A tenant is ordinarily free to carry out non-structural works, including the laying of carpets, to the premises throughout the term of the lease provided that the premises are handed back to the landlord in the same condition as they were let.
The general rule is that any works that are carried out by the tenant that are considered to be capable of removing belong to the tenant at lease expiry. However, as always, there are exceptions to this rule. Whether ownership remains with the tenant or transfers to the landlord will depend predominantly on the degree of attachment to the premises, whether the item can be removed without destroying the item itself or the building, to what degree enjoyment of the building would be affected by its removal; and the intention of the party attaching it (Scottish Discount Company Limited v Blin 1986 S.L.T 12).
To fit a carpet it must be firmly attached to the floor. The obvious answer is therefore that carpets must by law “accede” to the property at lease expiry, and therefore always belong to the landlord. That would mean that the tenant would have to return the carpet to the landlord at lease expiry in accordance with the repairing obligations. Case law however suggests that carpets are generally one example of an item that remains moveable and therefore does not need to be returned to the landlord. But what if the landlord wants to retain the carpets at lease expiry? This may be possible in the following scenarios:
- If the carpet is firmly and securely attached to the property and cannot be removed without causing irreparable damage to it or the property.
- If the definition of “landlord’s fixtures and fittings” in the lease includes “carpets” or “floor coverings” or something similar, then the carpet will belong to the landlord even if it is laid by the tenant during the lease term.
- The lease may specifically provide that any fixtures and fittings which are installed by the tenant during the term of the lease become the property of the landlord. It is not uncommon for the landlord to provide in the lease that all or some of the works carried out by the tenant must be left in the premises, without any compensation payable to the tenant.
- If the tenant has left the carpet in the property at lease expiry despite it being moveable, it has been argued before that it should have been left in accordance with the repairing obligation and the landlord’s claim is not simply for removal.
As with much of the law on landlord and tenant, it will depend on the wording of the lease.
On November 21, 2019