If you are a business owner leasing all or part of a commercial building, it is important to understand your responsibilities regarding roof maintenance. Roof repairs are among the most costly repairs in commercial buildings, so it is essential to know what your lease agreement says about who is responsible for roof maintenance and any necessary repairs. In this first of a two-part series on Commercial Building Leases and Roof Maintenance, we will answer some of the most common questions on the subject.

Understanding your legal rights and responsibilities for commercial roof maintenance

The key to preventing surprise expenses is to know in advance what you are legally responsible for in terms of commercial roof maintenance and repairs.

While we don’t provide legal advice for our clients, we have seen almost every imaginable scenario, and we thought we would share some of the more common questions we get.

We recently spoke with Blake Nelson, attorney, and partner at the Hellmuth & Johnson law firm, to get answers to some commonly asked questions from building tenants. Blake’s practice is focused on Business Law, Construction Law, and Real Estate Law, among others.

Here are his responses to a few concerns we hear quite often:

Q: The roof is leaking on my commercial building. Am I responsible for repairs?

A: If you are the property owner, it will depend on the leak’s cause and the roof’s age.

If you are a tenant, it will depend on the terms of your lease and who is responsible for repairing the roof.

Sometimes leaks are caused by faulty workmanship, in which case the contractor who installed the roof should be responsible for fixing it, provided the roof is still under warranty. Leaks can also be caused by failure to maintain the roof, weather, and other factors. For example, if heavy winds damaged the roof and caused the leak, the original contractor would not be responsible (but your insurer might be).

Q: Our non-profit is expanding and will be executing a lease on a new building. We’re worried about unexpected expenses coming from roof leaks, but the landlord says they’ve never had a problem. Before we sign, what can we do to protect ourselves from surprise expenses from roof issues?

A: Unless the landlord can provide proof of a recent roof inspection, your main option would be to pay for your own roof inspection prior to signing the lease. While you would absorb this cost, it would be money well spent if any significant problems are discovered.

Q: The roof leaked after the first rainstorm in our newly leased commercial building. It’s obvious that the roof was leaking before we took occupancy. Still, the property management company refuses to pay to repair it, citing language in the lease agreement that makes us responsible for roof maintenance and repairs. Is this really our problem?

A: If you can prove the landlord (and/or property manager as the landlord’s agent) knew the roof leaked and hid that from you, then regardless of who is responsible for roof maintenance, you should have a claim for misrepresentation and potentially even to void the lease. You would also have a claim that the leaking is a pre-existing condition and is, therefore, the landlord’s responsibility.

Coming up next . . .

Our next blog in this series will take a closer look at the most common types of commercial building leases and how better to understand your specific roof repair and maintenance responsibilities.

If you would like to set up a meeting with Blake to discuss your specific legal questions on this or any related legal matter, please reach out to him at 952-746-2131 or by email at BNelson@hjlawfirm.com.

In the meantime . . .

If you already know that you are responsible for the maintenance and repair of your commercial roof, the best advice we can give you is to consider the TopSite Preventative Maintenance Program from Mint Roofing. You’ll be able to budget for your commercial roof maintenance and eliminate surprise repair expenses.

Call (952) 473-8080 or send us a message to find out just how affordable peace of mind can be!