Category Archives: Property Development

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?

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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

Buy now!

Recent statistics reveal a general increase in both commercial property rental and acquisition sectors; it seems banks and finance houses are more willing to fund commercial property purchases and commercial tenants appear more confident to commit to longer term leases. The recent change in stamp duty rules should have less effect in commercial property investments than on the private rental market.

Many commercial property owners and buyers have been turning to auctions as a way of buying or selling property quickly, and there is a wide variety of commercial property available, such as development land plots, retail outlets and office buildings. If you are thinking of going to an auction to buy commercial property, it is vital to carry out due diligence as there is a legal commitment to buy the property when your bid is successful and you generally have to pay a deposit of around 10%.

Get an auction pack in good time, at least a fortnight before an auction and get it looked at by a legal expert to allow your solicitor to investigate the property information pack. Sellers have been known to leave out documents that could discourage a potential buyer, so it’s imperative to get the proper research done well in advance.

If you are a tenant who wants a longer term lease get legal advice on what you are likely going to commit to before your current lease expires. Treat a longer term lease as if you are going to buy the property, as there can be significant financial obligations.

We pride ourselves in our expertise in this area so why not give us a call?

Leave a comment

Filed under Commercial Property, contract law, Duty of care, Legal news, Property Development

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954

In terms of commercial property, the 1954 act is the main piece of legislation that governs the relationship between landlords and tenants of business premises and in the vast majority of cases underpins the terms and conditions of any particular lease, so let’s have a quick look at it.

It is important to realise when and how this act applies and this is not a straightforward area of law so it’s best to seek experienced legal advice before a landlord or tenant makes any decisions regarding business premises. If a landlord wrongly terminates a lease protected by the Act, they could face a Court injunction and a claim for damages; or if a tenant were to quit business premises without an appreciation of their protection under the act they could lose out on compensation.

For the Act to apply:

  • There must be a tenancy as opposed to a licence;
  • The tenant must be occupation of the property for the purpose of the tenant’s business; and
  • The tenancy must not be specifically excluded from the 1954 Act.

The Act does not apply if the term of the lease is 6 month or less and/or if the tenant hasn’t been in occupation less than 12 months.

The tenant has a right under the Act to a new tenancy of the business premises following the expiry of the term of the old lease and a landlord can only terminate a business protected under the Act by issuing a statutory notice with a termination date not less than 6 months nor more than 12 months of the serving of the notice. Even then, a landlord can only resist the grant of a new business tenancy, if they can prove statutory grounds for possession, such as an intention to demolish, or carry out substantial works of construction to the premises On the other hand a tenant needs to give the landlord 3 months notice.

If a landlord succeeds in obtaining possession of the premises based on a statutory grounds. The tenant will still receive statutory compensation which is a calculated as a multiple of the rateable value. If a landlord does not oppose the grant of a new business tenancy the landlord can charge the current market rent for the premises under the terms and conditions of the new lease, useful in a rising rental market.

This is only a brief overview of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 and as stated above it’s best to get experienced legal advice before making any decisions; why not give us a call.

Leave a comment

Filed under Commercial Property, contract law, Dispute resolution, Mediation, Property Development, UK Law

What do you mean, I can’t move in?!

So you’re buying your first commercial property, everything is in place and you are ready to complete…you are ready to complete…

It’s not that rare an occurrence for a completion of a sale of a commercial property to encounter a sudden or unexpected delay, if that happens, what can you do? You might be ready to move in, equipment or stock may have already been bought, the fitting out team is ready to go, there could be financial penalties involved if you can’t meet a moving in deadline.

Well, there is one thing you could try, get your legal team to serve a notice to complete. Such an instrument puts time pressure on the side delaying the completion. If either the seller or buyer, whoever is responsible for the delay, is then unable to complete in accordance with the notice (usually within ten working days from when the notice is given), this will amount to what’s called a “repudiatory breach”.

A repudiatory breach entitles you to terminate the contract or affirm it. I you choose to terminate and you are the seller, you can keep the deposit and any accrued interest, and are free to resell the property; as well as claiming damages for any loss if the value of the property has decreased in the meantime. If you are the buyer, you can claim the return of your deposit along with any accrued interest; you can also claim damages for other losses as above.

Unfortunately, serving a notice can be risky. If, for example, a buyer is ready, willing and able to complete on the contractual completion date which is a pre-condition for serving such a notice, but it is no longer in that position on expiry of the period fixed by the notice, the seller who caused the initial delay can terminate the sale and keep the deposit. That situation might arise if completion funds were no longer available to the buyer after service of the notice.

It’s important then to be sure you can still complete when the notice period expires before you serve a notice. As always it’s best never to proceed without good legal advice; if you are in this situation, why not give us a call?

Leave a comment

Filed under Commercial Property, Dispute resolution, 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?

Leave a comment

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?

Leave a comment

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