Professional, Independent & Cost-effective Commercial Property Advice
Faced with a break clause in 2021 at one of its many Scottish retail outlets we spoke to our client about the possibility of negotiating an advantageous position. The store did not trade well and this, together with the Covid-19 "lockdown", made the future of the shop extremely doubtful on the existing lease terms.
Following service of the break notice Paul was able to agree lease extension terms with the landlord's surveyor which will see a substantial reduction in rent and flexible tenant breaks within the new term.
Occasionally we are involved in rent reviews in respect of ground rents. These instructions can be complex owing to the specific lease provisions (or lack of) setting out the basis of review and also the dearth of comparable evidence.
Acting on behalf of Merrifields Chartered Surveyors we represented a long leasehold investor looking to dispose of its interest at auction. As a rent review was outstanding we agreed that the optimum result at auction would likely be achieved if the outstanding rent review was settled first. Paul therefore engaged with the freeholder (local Council) and after protracted negotiations agreed a small increase at the seven yearly review which was a 15% saving on the landlord's original proposal.
The client subsequently successfully sold the investment.
Given Paul's experience as a valuer at the District Valuer's Office (Valuation Office Agency) we are often asked to provide valuations for taxation purposes, for example inheritance tax and capital gains tax. This requires both market knowledge and an appreciation of the specific statute and case law upon which Market Value for taxation purposes is based.
In particular, we have expertise in valuing property as at the CGT base date of 31 March 1982. Comparable evidence for this purpose can be hard to come by but because Paul has been undertaking these valuations for over 28 years he possesses the database, knowledge and skill to produce reliable valuation advice for clients.
Having advised a GP Partnership in Cambridge for almost two decades we recently entered into negotiations again on its behalf with the District Valuer, who acts on behalf of the NHS. We felt the DV's notional rent assessment was too low and, despite difficult market conditions, we were able to achieve another uplift in the rent for the partners.
Following a long search we were able to find and acquire the lease on a new shop in St Andrews for our client Highland Soap.
This ideally sized property located in the prime pitch is the expanding retailers fifth store.
Under the 2017 Rating List the intention of the government has been to make submitting appeals against rateable values difficult, time-consuming and costly. As a consequence it is now more important than ever for ratepayers to obtain timely and competent professional advice.
We have for many years acted on behalf of Scudamore's punting in Cambridge providing rent review, lease renewal and rating advice. When the Valuation increased the rateable value to £66,500 under the 2017 Rating List (up from £25,250 under the previous Rating List) we immediately instigated the "Check Challenge Appeal" process.
Unfortunately, the Valuation Office took a particularly intransigent position and the appeal was therefore listed for hearing at a Valuation Tribunal. However, following persistence on our part the Valuation Officer eventually conceded a rateable value of £40,000 - a 40% reduction, giving our client a deserved large saving in rates payable.
Acting on behalf of two separate firms of solicitors in Cambridge we negotiated lease renewal terms and a rent review settlement, both in market conditions which favoured the landlords.
At the lease renewal our expertise was in particular required to retain the potentially favourable hypothetical lease terms at subsequent review dates. In dealing with the rent review for the second legal practice we were able to reach a negotiated settlement at over 17% saving as compared to the landlord's surveyors Notice figure.
We specialise in providing advice to GP partnerships. Early in 2017 we received a new instruction from a practice in Cambridge to negotiate its notional rent assessment with the District Valuer, who acts on behalf of the NHS.
Following detailed surveys of the two practice premises we entered into protracted negotiations with the District Valuer, eventually culminating in increased rental income for our client of almost 15.5% per annum.
We were recommended to SGS International in 2014 to advise concerning a schedule of dilapidations served on the company at their site in West Cumbria where lease expiry was approaching. Following our advice the landlord backed off in its threats.
Upon sale of the freehold interest a new landlord served a further schedule of dilapidations on SGS. Our advice was that under section 18 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1927 (diminution in value) the tenant's liability was actually a fraction of the large sum which the landlord alleged to be appropriate.
In late 2016 we provided a detailed section 18 report and liaised with our recommended building surveyor. Following termination of the lease and vacation of the property, and despite pressure from the landlord and its appointed high profile building surveyors, we advised our client to hold firm. This strategy paid off when in mid-2017 we negotiated a favourable dilapidations settlement at a sum far far lower than that initially claimed by the landlord.
When our client, Ta Bouche, opened a new restaurant and bar in Ely in early 2014 we were shocked to note that the Valuation Office placed a rateable value of £69,000 on the property. This put great strain on the business.
After actively pursuing the VO we were eventually able to obtain a reduction to £49,250, saving our client over £9,500 per year in rates payable.
As a result of our appeal the draft 2017 RV was also reduced to a more sensible figure.
Acting as consultant to Merrifields we represented a Subway franchisee at a July 2015 rent review in Bury St Edmunds.
The landlord had proposed an increase in rent of 79% based on the settlement of rent reviews with other national restaurant chains in the location.
Following detailed negotiation we were able to convince the landlord and its surveyor to agree the rent review at just over 18% uplift.
Rating appeals often take a long time to settle, and a recent successful case we concluded for a client indicates how important experience, persistence and expertise can be in achieving the desired result.
As consultant to Merrifields we advised Brookfield Utilities UK to appeal against the rateable value of £287,500 at the office premises it occupies outside Bury St Edmunds. Following almost two years of negotiation with the Valuation Officer it proved impossible to convince him to reduce the RV. As a consequence Paul prepared a detailed case which he presented to a Valuation Tribunal Hearing in Cambridge. Having heard the evidence and expert opinion of both parties to the dispute the Tribunal ordered the Valuation Officer to reduce the rateable value to the sum Paul had argued for at the Hearing; namely £194,000.
This pleasing result, together with subsequent negotiation success in respect of a number of historic rating assessments at the property, produced large savings for the client backdated to 2011.
For many years Paul has acted on behalf of Cambridge Vending Ltd based in Milton, Cambridge. We recently provided advice in connection with the letting of surplus units at Crane Business Estate on favourable terms to Acorn Architectural Ironmongery. We will also be assisting the client with the ongoing management of the Estate.
Over recent years rents have rocketed on the famous Royal Mile in Edinburgh as retailers have battled to secure sites in this busy tourist pitch. Acting on behalf of both Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Fudge Kitchen we have been very active in successfully negotiating rent reviews and new leases on advantageous terms.
With the Highland Soap Co. lease in Pitlochry approaching expiry we negotiated a new lease term for the tenant incorporating a rent reduction of 10%.
For more than 15 years Paul has had involvement with a cafe/bar premises in Market Passage, Cambridge providing rating and landlord & tenant advice to the tenant. With the lease coming to end we commenced renewal discussions with the landlord in 2011 on behalf of La Raza Ltd. The landlord had redevelopment plans for the building and so negotiations were delicate as we attempted to ensure the client retained an operational unit within any new scheme.
Following eventual postponement of the redevelopment we proceeded to agree terms for a new lease with no increase in rent and a significant rent free period.
This negotiation, lasting four years, required persistence and patience but culminated in La Raza Ltd securing the premises for a further term and so enabling the company to plan ahead with certainty.
Over a period of years we provided advice to a pharmacy business in Cheshire. We settled an outstanding rent review and negotiated/agreed heads of terms for a surrender and grant of a new lease to a third party purchasing the business assets. In addition, we provided valuation advice in respect of a freehold interest and ultimately negotiated the sale price with the purchaser.
Negotiating advantageous terms at lease renewal requires market knowledge and an appreciation of the way formal notice requirements can be used to contribute to a favourable result. Taking advantage of the current market conditions, and the short period of time until notice to quit had to be served, we were recently able to negotiate a 35% reduction in rent for our client, Rogerson Footwear, at one of their outlets in Scotland. The new lease also now incorporates a break clause giving the client greater flexibility in the future.
A local Carlisle business was faced with a Court Summons for non-payment of business rates amounting to over £5,000. We acted swiftly to convince the Billing Authority to withdraw the Summons and accept that no amounts were outstanding. We then undertook further negotiations resulting in a modest refund being paid to the client.
As a practice we have particular expertise in advising clients concerning medical properties. This may involve the negotiation of rent reviews/new lease terms, preparing formal valuation reports or providing ongoing strategic advice. We have been advising one particular GP practice for over eleven years and at five consecutive notional rent reviews we have successfully obtained increased rents for the partners. The latest review, just concluded, resulted in an uplift in the rent of over 8% per annum for the partners.
The preparation of Expert Witness Reports is an expanding area of our work. We usually act for either landlords or tenants, but sometimes we are appointed jointly by two other parties to a dispute involving property; for example, a matrimonal disagreement.
In acting for the landlord of a prime retail unit in Saffron Walden we could not agree terms for a new lease with the tenant. Under Court dispute resolution rules it was agreed that the lease terms would be determined by an independent expert. We agreed with the tenant's surveyor the identity of the third party and we prepared and submitted Expert Witness reports on behalf of our client. This is a skilled task as a surveyor in this position must put forward his honest and unbiased opinion of value. On this occasion we achieved an increase in rent and favourable lease terms for the client.
Acting on behalf of Amcor Packaging UK Ltd we agreed the renewal of three leases at large factories in West Cumbria at significantly reduced rents.
We are obtaining an increasing number of instructions to provide valuations for pension fund purposes. These are to satisfy HMRC SIPP (self invested personal pension) rules and usually involve advising on the purchase price of a property and often the lease terms under which the investors business will subsequently occupy the premises. In due course we are often again approached to advise regarding appropriate rent review or lease renewal terms.
Following on from our success in dealing with the 2005 Rating List appeals for Scudamore's Punting Company (see January 2012 news item below), we went on to secure similar reductions under the 2010 List. As a consequence, our client again benefited from large savings in rates payable.
Acting on behalf of Merrifields Chartered Surveyors we represented Anna, the luxury designer fashion boutique, in securing a favourable dilapidations settlement at premises in Bury St Edmunds. We also negotiated lease terms at Anna's new outlet in the town.
On behalf of retained clients we advised in connection with the refurbishment of a vacant retail unit in the Cumbrian market town of Brampton. Following our marketing campaign terms were eventually agreed with English Cut, the bespoke Savile Row tailors.
We act on behalf of a private landlord client in respect of a prime Saffron Walden retail property. The client had previously received advice to the effect that the outstanding rent review should be settled at a nominal increase only. Following negotiations we were able to achieve a 14% uplift in rent.
It is always interesting to deal with unusual properties. Our client, Scudamore's, operates a number of punting sites in Cambridge. Following detailed negotiations with the Valuation Officer we succeeded in reducing the rateable values under the 2005 Rating List by around 30% across a number of rating assessments. This resulted in significant savings for the client.
On behalf of Merrifields Chartered Surveyors we represented Harriet's Cafe Tearooms in acting as Expert Witness at a rent review arbitration where the landlord was proposing a huge uplift in the rent. The arbitrator awarded a nil increase and that the landlord should pay all our client's costs.
Rating appeal discussions under the 2010 Rating Lists both north and south of the Border are now well underway. We were pleased to have been able to save clients many thousands of pounds in rating liability so far. Many appeals remain outstanding and, particularly in England, we are still regularly submitting new appeals where appropriate on behalf of new and existing clients.
The landlord of a retail client in Inverness proposed a £25,000 increase at the 2010 rent review. We negotiated that down to £500 increase.
Acting as consultant to Merrifields Chartered Surveyors we have recently advised a landlord at an interesting rent review of an undertakers property. Having established that the lease and accompanying documentation permitted the tenant's alterations to be taken into account on review, we were ultimately able to achieve a rental increase equating to 52% over the initial rent set at lease commencement five years ago.
Speciality retailer Highland Soap Co have opened a new store in Atholl Road, Pitlochry. We acted on their behalf in acquiring the unit which is their third outlet, the other two being in Fort William and Spean Bridge.
Acting on behalf of Edge of the World (the fashion/outdoor retailer based in Cumbria) we have recently completed the acquisition of a new store at 18 Main Street, Keswick. It was formerly occupied by First Quench, but following their demise in 2009 we were able to secure the premises for Edge, who are operating it as a Joules franchise.
Rating appeals often take years to settle. But following a direct approach to the Valuation Office on behalf of a trade counter client we have been able to agree a reduction in their rateable value under the 2010 Rating List less than three months after the List came into effect.