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Can landlords be sued for COVID-19 outbreaks?

26 March 2020 Cameron Micallef
coronavirus

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.

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“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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