1 Ask early for landlord’s consent
Apply for your landlord’s consent at least six weeks before you want to start the works. You will have a timetable that you and your contractors need to stick to in order to avoid an adverse impact on your business plan. Your landlord does not have the same motivation so you need to allow a comfortable period of time to obtain consent.
Don’t be tempted not to ask your landlord for consent to carry out the works. If you fail to obtain consent, you will find yourself paying for the works all over again at your next rent review, when your landlord will be entitled to value the rent for your pharmacy as if your landlord had paid for the works rather than you.
2 Talk to your local planning authority
Check whether or not you need planning consent and building regulations consent for your works. Speak to your local planning officer and building regulations officer and check how long your local authority will take to provide the relevant consents.
Make sure you stay in touch with your building regulations officer while you carry out the works so that any ongoing inspections take place when they should. When the works have been completed, the building officer will need to make a final inspection and issue a completion certificate. You will also be required to produce these consents to your landlord for approval.
3 Sign a contract
Make sure you have a written contract with your shopfitter. You should have a clear written record of exactly what your contractor will be responsible for and exactly what you will be responsible for, together with clear details of how the costs will be calculated and when payments will be due. Do not rely on a verbal agreement, which will be difficult to enforce if there should be a dispute.
4 Check out your contractors
Make sure your contractors are solvent and insured. Make sure you can terminate your contract if the contractor becomes insolvent. Your contractor should have an insurance policy that covers negligence, public liability and damage. Make sure you talk to your contractor about who will be responsible.
5 Ensure accessibility
Make sure that your access and layout complies with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. As a “service provider” under the Act, you must make reasonable adjustments in relation to the physical features of your pharmacy in order to overcome any physical barriers to access. If your premises did not comply before your shop fit, view this as an opportunity to rectify the situation. There are special rules under the 1995 Act that relax certain requirements in your lease to obtain landlord’s consent. Think laterally and embrace the legislation; compliance will produce a more accessible pharmacy and happier customers and staff.
6 Beware of asbestos
The group of people most at risk from asbestos in the UK today are tradesmen carrying out works to premises. The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 place on the person whose responsibility it is to maintain and repair your pharmacy a duty to assess the premises, to establish whether or not asbestos is present. Once the risk has been assessed, you are obliged to prepare a written plan identifying the measures to be taken and either steps must be taken to maintain the current condition of any asbestos found or the asbestos must be safely removed. If there is asbestos at your pharmacy and it does not need to be removed, you must clearly identify where it is so that your contractors do not disturb it. Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence.
7 Consider fire safety
Since October 2006, fire certificates issued by the local fire officer have not had a legal status. Instead, duties are imposed on “the responsible person” to carry out a fire risk assessment, implement its recommendations and keep the assessment under review, ensuring the safety of employees and visitors. As the person in control of the premises, you are the “responsible person”. Make sure that you assess the shopfitting works that you intend to carry out to ensure that proper fire safety measures are incorporated.
8 Keep a record
Keep a record of the layout and condition of your premises before the works are carried out. Your lease will oblige you to remove your alterations when your lease ends and reinstate the premises to their former condition. By the time this is due to happen, your recollection of how the pharmacy originally looked will be hazy. Keep a copy of the original layout drawings and photographs of the premises with your lease and keep them in a safe place. If you are able to, attach a copy to the licence from your landlord consenting to the carrying out of the works.
9 Keep your landlord in the loop
Keep your landlord informed as you carry out the works so that your landlord has the opportunity to inspect when it needs to. Notify your landlord when the works have been completed. Your landlord should then insure under its buildings insurance policy any parts of the works that have become the fabric of the building. Any items that do not become part of the building should be added to your contents insurance policy.
10 Reap the benefits
Stand back, be proud of the fruits of your labour and go forward with renewed vigour knowing that your pharmacy is now fit to take your business to new heights.
Ingrid Saffin is a commercial property partner and head of healthcare at law firm Mundays
Tips for your CPD entry on pharmacy design
Reflect Does my pharmacy present a professional image and support work processes?
Plan Consider how a refit or smaller layout changes could improve image and work processes
Act Implement refit or layout changes
Evaluate Have public image and workflow improved?