Category Archives: Planning Law

Property disputes; what’s that all about?

Whereas businesses can encounter all sorts of legal issues and disputes in their day to day operations, one area that seldom gets mentioned is that of “property disputes” specifically disagreements about working premises and where a company conducts their business.

So what happens during a business property dispute and what to expect?

There are several types of property dispute that can arise, such as disagreements between a landlord and tenant over subjects such as tenancy agreements or rent; then there can be issues involving the lease itself regarding disagreements on how the property can be used and for what purposes, or even the right to use your property as the location for your company. Then we can encounter boundary disputes; if another company or landlord claims some of your land or encroaches on your property. Then there are potential arguments over construction and planning, especially if you want to expand and face opposition from other residents or local groups. There can even be disputes when buying or selling land for your company.

If any of the above scenarios occur, in general you should be prepared to deal with varying periods of negotiation and or litigation, depending on the type of dispute.  In boundary disputes, for example, you will need a good legal team to find a satisfactory resolution through the courts; to present your evidence and put your argument forward.  Then, after both sides have made their case, a presiding judge will rule in favour of one party or the other. In planning issues, you will have to submit detailed plans to the council and explain what you intend to do, and then there will be private and public consultations before any work can commence.

All this can take up a lot of time and money so it’s always good practice to get the best legal advice from the outset to minimise your risk; why not give us a call?

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Filed under Arbitration, Construction, contract law, Dispute resolution, Planning Law, Property Development, UK Law

Commercial Property: Useful knowledge.

Commercial Property Law is highly complex, never try to muddle through on your own, make sure you have a specialist property solicitor on your team to ensure you get the best professional advice from the outset. That said, here are a few pointers towards “best practice”.

If you want to lease or rent commercial property, it’s highly unlikely you will get a lease longer than 15 years and there is often a tenant break clause option at around the five year mark that enables a tenant to terminate. It’s always best to get a break clause included if there isn’t one and also check the small print as tenants often have to comply with all lease obligations before they can exercise a break clause; the landlord could refuse to allow you to terminate if you fail to comply with an obligation such as redecorating or carrying out minor repairs to the property. When leases expire, tenants usually have an automatic right to renew, unless the landlord needs to occupy the premises or has plans to demolish or redevelop the property.

It’s always good policy to discover what the average rent is for any similar properties in the area. That way you know if the landlord is being fair; most landlords expect tenants to pay rent for the next three months in advance, but there’s no harm asking to pay monthly instead and always check if the rent includes VAT so you might be able to claim it back. If you need to make changes to the premises most landlords will also agree to a rent-free period to compensate for this cost.  Landlord or tenant, get a specialist solicitor to either draw up the terms or review the lease before you sign it. A lease is a legal contract between tenant and landlord; failure to abide by the terms of a lease could lead to court action.

It also pays to discover what other charges are involved, like annual insurance costs, local authority commercial rates, property taxes, and utility charges. Also get the landlord to carry out any repairs before you take on the lease, and be careful to determine who will end up paying for them, commercial leases are often “fully repairing”; most landlords like to pass on responsibility for their repairs, maintenance and replacement to a tenant throughout the term of the lease.

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Filed under Commercial Property, contract law, Dispute resolution, Planning Law, Property Development

How to Speed Commercial Conveyancing

If you own commercial property, from workshops to warehouses and retail outlets, sooner or later you may want to increase or reduce your portfolio. If you’ve done this before, you probably know the pitfalls, but there’s no harm in a gentle reminder and for those starting out buying or selling commercial property here’s a few dos and don’ts.

Commercial property conveyancing can be a complex and lengthy procedure, so it’s always best to get in touch with a Solicitor who specialises in commercial property transactions as soon as you decide to go ahead, but before you do anything else. Don’t fall into the trap of not getting a commercial property solicitors involved until the deal is finalised, because inevitably some legal aspect or issue will have been overlooked and this will cause further delay and cost in completing the deal.

Early notification enables commercial property solicitors to begin working on paperwork concerning the deal so considerably cutting down the time it takes to complete the sales process so by the time you finalise the deal most of the paperwork would have been completed.

Do your homework- make sure that you have all the necessary information and documents readily available, for example; proof of your ID, your mortgage lender’s details, contact details and copies of the deeds involved, etc.

Be prompt with your responses- the Conveyancing process will require your constant and consistent attention; you may frequently be sent questionnaires and forms to be filled in, you may need to make yourself available to answer queries from your solicitor or any of the other parties involved. Setting the process in motion and then going on holiday is really not recommended!

Reply promptly- Send any written responses by registered/recorded delivery or get them delivered by hand to make sure vital documents don’t get lost or go astray.

Read through all the documents carefully to avoid mistakes- this perhaps goes without saying, but failure to read documents properly could cost you time and money. More importantly, if you come across anything that you find too confusing and hard to understand, contact your solicitor as soon as possible so they can have the opportunity to guide and simplify the process for you; don’t try to bluff your way through.

Here at Bradley And Jefferies, we have a dedicated team specialising in buying and selling commercial property, why not give them a call?

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Filed under Commercial law, Commercial Property, Construction, Dispute resolution, Duty of care, Planning Law, Property Development

What happened to my Light?!

The Law Commission recently published a report on Rights to Light that has several recommendations that attempt to achieve a balance between promoting residential and commercial development and protecting private property rights. Under the current law, there is no time limit for the owners of land or property adjacent to a development to claim that their rights to light have been infringed. Disputes over these rights can be started after a development has already been completed and can last for many years.

The Law Commission proposes a new test specific to rights to light in which the key concept is proportionality. The recommendations are that a court should not grant an injunction to restrain the infringement of a right to light if to do so would be a disproportionate means of enforcing the beneficiary’s right to light taking into account all of the circumstances, including:

  • The beneficiary’s interest (freehold, leasehold) in the land benefiting from the right to light
  • The loss of amenity attributable to the infringement (taking into account the extent to which artificial light is relied on)
  • Whether damages would be adequate compensation
  • The conduct of the beneficiary
  • Whether the beneficiary delayed unreasonably in claiming an injunction
  • The conduct of the developer
  • The impact of an injunction on the developer
  • The public interest.

The new test is to be enshrined in law so will provide greater certainty needed by both developers and property owners regarding whether an injunction will be granted.

Obviously the specific circumstances of every situation will dictate the outcome, but the test founded on proportionality inherently appears to create the balance between development and protection and favouring injunctions or damages. Another key aspect of the Law Commission’s proposal is that the new procedure will give developers greater certainty regarding a point in time beyond which an injunction is no longer a possibility.

A neighbour wanting to benefit from the right to light will go on notice, requiring them to either claim an injunction within a certain period with the developer paying the costs that the neighbour incurs in taking advice or to lose the right to claim an injunction, so bringing any uncertainty to an end; the neighbour must either take action to protect their right, or accept that an injunction will not be awarded. The neighbour will still be able to pursue the claim for damages, but the threat of injunction is usually the bigger concern for developers.

If you are a developer or a property owned adjoining a new development that might be affected, why not give us a call?

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Filed under Commercial law, Commercial Property, Dispute resolution, Duty of care, Planning Law, Property Development

Should you really be here?

While not strictly speaking relevant to commercial property, many people in business also tend to have a property portfolio of houses and flats they rent out, so this may be of general interest. It’s also possible this law may be applied to Commercial properties in the future.

Under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords, will be required to check the right of prospective tenants to be in the UK before letting a property to them. This will include letting to lodgers and sub-letting in general. These new rules will apply in a pilot scheme from 1 December 2014, in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton initially. If this pilot scheme is successful, these rules will then be introduced in the rest of the UK, probably at some point after May 2015.

Currently section 22 of the Immigration Act 2014 states that a landlord must not rent property to an adult under a “residential tenancy agreement” unless the adult is a British citizen, or EEA or Swiss national, or has a “right to rent” in the UK. This means they must be in the UK lawfully in accordance with immigration laws. The term “residential tenancy agreement” is widely defined, and includes any lease, licence (i.e. lodgers), sub-lease or sub-tenancy, or an agreement for any of these. Landlords who breach the provisions face a civil penalty of up to £3,000. This can be avoided by conducting simple document checks, e.g. checking a passport or biometric residence permit.

From 1 December 2014, until the pilot is extended, the rules only apply to:

  • Landlords in Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton.
  • All adults aged 18 and over living at the property.
  • New tenancy agreements starting on or after 1 December 2014.

The Home Office has produced a Code of Practice for Landlords containing guidance for landlords and this explains:

  • If a property is affected.
  • If any exemptions apply (some types of property and agreements are excluded).
  • How to carry out a “right to rent” check.
  • What documents individuals can show to a landlord as evidence of their “right to rent”.
  • When and how to request a “right to rent” check from the Home Office.

As always, with any problem with commercial property, we’re here to help, why not give us a call?

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Filed under Commercial Property, Duty of care, Planning Law

Review of the first half of 2013

As we’re already over half way through the year, we thought it might be interesting to review some of the legislation and legal focal points of the year so far.

The reform of UK consumer law regime, the most significant reform of consumer law in decades, developed rapidly during the first half of 2013, with each of the five categories of proposed reform seeing considerable progress. These included the reform and reinforcement of substantive consumer law and its enforcement under the Draft Consumer Rights Bill; the implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive; there is a new direct consumer right against a business for misleading and aggressive practices, and structural reform of the various consumer law institutions, such as the Office of Fair trading, which lost its enforcement of legislation role to Trading Standards.

 Also in the UK we have the Implementation of the Late Payments Directive on 16th March, and other legislative activities included, the implementation of Groceries Code Adjudicator Act 2013

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill was formally introduced to Parliament and the government started its consultation on proposed changes to TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment))

 Further afield, on 21st May, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted a Directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and a Regulation on online dispute resolution (ODR). These pieces of legislation came into force on 8th July; the ODR will apply from 9th January 2016 (with the exception of certain provisions) and will be directly applicable here in the UK. Meaning the UK must bring into force the legal infrastructure necessary to comply with the Directive by 9th July 2015.

 The European Commission proposed a new Product Safety and Market Surveillance package of legislative and non-legislative measures to improve consumer product safety and to strengthen market surveillance of products in the EU. The new rules impose more rigid labelling obligations (including mandatory country of origin labelling). They require manufacturers to have technical documents for a product and retain these for 10 years after a product has been placed on the market.

 Looking forward to the rest of 2013 we can expect further reform of consumer law in the UK with yet more public scrutiny of the Draft Consumer Rights Bill, (remember, the deadline for submitting comments about the Draft Consumer Rights Bill is 13th September 2013). The Consumer Rights Directive should be implemented in the UK by 13th December 2013. Then there is also the establishment of the Competition and Markets Authority to happen by 1st October 2013.

 If you think any of this legislation is likely to affect you or your business, and you would like further information or advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact us page on our website: (http://www.bradleyandjefferies.co.uk/contact_us.php)

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Filed under Commercial law, Employment Law, Legal news, Planning Law

Law Commission consults on law reform

It may seem sometimes that British law is a monolithic and overcomplicated set of rules designed to provide social stability and control, as well as advantageous employment to a select group of people who can understand them and can interpret their ramifications to the public at large. Such a statement may, at times, be true to a degree, however, the legal system is in a state of continual evolution as is shown by the latest round of consultations by the Law Commission as it embarks on its 12th Programme of Law reform.

The Law Commission is dedicated to ensuring that their work is informed by the knowledge and experience of the people who work in and with the law and those whose lives, businesses and other enterprises are shaped by it. Their final proposals are to be submitted to the Lord Chancellor in 2014 and, if approved, will take up to three years to complete. The Law Commission is currently asking for suggestions to help them identify any areas of the Law that could be improved.

The Commission is interested in areas relating to laws that are:

  • causing substantial unfairness,
  • widely discriminatory or disproportionately costly,
  • complex and hard to understand, or
  • out of step with modern standards.

Factors that they will consider include:

  • How important is it: to what extent is the law unsatisfactory?
  • What are the potential benefits of reform?
  • Is the independent, non-political Law Commission the most suitable body to conduct the project?
  • Are the necessary resources available?
  • Would the project require involvement from the Welsh Government and/or the Scottish or Northern Ireland Law Commissions?

The Law Commission has already identified some areas of law that may require reform and are therefore potential projects for the latest Programme and would welcome your views on these if you support work in one or more of these areas. They would also like to know why you feel that way, and what you think the benefits of reform might be. If you don’t support work in these areas, your opinions would still be valuable as a counter for the proposals.

Amongst the areas currently under review those that may be of interest to our clients are:

 Leasehold law: Some areas of landlord and tenant law, mostly relating to commercial leases, might benefit from reform. Are there any others?

  • Bills of sale: Do problems with bills of sale persist? Should the law be reformed?
  • Land registration:  Does the Land Registration Act 2002 still meet its original objectives?
  • Fraud by victims of personal injury: Should the Law Commission examine this area of law, or can it be left  to the courts?
  • Corporate liability: Should there be other models, apart from the identification doctrine,  for holding corporations to account?

Should you have any comments on these suggestions, any suggestions of your own, or if you require more information on this, go to the Law Commission website by following this link. (http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/consultations/2441.htm)

The closing date for this consultation is 31st October 2013.   If you think, “the law is an ass”,  now is your chance to have your say.

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Filed under Commercial law, Employment Law, Legal news, Planning Law