Last year, commercial landlords were forced to take quick and dramatic action to curb the spread of COVID-19. As the vaccine rollout slowly continues, it’s important for landlords to continue to implement public health measures, and to ensure that restrictions on the uses of buildings are communicated clearly to tenants.
But what about other kinds of tenant rules and regulations?
Some landlords use the same rules and regulations for all of their buildings, no matter how different they are. They may also use rules and regulations that were written years, or even decades, ago. A lab is not the same as an office building, however, and today’s workplace is not the same as it was in the 1990s.
Rules and regulations are an effective way for landlords of all building types to adjust to changing conditions affecting tenants without the need for lease amendments or negotiation. Most form leases for multi-tenant buildings permit landlords to revise rules and regulations without tenant consent.
Now is the time to look critically at your rules and regulations and then revise them in light of factors such as changes in tenant amenities, security, promotion of energy efficiency and green building standards, and tenant health and safety concerns raised by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Building rules and regulations should be revised to reflect best practices developed during the Covid-19 pandemic and to build upon those practices in anticipation of future health emergencies. Policies created to limit the number of persons in common areas, elevators and stairwells can be formalized in a building’s rules and regulations. We recommend language specifically requiring compliance with public health directives; calling for commercial tenants to screen their employees and visitors for symptoms prior to entering the leased premises and mandating landlord notification (in compliance with HIPPA privacy requirements) of any employees or visitors with symptoms or positive test results.
Electric Vehicle Charging
The popularity of electric vehicles, combined with financial incentives, have encouraged many landlords to install electric vehicle charging stations as tenant amenities. If you have done so, you should consider revising your rules and regulations to include procedures for their use. In particular, consider developing regulations to minimize the potential for physical injury, property damage, and tenant conflicts related to the use of electric vehicle charging stations.
Similarly, encouraging bicycle use may lead to conflicts within a building or parking area arising out of bicycle storage. We recommend including clear language specifying the locations where bicycle storage is allowed, limiting overnight storage, and disclaiming responsibility for theft or damage.
Energy Conservation and Sustainability
A building’s rules and regulations can be a useful mechanism to encourage energy conservation and sustainable practices. Mandatory recycling requirements, limitations on cleaning products, green and/or sustainable construction specifications, prohibitions on wasting water and electricity, and even dictating the use of window blinds to reduce solar heat gain, can be included in a well-drafted set of rules and regulations.
Landlords may impose reasonable fines for violations of their rules and regulations, and at least the threat of fines can help with effective enforcement.
Rules and regulations must be reasonable, even if the leases in your buildings do not require them to be reasonable. This helps ease enforcement and promotes good tenant relations with the landlord and other tenants.
Rules and regulations must be equally applicable to all tenants and phrased to be generally applicable. If a major tenant has the right to object to new rules and regulations, do not promulgate them unless the tenant with approval rights has in fact approved them.
Remember to publicize the changes – they do no good if tenants don’t know about them and the reasons for the changes.
A landlord’s policies should not be static; they should adapt to changing conditions and new developments. This year is the perfect time to consider an update, if not a wholesale rewrite, of your buildings’ rules and regulations.
For more information, please contact the author of this alert, Ann Sobolewski (email@example.com, 617-456-8167) or a member of the Prince Lobel Real Estate team.