EDIT 22.11.2022: as this post went to press, the Appeal Court departed from the view of both the High Court and the County Court, and proclaimed a strict orthodoxy.  They held that the judge below had asked himself the wrong question; he should have asked whether the notice had been given to the tenant, not what the notice had meant.  The appeal shows that the utmost care must be taken when serving break notices, as the court will show no leniency if the notice is incorrect.  

Ensuring a break notice is validly served can be critical, especially for fixed break dates as without a rolling break option there is only one ‘bite of the cherry’ to break the lease. The consequences of serving an invalid break notice may be drastic, for example, it may fetter a landlord in obtaining vacant possession in order to carry out a development scheme or a tenant may remain liable for a lease that it no longer wants and cannot get rid of in any other way.

The high stakes are perhaps the main reason why the validity of break notices is a question asked of the courts time and time again. In this article we will consider three points that might catch you out when serving a break notice and one that was considered recently by the High Court in Turner v Thomas [2022] and which might save an otherwise inaccurate break notice.

Continue Reading Nelsonian blindness is no defence to a break notice

The Court of Appeal, in the conjoined appeals of London Trocadero (2015) LLP v Picturehouse Cinemas Ltd and Bank of New York Mellon (International) Ltd v Cine-UK Ltd, once again vindicated beleaguered landlords by refusing to imply terms into professionally negotiated leases.  Tenants cannot withhold rent except in circumstances expressly set out in the

Introduction

Reform of the regime governing residential long leaseholds (leases of dwellings for a term of twenty one years or more) has been going on for over fifty years.  The latest reform is to restrict a landlord’s ability to charge ground rent on top of an initial premium paid on the grant of the lease.  Ground rent is a sum the tenant pays annually, in addition to the lump sum for the lease itself.  Unlike insurance rent and service charges which the tenant must also pay, ground rent is seen as an ongoing windfall for the landlord, as it is not referable to provision of a service.

Continue Reading Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022

Following the introduction of the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill  to the House of Commons on 11 May 2022, we follow up on our article Levelling Up – Government to play matchmaker on the high street? with an overview of the proposed legislation.

In brief, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill  (the “Bill”) establishes a statutory notice procedure to be followed by local authorities before a rental auction can be carried out and the landlord required to grant a short-term tenancy to the “successful bidder”.

Continue Reading Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill – High Street Rental Auctions

Last week the UK Government published its long-awaited proposals for reform of the planning system in England and Wales, in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill.

Back in June 2020, radical reforms to the planning system were proposed, including introducing zoning and deemed planning permission in designated growth areas.  Despite the abandonment of these far-reaching reforms, the proposals set out in the Bill, are significant.  The main changes are as follows.

Central Government will take a much greater role in planning

This will be achieved by the introduction of a new suite of National Development Management Policies which will set out generic planning policies applicable across the country.  Local Plans will be expected to restrict themselves to purely local issues.  The expectation is that this will provide greater consistency in decision-making and help with the speedy production of up-to-date Local Plans.  This is backed by a new statutory provision to the effect that applications are to be determined in accordance with the Local Plan and National Development Management Policies and if there is a conflict between the two, national policies will prevail.

This is a significant cultural shift from the position to date under which locally-determined policies should prevail.  There is also some scepticism about the production of a whole new suite of national policies: is this a return to the days of PPGs which were swept away on the grounds that these were too unwieldy and bureaucratic?

Continue Reading Levelling Up and Planning Reform

The Government’s recent Levelling Up the United Kingdom White Paper announced the intention to give local authorities the power to require landlords to rent out long-term vacant properties on the high street to tenants such as local businesses and community groups. This is primarily targeted at addressing the social problems associated with high streets that have high vacancy rates. Very little detail has so far been announced and we await the release of the Levelling Up Bill after the Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022.

In this article we will consider some questions arising out of the White Paper, and we will follow up on the detail once the Bill is released.

Continue Reading Levelling Up – Government to play matchmaker on the high street?

Introduction

From the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror, to the establishment of the Land Registry, identifying the owner of a piece of land has had a long history in the UK.  Whilst William wanted to know the extent of his conquered lands so he could tax his new subjects, and land registration was introduced to make conveyancing and mortgages easier, the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act (the “Act”) has a more high minded purpose.  It is intended to make public the “real” identity of foreign proprietors owning land in the UK and thus discourage bad actors from investing in English real estate.

Continue Reading The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act: what to expect

After a long period of uncertainty, HMRC have finally issued their decision as to whether or not valued added tax (“VAT”) is chargeable on dilapidations payments.

Historically, dilapidations payable by a tenant at the end of a lease had not been subject to VAT.  The payment was to compensate the landlord for having its premises returned in disrepair, contrary to the tenant’s promise to keep them in repair.  Truly compensatory payments have historically been treated as not subject to VAT as it was considered they were not payments for a supply of goods or services.

Continue Reading As you were! HMRC decides no VAT payable on dilapidations payments after all

At last we have some clarity on the shape of the statutory arbitration scheme, which deals with the rent arrears – including service charges and interest – built up by businesses forced to close or restrict their activities during the pandemic (“protected rents”).

Continue Reading The Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill: more uncertainty for landlords

The Pandora Papers confirmed how attractive the UK, especially London and the South East, is for foreign property investors.   This post considers what foreign investors need to know about transparency and land ownership in England and Wales and what is on the horizon.

Close to 90% of land in England and Wales is registered at Her Majesty’s Land Registry, and transaction involving unregistered land will trigger a registration requirement. The title gives basic information about a parcel of land, including the name and address of the registered proprietor.  Non-natural legal personalities such as companies, limited liability partnerships, and charities can own land, and of course there is no restriction on non-UK entities owning land.

Continue Reading The Pandora Papers: overseas investment set to become more transparent