Restaurant and pub tenants can pose particular management problems for landlords. Issues associated with nuisance odour and noise emissions are very common, particularly in urban areas where housing may be adjacent to or even immediately above catering premises. Complaints over opening hours and the impact of servicing the premises are also common. Sometimes, the landlord may even face negative PR as a result of the identity of the tenant.
Noise nuisance and offensive smells often go hand in hand. A Council will require that adequate ventilation/extraction is provided to remove steam, cooking odours and grease-laden air. Such systems will include a fan which will cause noise and vibrations. A landlord will have a certain amount of control over the tenant's choice of extractor system through the alterations provisions of the lease. A landlord may be happy with qualified consent but question whether absolute control over extraction equipment would be a safer approach depending on the property and the likely impact on the neighbours.
It is standard for a lease to contain a tenant's ‘no nuisance’ covenant which can help. But what is the process if this is breached? Environmental Health Officers deal with complaints of statutory nuisance. For a smell to count as a statutory nuisance it must either substantially interfere with the use and enjoyment of a home or injure health. Councils usually send out at least two human ‘sniffers’ to work out how bad the smell is. If they agree that there is a statutory nuisance, they will serve an abatement notice which will usually be served on the person responsible but can also be served on the owner of the premises. It is a criminal offence not to comply with an enforcement notice. The landlord must ensure it has recourse against the tenant if it fails to comply with such a notice. The "compliance with statutory obligations" clause in a lease will generally help in this situation. In an extreme case, the landlord could forfeit the lease in order to comply with the notice.
Retail stores (particularly convenience stores) have a high turnover of stock and require frequent servicing. Planning permissions may specify servicing hours but a landlord may choose to add certain hours within the lease although any such restriction is likely to be strongly opposed by the big 4. It may be better to include regulations in the lease to govern methods of delivery to limit the likelihood of causing a nuisance to local residents. Approaches such as turning off the vehicle's engine when stationary, turning off the lorry's reverse bleepers and not slamming doors can all help.
Local residents and business occupiers can sometimes scupper a landlord's proposals to introduce restaurant and pub uses into an area. The proposal to convert a car park in Mayfair into a sister restaurant of the River Café restaurant had to be scrapped recently when the residents were particularly concerned with the impact on traffic and trading late in the evening. One resident memorably observed that they didn't want diners "revving their Ferraris outside until 1am".
It is clear that restaurant, pub, food and drink uses can be contentious. Landlords should ensure that they keep lines of communication open with residents when planning a scheme to ensure it does not face strong opposition. Tenants must be prepared to reassure a landlord that it will not cause them an administrative headache by demonstrating that it has taken into account the character of the local area in planning its unit.