Factoring in Flexibility: Equality in Business / 4 February 2013
If a customer is unable to use our facilities due to something as serious as being admitted to hospital for a lengthy period of time should they then still be invoiced for a service they are not able to access?
At the Art House there are long term studios and short term studios available to lease. The long term studios are subject to a 12 month contract which in some respects is a short period of time but if a studio holder becomes unwell during this period it can seem like a long period. The Short Term studios are available for a lease of up to 3 months but these are in high demand.
Previously a studio holder became seriously unwell during their contractual period and due to their illness they were unable to access the leased facilities at The Art House for a long period of time.
If a contract was in place then technically the rent for the studio should have been invoiced in line with the contractual agreement. This may seem unfair for the customer to pay for something they are unable to use / access. However, if the studio is under contract it is unavailable to lease to another party and would then result in a loss of income for the organisation. Income needed to support other charitable activities.
There may also be other consequences for the studio holder such as if the studio holder is unable to earn and therefore make payments over that period of time then the outstanding amount would build as monies owed to the company. Is it then fair for the organisation to ask for this amount to be re-paid knowing that the person was unwell, on reduced income (sometimes having lost benefits due to being in hospital) and unable to access the facilities but also that the organisation was unable to lease the facilities to another party as there is already a contract in place?
Maybe one solution would be that if any such event should occur where a studio holder becomes seriously poorly and due to this illness could not access the facilities for a long period of time, for example one month or longer, that a mutual agreement is reached where only a percentage of this time is to be invoiced.
Another solution could be that if it is known before a contract is entered into that a studio holder is likely to suffer from a period of long term illness would it be prudent to agree to a shorter term contract.