Is My Landlord Trying to Get More Money from Me on Repairs?


Steve Freeman: I’m sitting with Steve Katkov of JUX. Let’s go back and talk a little bit about repairs. You talked before about repairs that needed to be done on the property. Some of the things that I’ve heard from small business owners are where there is a repair that needs to be done, and the landlord says, “We’re using my guy.”, which you don’t know who’s representing who in that type of a transaction. As a small business owner and a [lease], how do you handle that? I mean, is there a way that you can legally say, “I want my guy to do it and I want you to pay for it.”?

Steve Katkov: Well if we’re going to keep that written agreement to less than a hundred pages, some of the relationship between landlord and tenant must be based in good faith and fair dealing. Otherwise, it becomes a very expensive proposition for both parties to negotiate a lease that attempts to address every conceivable issue in that relationship. But let me make something perfectly clear about the kinds of real property covenants, the old world expectations if you will, that accompany the issue of repairs. When you lease property from a landlord, the landlord generally has, at law, the obligation to maintain the shell but not the interior space. Because the law says, under a written a lease agreement that contains the correct requirements, that space then creates a very real property interest in favor of the tenant. The tenant has true rights at that point. The landlord does not have the right to walk into your space and begin to change configuration, or paint walls a different color because it meets his fancy. Once that you’re in that space, you have significant legal rights. And repairs follow those rights. So issues within your space are generally yours to pay for. You have a legal responsibility and obligation to maintain the interior of the space. In old days, we used to call this not committing waste or damaging the property. The landlord owns responsibility for the shell: roof, windows, and the exterior portions. Now, many of our client tenants have their own list, their own [Angie’s] list if you will, of preferred contractors. But generally, the spaces owned by the landlord, you are leasing. So his rights are superior to yours. And generally, the landlord has the right to make the decision as to which particular contractor, vendor, or supplier works on his property.