies, a difference of opinion between landlord and tenant over the state and condition the premises has been left in.

Although often contentious, if approached in a prepared and sensible way, dilapidation disputes needn’t be stressful or complicated and, in most cases, they can be resolved out of the courtroom.

Wards Solicitors’ expert and experienced Property Disputes Team can help both landlords and tenants who find themselves at odds at the end of a lease.

Contact us as soon as possible if you think you may have an upcoming dilapidations issue at the end of a tenancy or if you’re already involved in a dispute.

Our aim always is to settle the dispute for you as cost effectively and quickly as possible.

What exactly is a dilapidations dispute?

Most commercial leases require the tenant to keep the premises in good repair. This often includes specific requirements to decorate, remove fittings and alterations and make good all damage before yielding up the property at the end of the lease.

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A tenant can be deemed in breach of their lease if they don’t meet these obligations and may become liable for the cost of expensive repairs, plus any court costs, if the landlord takes successful legal action.

A landlord’s damages for dilapidations is limited to the decrease in the value of the property if it is less than the cost of the repairs. In many cases, the cost of repairing all the damage is more than the loss in value caused by the dilapidations.

Step by step

Here, we give you a brief outline of the process – the steps involved, the schedules that need to be served and the timescales involved under what’s known as the dilapidations protocol.

We always try to resolve any dispute with face to face meetings and negotiation. As a last resort, and rare in dilapidation disputes, we will issue and defend court proceedings on your behalf if necessary.

Landlords – what is the starting point?

A dilapidations claim, which must always be started by the landlord, can be made against the tenant during or towards the end of a lease or after the lease has ended.

In brief, the process unfolds as follows:

  1. A Schedule of Dilapidations is produced by a qualified building surveyor – we can point you towards a professional who can help – setting out all the relevant repair clauses, how they have been breached and the cost of putting any problems right;
  2. This schedule will also include a Quantified Demand, produced by the surveyor, setting out your damages limited to the actual loss;
  3. A member of our disputes team serves the Schedule of Dilapidations and the Quantified Demand on the outgoing tenant within a reasonable time and no less than 56 days from the end of the tenancy. Often, they are served together;
  4. We invite the tenant to instruct their own surveyor and correspond directly with your surveyor.
  5. Many disputes are settled at this point with both parties agreeing an acceptable figure to cover the cost of the dilapidations.

Tenants – how do I respond to a dilapidations claim?

So, you have been served a Schedule of Dilapidations but have been unable to settle the matter with the landlord? Here’s what to do next:

  1. You must provide a formal response within a reasonable time or 56 days from receipt of the landlord’s claim;
  2. This must cover everything listed in the Schedule of Dilapidations on a point by point basis, setting out your detailed position and where you disagree;
  3. State at the earliest possible stage if you believe the schedule’s cost of repairs is higher than the loss in value caused to the property;
  4. If this is the case, you should instruct a chartered surveyor to produce the valuation necessary under section 18 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927.

Can dilapidation disputes be settled through negotiation?

In most cases, yes, and that is always our aim.

Once the tenant’s response has been received, we encourage both parties and their surveyors to have detailed and constructive talks to narrow the issues and find agreement.

This usually includes a site meeting to look at the problems first-hand and agree a sum of money to put them right.

Do dilapidations disputes ever end up in court?

This is rare – and something we always try to avoid – but if it does happen, we have all the necessary skill and expertise to help in issuing or defending court proceedings.

Get in touch

For further help and information about dilapidation disputes, please contact Partner James Murray on 01934 428800 or james.murray@wards.uk.com.

Find your nearest Wards office here. 

Why Wards?

Our specialist dispute resolution lawyers have years of experience in all types of property dispute, advising business owners, landlords and commercial tenants.

We’re known and respected for our straightforward, pragmatic approach and we will talk you through your options, working with you to find practical and cost-effective solutions.

Wards Solicitors’ specialist Disputes Team is singled out for praise in the 2020 Legal 500 Guide.

‘Over the years I have needed legal advice on a range of matters and have never hesitated to use Wards. Every team member in whichever discipline has always proved to be not only an expert in their field but very reactive to the exact needs of the client.’

‘Extremely empathetic, professional and very approachable.’