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Can landlords be sued for COVID-19 outbreaks?

By Cameron Micallef
26 March 2020 | 1 minute read
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As the world continues to react to the global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), landlords are asking about their rights and what they need to protect themselves financially, a legal institution has found.

According to Piper Alderman’s team of lawyers (Adam Rinaldi, Ashley Watson, Geoff Forbes, Greg Taylor, Margot King, Mark Askin, Tony Britten-Jones and Warren Denny), investors should check with their insurers over claims arising due to COVID-19.

While highlighting it is extremely unlikely that a person could trace the source of infection to a premise in the event of an outbreak, they suggest the importance of providing a safe place for tenants to live.

“Nevertheless, for the health of customers and to give comfort to customers that the premises are safe, we suggest taking appropriate measures,” they said.

“Notifying tenants and visitors if the building owner becomes aware of any person in the premises having COVID-19; providing hand sanitiser; deep cleans, especially of high-traffic areas and high-touch areas.”

Piper Alderman also explained in a situation where additional cleaning was required, both the tenant and landlord would be liable to clean the property.

“Most commercial leases require the landlord to engage a contractor to clean the premises, building and common areas. The tenant must then pay the landlord a portion of those cleaning costs as part of outgoings,” they said.

“The standard and frequency of cleaning is not usually stipulated in the lease. Therefore, if a landlord considers that additional cleaning is required due to COVID-19, it may increase the standard and/or frequency of cleaning and pass those costs on to the tenant as part of outgoings.”

A tenant may not usually dispute these charges unless:

    • the additional cleaning costs are unreasonable, and
    • the lease provides that the tenant must only pay reasonably incurred outgoings or reasonable increases.
Can landlords be sued for COVID-19 outbreaks?
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