Who is Responsible for Commercial Roofing Repairs?

Damaged roof with gloves and supplies.

Leaks happen, and sometimes they leave commercial property owners and tenants wondering who is responsible for roof repairs. Whether the leak comes from poor drainage, tenant installations, or flashing failures, leaving a leak alone is likely to leak to more extensive damage and greater expense. There are some general rules about who needs to handle the leak, but it all comes down to the terms in your lease agreement. Here’s what you need to know about who is responsible for the roof repair of your leased property.

Know Your Obligations for Commercial Roof Repair and Maintenance

Above all, ensure your lease is specific about who is responsible for the roof under various circumstances. When negotiating your lease, don’t leave things to chance. A strong lease will devote an entire section to specifying who is responsible for commercial roof repairs, maintenance, and replacement, detailing situations within each category.

General Commercial Roof Repair Responsibilities

While all leases are different, there are some general rules that typically apply for tenants and landlords. The allocation of maintenance and repair costs will always depend on the negotiated terms of the lease. In general, though, the tenant is responsible for maintaining the interior lease space, while the landlord is typically responsible for maintaining the exterior, structure, and common areas. In general, the tenant is not responsible for carrying out structural repairs, repairs to correct inherent defects, or repairs for reasonable wear and tear.

Still stressing that all leases are different, we can take a deeper dive into typical tenant and landlord responsibilities for roof repair—and when other parties bear responsibility.

Commercial Tenant Roof Responsibilities

The tenant is usually responsible for maintenance, identifying problems, and making minor repairs. They must notify the landlord of any problems as soon as possible or risk breaching the contract. If the landlord fails to take action in a reasonable time frame, the tenant may be eligible for compensation.

If the tenant caused roof damage through neglect or misuse, such as not clearing gutters, the landlord may require them to pay for related repairs. To avoid this problem, tenants should keep accurate maintenance records showing they have taken adequate steps to maintain the roof.

commercial flat roof with HVAC units.

Commercial Landlord Roof Responsibilities

Rules can vary by province, but typically, maintenance falls to the property owner (the landlord) unless otherwise specified. Typically, the landlord is responsible for major structural or commercial roof repairs and compliance with building, fire, and safety regulations. Other landlords responsibilities tend to include:

  • Cleaning, repair, and maintenance on areas outside of your business concerns, such as hallways or units occupied by other companies
  • Maintaining walls, roofs, foundations, and other structural elements
  • Maintaining HVAC, plumbing, electricity, and other major systems
  • Keeping the property in a safe and habitable condition, which may include damages from age and weathering

Again, use the negotiation as your opportunity to define each party’s responsibilities, such as what defines normal wear and tear, to determine what counts as standard maintenance versus conditions that require repairs.  If the building is occupied by a single tenant then the responsibility for repairs and maintenance may all fall to the tenant.

Roofing Contractor Responsibilities

The commercial roofing contractor is responsible to repair the roof if they have installed it improperly due to poor workmanship. A reputable roofer’s workmanship warranty should cover these repairs, and they should not cost you anything. To avoid workmanship issues, always hire an experienced, reputable contractor known for high-quality craftsmanship for roof repairs and replacement. As with your lease, ensure your workmanship contract is specific about areas such as the occupant’s responsibility to notify the warranty holder within a defined time period regarding any roof leaks.

Designer Responsibilities

What happens if the problem isn’t caused by maintenance issues or improper installation but the design itself? According to the Guidelines for a Successful Construction Projects published by the CRCA (Canadian Roofing Contractors Association), “Contractors and subcontractors must not be held responsible for the adequacy of the performance or design criteria indicated by the contract documents.” In other words, the designer of record is responsible for design issues, not the roofing contractor. The designer’s responsibility includes determining structural and environmental design loads, wind uplift [Link to wind uplift article], (except for installation issues), construction specifications and design changes, and compliance of applicable codes.

Understand the Requirements of Different Types of Leases

Who pays for maintenance and repairs can be broken down into three main categories: gross lease, modified gross lease, or triple net lease.

Gross Lease

The landlord covers all expenses related to the property, including property taxes, insurance, and maintenance. The landlord is responsible for all repairs and improvements unless otherwise specified.

Modified Gross Lease

The lease payment does not include expenses such as property taxes, insurance, or maintenance. The landlord is still responsible for making all repairs and improvements to the property unless otherwise specified.

Triple Net Leases (NNN)

The lease rental payment does not include property taxes, insurance, or maintenance. The tenant is responsible for all repairs and improvements to the property, plus a portion of the property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs.

Again, each lease depends on the negotiated terms, making it crucial that tenants and landlords are clear about their respective obligations for roof maintenance.

Insurance Considerations

When negotiating lease terms related to maintenance and repairs, don’t forget to consider insurance in the package. While landlords typically carry insurance for the overall structure and property improvements, tenants may be required to take out insurance to cover business-related improvements and contents. Understanding the insurance coverage and how it applies to roof repairs is essential for both parties.

Hire the Best Roofing Contractor for all Your Commercial Roof Repairs and Replacements

The key takeaway for both landlords and tenants is to negotiate your lease carefully, draft a clear and comprehensive document that addresses all maintenance and repair responsibilities in detail, and thoroughly understand the agreement before signing it. You can significantly cut down on potential expenses, problems, and liabilities by hiring a professional roofing contractor for all your commercial roof repairs and roof replacement.

Elite Roofing is known by commercial property owners and developers throughout Ontario for integrity and superior workmanship. Contact us for your next roofing project.