The UK Government today published its Building Safety Bill, three years after the Grenfell tragedy in which 72 people lost their lives in a fire in a tower block in Kensington, London, the worst residential fire in the UK since World War II.

The Bill seeks to implement the recommendations of the Hackitt Report of May 2018, in which Dame Judith Hackitt recommended the establishment of an entirely new regulatory framework for ensuring the safety of higher-risk buildings through their procurement, design, development and maintenance phases.

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Why do real estate lawyers ask for deeds to be signed in “wet ink”?

The facility agreement is finally agreed. The execution versions of the ancillary documents have been deftly zipped and are ready for email circulation to the wider team. A real estate lawyer interjects that the charge needs to be executed in “wet ink” and the original document sent by post. The invariable incredulity arises as to what makes real estate different from other areas of law, requiring hard copy documents and original signatures.

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The UK government has confirmed today that it will be renewing the package of measures it introduced for tenants in the commercial property sector unable to pay their rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including extending the moratorium on forfeiture and the restrictions on issuing statutory demands and winding up petitions from 30 June until 30 September 2020. Secondary legislation will also be enacted to prevent landlords from using commercial rent arrears recovery unless they are owed 189 days of unpaid rent (the previous threshold was 90 days). The time period for this measure will similarly be extended to the end of September. The measures are expected, but mean that landlords’ remedies against tenants for unpaid rent will continue to be significantly restricted for the next 3 months.

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The spread of COVID-19 has forced the mass closure of workspace and the implementation of work-from-home policies in the majority of industries.

As the UK contemplates easing lockdown measures, businesses are having to consider what the world of work will look like in the “new normal”. But what does that “new normal” look like and will it ultimately mean the end of office space as we know it?

For some businesses, the “new normal” initially may mean “virus-proofing” their offices through short-term fixes, new working patterns and long-term design upgrades that put hygiene at the heart of workplace planning.  Businesses with denser patterns of occupation (for example, tech companies), may even find that they require more space in order to achieve social distancing and to encourage the return to the office.

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As we approach the June quarter day, it is not only landlords who will be keeping a close eye on rent collection.  For lenders rent collection is also very important.

So far we have largely seen that lenders have been supportive of landlords in relation to unpaid rent for the March quarter day – in some cases lenders have agreed to variations and waivers in financing arrangements.

With rent collection this month likely to be far worse than the March quarter day and with no certainty over when social distancing restrictions will be fully eased, the next few months are going to be challenging for lenders.  Some lenders could start to take a tougher stance with landlords.  For properties where a lender does not have valuable additional security (e.g. a parent company guarantee), we could later this year see a number of lenders considering whether to appoint a receiver under the Law of Property Act 1925 to sell the property.

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There has been much discussion of late around the effect of COVID-19 on leases, focusing in particular on the non-payment of rents by tenants and the limitation on the landlord’s usual arsenal of options for non-payment. As the lockdown eases and tenants prepare to return to their premises, there are likely to be other lease provisions which need to be considered by landlords and tenants. This article considers a number of typical lease provisions which tenants may like to consider.

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As we slowly start to ease out of lockdown, the impact of how the retail landscape will be changed, remains to be seen.  Some retail stores are starting their preparations to be ready to open again in England from 15 June 2020, however there are a number of factors that store owners will need to take into account:

How will shopping as we know it, change?

  1. The Government has made clear that social distancing must remain in place for the foreseeable future, maintaining a two metre distance between people. The public are mostly willing to help enforce social distancing by queuing to be allowed entry into the bigger stores (e.g. supermarkets and homeware stores) due to the requirement of basic needs. What remains to be seen, is whether the average shopper will queue merely to visit a store on a casual basis, when they have no guarantee of actually buying an item, and no genuine necessity to do so.

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As the June quarterly rent day looms, the government has announced it is set to publish a new code of practice to support high street landlords and tenants. The code is said to be designed to provide “clarity and reassurance” over rent payments by encouraging “fair and transparent” discussions between landlords and tenants. It also aims to provide guidance on rent arrear payments and treatment of “sub-letters” (which we assume means sub-tenants) and suppliers.  This code will add to the package of protective measures introduced by the government for tenants in the commercial sector who failed to pay the March quarter’s rent, including the moratorium on forfeiture, the stay of possession proceedings, the limitations on the use of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery and the restrictions on statutory demands and winding up petitions.  Initially the code will be introduced on a temporary basis. The government has indicated they may look to make it mandatory if considered necessary.

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The private rented sector (PRS) in the UK has grown significantly in the last decade and the multifamily sector in particular has attracted substantial investment from new overseas investors, with Greystar, Atlas and Courtland each gaining a foothold in the UK market.

According to the British Property Federation (BPF), there are currently over 150,000 multifamily units completed, under construction or with planning permission in the UK and nearly 75,000 of these units are in London, showing the sector’s growing popularity which is only set to increase.

Coronavirus has forced many countries in the world into a state of lockdown – and the UK is no exception. This has caused many people to reflect on their current living and working arrangements, as never has it been more important to have a flexible place to live, work and play.

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The UK Government has temporarily banned commercial landlords from issuing statutory demands and winding up petitions against commercial tenants unable to pay their bills due to coronavirus.  A statutory demand can be issued where a corporate debtor owes £750 to a creditor.  If the debt is not paid within 21 days of the issue of the statutory demand, the landlord creditor can then issue a winding up petition against their tenant.  Although in most cases a landlord does not ultimately want their tenant to be wound up (as that could lead to them having to take back the premises), the procedure is sometimes used to put pressure on tenants to pay their rent.  Under these new measures, any winding up petition that claims that the company is unable to pay its debts must first be reviewed by the court to determine why. The law will not permit petitions to be presented, or winding up orders made, where the company’s inability to pay is the result of COVID-19.

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