Landlord Refuses Walk-Through Inspection for New Commercial Tenant

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“I’ve recently leased a space for my restaurant, and it was agreed upon by both the landlord and me that he would provide some work to the facility before delivering the space to me. Last week, he sent me a letter indicating that he has finished the work and that the space is now mine. When I contacted him to indicate that I need a walk-through of the space, to verify that he did complete his part of the work, he indicated that they would not do that and that the commencement date has begun.

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In addition, I know the contractor he used to perform his part of the work and I am very concerned about whether it was done correctly. (This particular contractor and I do not get along.) Therefore, I have asked the landlord for copies of permits pulled and the inspector sign-off, but again, I got the same reply – they would not do that.

So, I was wondering what I should do about this situation. Does the law allow me to insist that I have the walk-through and copies of permits and sign-offs? My main concern is that if I just accept the space now, there might be work missing, or worse – work not completed to code and I’ll have to redo it altogether. I know that if I do not do anything about this and something does come up, he’ll just say that the lease indicated that I took the space in “as is” condition and not correct any of his work.”

First and foremost, read your lease. Commercial leases typically are a lot more detailed than the one-page sheet you use to rent an apartment. The lease probably sets forth in some detail what your rights and obligations are relative to the landlord, and in particular what is required with respect to the improvements. Does the lease say that all work will be done by a licensed contractor? If so, you have the right to proof that the contractor is licensed. Does it have a “comply with all applicable laws” clause? If so, you probably have the right to proof of permitting, since that’s a legal requirement (unless the work done doesn’t require a permit, of course).

Also, permits are public record. You should be able to go down to the city building department (or the equivalent) and see a copy of the applicable permit. Which raises some concerns about your landlord, frankly. Why exactly doesn’t he want you to see this?

You’re probably correct that your landlord will take the position that you’ve accepted the alterations once you move in – again, there’s likely to be a clause in your lease about this. How paranoid are you? It might be worth the cost to hire your own inspector to go through the place and see if anything the landlord was supposed to do is either missing or defective.

That having been said, you are still bound by the lease unless you can show that the landlord breached it. So this is something you want to resolve one way or another soon, before you get a rent bill for a space you haven’t been using.

Recommended reading (click on the picture for details):
Navigating Commercial Property Leases: A Tenant's Guide To Leasing Commercial Property



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