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Agile working – the legal alarm bells that should be ringing

11 July 2017

The days of a stuffy office environment are gradually becoming a thing of the past. Over the years a move has been made away from cellular offices to the more popular open plan set up – however for many companies, especially those in creative industries, open plan offices are no longer enough. This is a key issue for tenants in office premises as they consider what to do with the space they are in.

Companies are having to rethink their working environment to enhance creativity, brainstorming and innovation. We are now in a world where an office with just desks and chairs is simply not sufficient. In recent years a more dynamic approach is being taken to not only encourage collaboration but to provide a variety of working environments in one place to accommodate different working methods.

A trend is emerging whereby companies are amending their fit out plans to ensure that a more modern approach is being followed. On one floor there might now be a combination of normal desk set ups surrounded by a variety of other working zones including quiet pods and corners, breakout areas and kitchen table project points. The intention is for employees to be able to move seamlessly between these zones depending on what they are working on and who they are working with.
Whilst agile working and the softening of workplace design might seem to be an issue for an interior designer – before proceeding with any works it is important for tenants to check for any limitations set out within their lease. The lease will set out what can and cannot be done at the property and more often than not most alterations will require the landlord’s consent.

Historically, office fit outs have been relatively low maintenance. A tenant would simply move in their desks and perhaps put up some demountable partitioning, both of which generally would not need to be run past the landlord. Agile working however is not your typical low key fit out and could require some major alterations to the premises such as the installation of kitchen points and structural changes to the layout of the floor itself.

When seeking to install a slightly alternative fit out it might be tempting for tenants to simply consult an interior designer and get going with the work or just make the landlord aware of the their intentions and proceed to commence works following receipt of an informal response. It is important however for tenants to remember to obtain legal advice to ensure that they undertake the works in accordance with the requirements set out under their lease as it is crucial to ensure that the landlord’s formal consent (and potentially any other consents e.g. from any Superior Landlord) is obtained if required.

If works are undertaken without obtaining the correct form of consent the tenant will be undertaking unauthorised works which will constitute a breach of the terms of the lease – which in a worst case scenario could provide the landlord with grounds to forfeit the tenant’s lease altogether.

For further advice on this topic please contact Aman Sahota-Dhatt.

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