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Hunters Law
22nd December 2023

He’s making a lease, and checking it twice…

He’s making a lease, and checking it twice…
Sophia Smout
Sophia Smout
Trainee Solicitor

As the year draws to a close, lots of us will be preparing to host family and friends over the Christmas and New Year period, and lots will be leaving home for a few days or weeks for a holiday or to visit loved ones. For leaseholders and tenants in flats, however, hosting others, or leaving a tenanted property, can bring a few additional considerations.  

If you are a leaseholder, and you’re anticipating hosting a party or visitors over Christmas or New Year, then it is advisable to check your lease carefully beforehand, to ensure you are aware of any covenants which might restrict your activities. 

It is common for leases to include provisions restricting the hours during which music can be played, for example, or to specify particular noise levels which will be deemed unacceptable. 

To avoid disrupting your neighbours, and to ensure there is no risk of a breach of your lease, make sure that any specific restrictions are complied with, and that guests are advised, if necessary, that music and noise must be kept to proportionate levels. 

Leases usually contain a covenant to observe reasonable regulations that might be published elsewhere, such as in a Managing agents’ Guide to the Block; so remember to glance at that as well. 

In addition to the risk of noise complaints, hosting a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party can also risk causing damage to your leasehold property. 

If you’re concerned about this, then check the terms of your lease carefully: what does it say about the state of repair and condition you are obliged to keep your property in? Many short leases (or tenancy agreements) state that tenants should make good any damage caused to their property, which might mean repainting scuffed walls or replacing marked carpets. 

If your lease doesn’t allow you to paint or otherwise repair your property, then it might be worth advising your guests of the need to be careful with drinks, footwear and other items. Even long leases (especially in new build blocks) can be prescriptive about the cleanliness or appearance of one’s flat.

As well as taking care of your own property, tenants living in larger buildings need to be aware of provisions relating to any common parts, such as staircases and corridors. In other words, take care not to deck the halls with too much enthusiasm. Many leases contain restrictions preventing tenants from blocking communal areas, or from allowing others to loiter in the common parts of buildings. 

If this is the case in your lease, then take care to ensure that groups do not gather or linger unnecessarily in common areas, and make sure that luggage, belongings, stuffed stockings, new toys and packaging are not left where they might block communal access points or emergency escapes, such as outside individual front doors in a block of flats. 

The Christmas period often results in an unusually high amount of waste being generated, but make sure this is kept inside your property or placed in communal waste areas, so that there is no risk of a breach by blocking common parts. 

A further consideration, if you are expecting guests over the festive period, is to think about the parking arrangements given in your lease. If your lease doesn’t provide for parking, or only for a single space, then ensure you have thought about alternative transport or parking arrangements for your guests: parking in a space which isn’t demised (or over which you have a right to park) will probably be a breach, and definitely risks annoying neighbours. 

On the other hand, it might be that you are intending to be away from your leasehold property for Christmas. If this is the case, then ensure that any security arrangements outlined in your lease are complied with – such as keeping windows and doors locked and alarms set if applicable. Any issues with broken locks or alarms should be reported to your landlord or managing agent swiftly to ensure repairs can take place. 

In addition, many leases state that, if a leasehold property is damaged or destroyed due to an act or omission by the tenant, then the tenant will be required to cover the costs of reinstatement if the landlord’s insurance is declined as a result. 

To ensure you are protected whilst your property is empty, and to reduce the likelihood of having to cover reinstatement costs, consider a few practicalities before you go away. Setting your heating to come on once a day to prevent pipes from freezing, bursting and flooding your property, and ensuring that any potential fire hazards, such as Christmas tree lights, are switched off and unplugged, are simple steps which can be taken to reduce risk. 

Taking a few moments to read your lease and take care of your property before the festivities begin will help to ensure that you can enjoy the Christmas period without fear of any inadvertent liability. It might not be the most Christmas-y message, but we’ll be here to help in the New Year if Scrooge happens to live next door.