Break Clauses in Leases – What do they do?

In leases, break clauses serve as crucial provisions that provide flexibility for both landlords and tenants. These clauses allow either party to terminate the lease before the expiration of the fixed term, subject to certain conditions and notice requirements.

Break clauses are regulated by specific laws and have implications that both parties should carefully consider. This blog aims to shed light on the key aspects of break clauses in leases, outlining their effects, considerations for landlords and tenants, and the importance of seeking legal advice when exercising them. Break clauses can be included in both residential and commercial leases, but this blog will primarily focus on commercial leases.

What is a break clause?

A break clause is a contractual provision that grants one or both parties the right to terminate a lease prematurely. It acts as an escape route, allowing parties to exit a lease early, providing flexibility in an ever-changing business environment. It impacts all parties, so it is important that both landlords and tenants have an understanding of them. The points for each party to consider differ slightly in detail and are outlined below.

Conditions

Break clauses are typically subject to specific conditions, such as the payment of outstanding rent, compliance with repair obligations, or vacant possession.

Points for Landlords to Consider

For landlords, it is vital to carefully draft break clauses to ensure they protect their interests. Ambiguous or poorly worded clauses can lead to disputes and uncertainty. Seeking legal advice when drafting a break clause can help landlords avoid potential pitfalls.

Notice Periods

Break clauses usually require the serving of a notice by the party wishing to terminate the lease. The notice period can vary, but it is crucial for landlords to clearly specify the required length of notice in the lease agreement.

Points for Tenants to Consider

Tenants must thoroughly review the conditions associated with the break clause. These conditions may include obligations such as reinstatement of alterations, payment of outstanding sums, or compliance with repairing obligations. Failure to fulfil these conditions can lead to the break clause being invalidated, potentially leaving the tenant liable for rent and other costs.

Timing and Flexibility

Break clauses provide tenants with the opportunity to reassess their business needs and exit a lease if necessary. However, tenants should be cautious about the timing of exercising the break clause. It is essential to consider market conditions, relocation logistics, and the impact on the business before deciding to terminate the lease.

Notice Periods

Similar to landlords, tenants must carefully adhere to the notice requirements specified in the lease agreement. Failure to serve the notice within the specified timeframe could result in the continuation of the lease and the tenant would have to fulfil their obligations for the remaining term.

Seeking Legal Advice

Exercising a break clause can have significant implications for both landlords and tenants. Due to the complexity and potential risks involved, it is strongly recommended that clients seek professional legal advice before taking any action. An experienced solicitor with expertise in property law can review the lease, clarify obligations, and guide clients through the process, ensuring compliance with legal requirements and safeguarding their interests.

To discuss this, or any other related matter with John directly, please call us, start a live chat or email us at info@hartbrown.co.uk.

*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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John Guthrie

Senior Associate, Commercial Property

John started his career at Hart Brown in 2016. He is a Commercial Property Senior Associate with 21 years post qualification experience in property. He...

John Guthrie Associate, Commercial Property

Senior Associate, Commercial Property

John Guthrie

John started his career at Hart Brown in 2016. He is a Commercial Property Senior Associate with 21 years post qualification experience in property.

He is a member of the Law Society and has written articles for the local press in Kent, Sussex and Surrey.

John's specialisms:

The full cycle of business leases, buying and selling businesses as a going concern, specific expertise in the leasing and disposal of licensed premises, development work and residential leasehold extensions.

His most memorable case:

Handling the property aspects of a £20 million company acquisition and restructuring the leaseback arrangements to achieve a substantial SDLT saving.