Wheeler and Lai Surveyors

Can commercial property be lived in?

Often a question we get asked when we market a shop with upper parts and like much of life, there isn’t one answer. Typically, this might be asked from a tenant point of view, who has signed a lease. You might be surprised to know that most commercial property leases have a clause prohibiting the tenant from sleeping in the premises. This is for example, an industrial unit or an office suite, the lease will exclude overnight sleeping.

If you are a purchaser, and you are looking at a property that is for example a shop with a first floor, could you live and sleep on the first floor? Typically this would be answered by way of reference to fire safety and other regulations. If the shop is a hot-food takeaway for example, is there a safe route of escape in the event of a fire in the kitchen for the occupier of the first floor. If the answer is no, then it is unsuitable or even unlawful to live in the first floor. Alternations such as separation or changes to the layout may be required.

If the property is a retail unit with a separate flat above, that isn’t self-contained, then a purchaser may ask can we still live in it. For an owner-occupier, this might be an ideal location for their business, and there are often flats above local parades. A purchaser or occupier may wish to apply to separate the entrances, and create new entrances for the flat to be self-contained and independent from the commercial space. This is possible depending on the size of the property, on planning policy for the area and with the right planning consents and building regulations can be achieved.

You may like to review our previous post about permitted development rights and how this has created opportunities to convert commercial property into residential uses.

It would be sensible to consult a planning advisor, commercial property solicitor and a surveyor like us to provide the appropriate advice when it comes to commercial property transactions and uses. It is not a straightforward answer, and save yourself from misdemeanours or violations of leases or the law, professional advice is invaluable.

If you are looking at commercial property and have pressing queries, do contact us and we would be happy to advice you. Rebecca and Sau-Wan have 35 years combined experience in the commercial property sector, advising both landlords and tenants, we’d be delighted to help you.


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