Does Your Company Have Any ‘Persons with Significant Control’?

If so, you need to include their details in a new Register.

If you run a limited company, under new regulations, it is necessary to keep a register of people with significant control of the company. This register will be in addition to the register of directors and register of members.

The Regulations came into effect on 6th April 2016 and details have to be included in your annual statement at Companies House from 30th June 2016.

Persons With Significant Control

puppet master photo

You now have to record who pulls the strings in your company Photo by Greg Walters

A person with significant control (a PSC) is someone who:

• directly or indirectly holds more than 25% of the shares or voting rights of a company,
• directly or indirectly has the right to appoint or remove the majority of the directors, or
• has “significant influence or control” over the company itself, or over the activities of a trust or a firm which meets any of the other specified conditions in relation to the company (e.g. by holding more than 25% of the shares).

A person would exercise “significant influence or control” if for example he/she is not a member of the board of directors, but regularly or consistently directs or influences a significant section of the board, or is regularly consulted on board decisions and whose views influence decisions made by the board.

This would include a person who falls within the definition of “shadow director”. It can apply even if the individual is not aiming to gain economic benefits from the policies or activities of the company, trust or firm.

The PSC Register

The register has to contain the name, nationality, date of birth, usual country of residence and usual residential address of each individual who is a PSC plus the nature of their control and the date on which that person became registrable. A service address is also needed. The residential address will not appear on the public record.

Your company’s PSC register must not be left empty and you must take reasonable steps to determine whether any individual or any legal entity meets the conditions for being a PSC. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

If there is nobody with significant influence, your register (and the information to Companies House) should say:
The company knows or has reasonable cause to believe that there is no registrable person or registrable relevant legal entity in relation to the company.

Or, if you are still checking, it might say “The company has not yet completed taking reasonable steps to find out if there is anyone who is a registrable person or a registrable relevant legal entity in relation to the company.

LLPs and Exemptions

Similar regulations apply to LLPs (limited liability partnerships).

There are exemptions for those who have influence in a purely professional capacity, such as a lawyer or accountant.

Why Is This Being Introduced?

The new regulations are part of the Government’s attempts to deal with tax evasion and money laundering and are part of a Europe-wide initiative.

Think Twice Before You Copy From Another Website (it could prove to be expensive!)

In a recent case, a home improvement company in Bradford lifted 21 images from the website of a loft conversion company in the London area when it decided to move into loft conversion work and wanted some illustrations.

Absolute Lofts South West London Ltd. sued the Bradford company, Artisan, and its owner, Mr Lubbock, and won substantial damages. Artisan admitted liability and the judge awarded a total of £6300 in damages – £300 for ‘compensatory damages’ and a further £6000 – 20 times the basic compensation– because of the flagrant nature of the breach.

imitate photo

Making duplicates of other people’s images could leave you exposed
Photo by iloveart106 Creative Commons

In a case like this, compensatory damages are calculated on a theoretical basis of what might have been agreed for the use of the images between two willing parties. Experts instructed by each of the parties came up with different figures – the expert for Absolute Lofts argued that Artisan would have paid £9000 for a professional photographer to take those pictures. Artisan reckoned the figure was less than £1000. The judge did not think much of either expert opinion and decided £300 was the right amount as this was what it would have cost to source similar images from a photographic library.

However, the judge then decided that additional damages were due. Section 97 (2) of the Copyright Designs & Patent Act 1988 allows additional damages when there is a flagrant infringement of copyright.  And Article 13(2) of the EU Directive on The Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights allows for damages appropriate to the prejudice suffered by the injured party.

Artisan’s owner knew that the images were being used without consent. But the judge also found that Artisan had directly profited from the photographs on their website – it seems that they not only implied the company had expertise in loft conversions, but its profits increased as a result.   Even though the distance between the two companies did not mean that Absolute Lofts suffered from direct loss of business as a result of Artisan’s action, the judge nonetheless thought there was prejudice and so awarded the £6000 additional damages.

The internet is often seen as a free resource where you can pick up and copy other people’s pictures or text and use them on another website. This case underlines the fact that you do so at your peril, and do remember that it is relatively easy for a copyright owner to search for and find duplication on the web.

There are plenty of free images available online, and Google search now allows you to search by license. There is a system of Creative Commons licensing that allows image publishers to declare the details of how they want their images shared.  Because of this, the courts are likely to get increasingly firm on blatant infringements.

So, if you are engaging a designer, be sure to check that their contract makes it clear that nothing they supply will infringe any third party’s copyright. Our designers’ contract template covers this along with all the other things you need to consider when working with designers.

For the full case report see: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/IPEC/2015/2608.html

 

Consumer Rights Act – Unfair Contract Terms

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 introduces new rights for consumers and our previous articles have dealt with how the Act affects sale of goods, services and digital products.

Kawarau Bridge - Bungee dipping photo

You can’t escape your responsibilities by writing them away in a contract

The Act also re-states and expands the existing law concerning unfair terms in consumer contracts.

The basic requirements are that contract terms must be fair.

The law says that a term is unfair if “contrary to the requirements of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract to the detriment of the consumer.

This fairness test applies not only to terms in the contract but also to consumer notices – e.g. notices in car parks, as well as notices appearing online on a website.

All written terms in a consumer contract or in a consumer notice must be transparent – i.e. expressed in plain and intelligible language.

Any term in a consumer contract or a consumer notice attempting to limit or exclude the trader’s liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence is unlawful and not enforceable. (So a bungee jumping company can’t get you to sign away your rights – if the bungee fails, that will still be their fault.)

Similarly any term attempting to limit or exclude the various terms implied by the Act (satisfactory quality etc.) are unfair and unenforceable.

What Is ‘Unfair’?

Schedule 2 of the Act contains 20 examples of terms that may be regarded as unfair. These include:

  • Disproportionately high charges when a consumer decides not to carry on with a contract or with services which have not been supplied
  • Terms that allow the trader to decide the subject matter after the consumer is bound by the contract
  • A term allowing the trader to fix the price after the consumer is already bound by the contract
  • A term designed to limit the trader’s liability in the event of death or personal injury of the consumer that results from some act or omission of the trader
  • A term designed to exclude or limit the consumer’s rights if the trader does not perform his obligations adequately
  • A term that allows the trader to bring the contract to an end without reasonable notice unless there are serious grounds for doing so
  • A term which has the effect of binding the consumer to terms which he has had no real opportunity of becoming acquainted with before the conclusion of the contract.

Fairness Exemption

the fairness test in consumer rights

Notices to the public such as clamping warnings are also subject to the ‘fairness test’

The test of fairness will not apply to a term in a contract that specifies the subject matter of the contract, nor will the price be subjected to a fairness test. But for the exemption to apply, the subject matter and the price must be prominent and transparent – i.e. in plain English and intelligible.

What You Need To Do

All businesses need to review their contract terms at this stage to see that they do not fall foul of the Consumer Rights Act and the updated Unfair Terms requirements incorporated in it. Although much of the existing legislation is retained, there are new provisions as well.

Resources

Consumer Rights Act: Services

Whatever service you are providing, you will need to meet basic standards

Whatever service you are providing, you will need to meet basic standards

The new Consumer Rights law coming into force on 1st October 2015 is significant: it introduces new rights for consumers as well as consolidating a lot of existing legislation, and it applies to almost all all businesses in the UK that supply goods, services or digital products to consumers.

Definitions

A ‘consumer’ is an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

A ‘trader’ is a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession and it includes public sector authorities and government departments.

Services

Every contract for services includes a term, implied by law,  that:

  • the trader will exercise reasonable skill and care in providing the service
  • any information* given to the consumer about the service is included as a term in the contract if it is taken into account by the consumer when deciding to enter into the contract (unless the trader qualified he information at the time)

Where no price is specified in a contract, a term is implied that the consumer will pay a reasonable price for the service.

Where no time for performing the service is specified in the contract, the trader must perform the service within a reasonable time.

*Consumer Regulations that came into force in 2014 specify the information that a trader has to give to a consumer when entering into a contract- there are 24 separate items  and these were mentioned in the blog post we wrote at the time.

None of these implied terms can be excluded in the contract.

Remedies for a consumer where the trader is in breach of any of these implied terms may comprise:

  • repeat performance by the trader
  • a price reduction (which in some circumstances can mean a full refund)

So, if a trader has a clause in his contract limiting his liability to 10% of the contract price, that is illegal and will not be binding on the consumer.

These statutory remedies do not prevent a consumer claiming damages or seeking some other order such as specific performance but the law says the consumer cannot recover twice for the same loss.

The Consumer Rights Act can be found here.

Consumer Rights Act: Goods

Goods trade is subject to new legislation in the UK coming into force on 1 October 2015

New rights for consumers in the UK will apply from 1 October 2015

The new Consumer Rights law coming into force on 1st October 2015 is significant: it introduces new rights for consumers as well as consolidating a lot of existing legislation, and it applies to almost all contracts between traders and consumers.

Definitions

A ‘consumer’ is an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

A ‘trader’ is a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession and it includes public sector authorities and government departments.

‘Goods’ are ‘tangible moveable items’  – in other words, things you can handle – so they do not include software or buildings.

Selling Goods – What the Law Says

It is a legal requirement that all goods sold to a consumer are:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • match their description
  • match any sample that has been supplied
  • match any model which has been seen by the consumer (unless differences have been pointed out)

“Satisfactory quality” is the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory taking account of the description, price and other relevant circumstances. The quality includes:

  • fitness for the purposes for which those goods are usually supplied
  • appearance and finish
  • freedom from minor defects
  • Safety
  • Durability

If the sale includes installation by the trader and the goods are installed incorrectly, then they do not conform to the contract.

If, before the contract is made, a consumer specifies a particular purpose for which the goods are required, then they have to be fit for that purpose even if they’re not usually supplied for that reason.

Traders are required to provide a lot of pre-contract information to consumers – including price, payment, delivery, performance etc. under The Consumer Contracts (Information etc.) Regulations. All that of information is now treated as a term of the contract. (See our previous guidance article on those regulations)

Remedies for Defective Goods

If goods do not meet these standards, a consumer has a number of potential remedies:

  • Within 30 days from delivery (or installation if this is included), reject the substandard goods and claim a full refund
  • after the 30 days the consumer can require the repair or replacement of defective goods
  • if the trader does not replace or repair defective goods at all or does so but the goods are still defective, the consumer can require either a price reduction or a final right to reject the non-conforming goods and get a refund.

Consumers should normally raise any claim within six months from delivery.

A refund must be made within 14 days of the trader agreeing that a refund is due and no fee for arranging the refund is allowed.

Whether or not the contract requires the consumer to return rejected goods, the reasonable costs of return must be borne by the trader. But there is an exception if the consumer returns them from a different place than that where they were delivered. So, for example, if a trader in London supplies goods to a consumer in Brighton and the consumer then moves to Paris, the trader only has to pay the cost of return from Brighton, not the cost from Paris.

If a consumer rejects goods more than six months after delivery, the trader is allowed to deduct from the refund an amount to take account of the time the consumer had use of the goods. (But no deduction is allowed if the goods are a motor vehicle)

The remedies do not prevent the right of a consumer to claim damages or seek some other remedy in the courts. However, the law does say that the consumer cannot make a double recovery for the same loss.

Delivery of Goods

The law (Section 28) requires a trader to deliver goods within 30 days unless another period is agreed. If delivery is not within this period the consumer can treat the contract as at an end if the consumer made it clear that delivery within that period was essential. Otherwise the consumer can demand delivery within ‘an appropriate’ period and if the trader does not meet this, the consumer can cancel.

Risk

Risk of loss or damage passes to the consumer when the goods come into his possession or they are delivered to a carrier commissioned by the consumer.

Your Terms

Using a good standard set of terms and conditions, and getting legal advice if there is anything aren’t sure about, is always good practice regardless of changes in the law. ContractStore have a range of ready made T&Cs and other documents for selling goods that are specifically designed for businesses trading goods. For example:

 

Is Your Business Ready for the new Consumer Rights Act?

The new Consumer Rights Act will come into force in October 2015

The new Consumer Rights Act will come into force in October 2015

This new law is significant: it introduces new rights for consumers as well as consolidating a lot of existing legislation, and it applies to almost all contracts between traders and consumers.

It comes into force on 1st October 2015 and affects all traders that supply goods, services or digital products to consumers.

Definitions

A ‘consumer’ is an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

A ‘trader’ is a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession and it includes public sector authorities and government departments.

Digital Products are Now Included

The law deals separately with sale of Goods, Services and (for the first time) Digital Products – what standards have to be met, what information provided, and the rights of a consumer to cancel or get compensation if the trader is not complying with the law. (This will of course affect ContractStore so we are paying especially close attention!)

It also covers Unfair Terms in contracts.

More Guidance

Over the coming month we will be publishing guidance for businesses who trade in Goods, Services, and Digital Products. You can follow this blog or sign up for our enewsletter below, to get the updates.

Get updates by email:


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How to Find and Motivate Great Agents and Distributors

How to get started with exporting

Ebook available to download from ContractStore

Simon Bedford, author of Exporting Made Easy, gives guidance on working with agents and distributors, ahead of the upcoming UKTI Export Week, 18-22 May

Why use an agent or distributor?
The appointment of an overseas agent or distributor can be a quick and low cost way to open up a new international market. However, there are many questions about the timing, how to find the right person, their role and responsibilities and how to motivate them to perform consistently well over the medium and longer term.

Our man in…
Companies can start exporting directly without using a “middleman”. They can simply travel to the market, having carried out some research, and try to book the orders. However, after a short time there is a realisation that a local man on the ground in the form of an agent or distributor can bring results more quickly and this is a continuous point of contact for you and your customers.

Companies usually know whether they require a purely commission agent or need a distributor who can stock products locally in the market. As the export of services from the UK has expanded rapidly in recent years and there is no tangible product to stock so an agent is all that is required.

Ensuring good relationships
If an agent is performing well, there should be a good relationship and communication between the customer, the agent and of course, the exporter.
The agent is simply identifying and ‘warming’ up the customer in return for an agreed commission.

The alternative, is for an exporter of products to supply and invoice the distributor who will hold stock, add his mark-up and in turn sell to the end customer. The distributor may well regard the customer as their client and therefore not be keen to allow the exporter to build any relationship.

Finding the right agent and distributor
There are many ways to identify good agents and distributors. This can be via other companies operating in the sector, exhibitions, trade associations, the internet and social media or via UK Trade & Investment, as this is a service we regularly offer from the British Embassy network worldwide.

What to look out for
Agent and distributors usual immediately ask for exclusivity. Be cautious, consider a trial period, and do not offer too large a territory. In a vast country such as the USA, China or India one agent is unlikely to have the capacity to cover more than a part of the country or region. If offering a region covering several countries again be careful; even if he has the ability, start with a limited area and see how it develops – much easier to expand than contract the territory; and always be specific – don’t, for example, refer to the Middle East but instead specify which countries are covered.

What motivates them?
Finally motivation. If we put ourselves in the shoes of an agent or distributor we can understand the factors that they would find motivational. Sales and profit, of course, but support particularly in the first year to establish the product or service in the market, and regular communication to ensure there is an understanding of how the business is developing.

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About the Author

Simon Bedford of SGB Associates (UK) Ltd, provides export training workshops,  consultancy, and international marketing through UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) since 2004. He has supported over 500 businesses to get started with exporting and is the author of Exporting Made Easy, a straightforward guide that is available in print at a new discounted price (£5.99 + P&P) or as an ebook (£4.99) from ExportingMadeEasy.com

Are your Website Terms of Business ready for the new Consumer Regulations?

New regulations concerning the sale of goods and services to consumers come into effect in June. The great majority of businesses selling goods or services online as well as door step and other “off-premises” sales will be affected.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013 come into effect on 13 June 2014. They replace the existing the Distance Selling Regulations and the Doorstep Regulations.

Although many of the existing regulations will continue, they have been updated in various ways and there are a number of changes that you will need to make to your terms and conditions.

So, be prepared to update your Terms of Business for online sales on your website as well as for off-premises sales. And remember, these Regulations apply to the sale of services as well as goods.

ContractStore’s Terms & Conditions for online sale of goods  (document A179) have been updated and are available to buy and download from our website.

Here are some of the key points in the new Regulations:

 Information     Lots of information must be given by the trader to the consumer before the contract is made.  This pre-contract information will be treated as information forming part of the contract. If this information is not provided, the consumer may not be bound by the contract.

Schedule 2 of the regulations details 24 separate bits of information to be provided. These include:

  • the main characteristics of the goods or services
  • the identity of the trader and his address and contact details
  • if the trader is selling on behalf of someone else, the address and identity of that other trader is also needed
  • the total price of the goods or services including taxes or, if this cannot be calculated in advance, an explanation of how it will be calculated
  • where applicable, any additional delivery charges or  other costs
  • where the contract is open ended or the consumer is paying a subscription, the total monthly or other regular payments
  • arrangements for payment, delivery, performance and timing
  • where there is a cancellation right, details concerning this
  • when applicable, the terms of any after sales service
  • the duration of the contract and if this is open ended, the conditions for terminating and the minimum contract period, if there is one.

Making the Contract.   In the case of online business, the information items in italics above are the minimum that the trader must provide ‘in a clear and prominent manner’ before the consumer places an order.

Also the website must have wording that ensures the consumer, when placing an order, explicitly acknowledges the obligation to pay for the goods or services being ordered.

Unless the trader complies with these requirements, the consumer is not bound by the contract..

Once an order is placed, the trader must confirm the contract within a reasonable time and before the delivery of goods or start of services.  email confirmation is acceptable.

Sales by Phone.  Anyone making a phone call to get a contract must at the beginning of the conversation identify the trader’s identity, the purpose of the call and the identity of any third party on whose behalf the call is being made.   

Delivery.     The contract will automatically contain an implied term requiring retailers to deliver goods and services without delay and in any event within 30 days from the contract date

 Risk.   Until goods come into the physical possession of the consumer, risk of loss or damage remains with the trader. This will not apply if the consumer arranges transportation with a carrier who has not been recommended by the trader.

Cancellation Rights.  Consumers will have 14 days in which to cancel a contract. This period replaces the existing period of 7 working days.  The 14 day period starts the day after the contract is made in the case of a service contract or contract for the supply of digital content online.

In the case of goods, the cancellation period ends at the end of 14 days after the day on which the last of the goods came into the physical possession of the consumer (or someone identified by him – e.g. the person to whom a gift is being delivered).

The Regulations contain a model cancellation form and consumers should be given the option to use this, but any clear statement of cancellation will be effective provided it is given within the 14 day period.

If the trader does not spell out the consumer’s cancellation rights, then the consumer has the right to cancel the contract at any time within 12 months. It is also an offence, punishable by a fine.

Refunds.   If the consumer cancels the contract and returns the goods, the trader must make a full refund within 14 days.  This includes the basic cost of delivery if the consumer paid for the goods to be delivered to him. Where there is no delivery of goods, the refund must be within 14 days after the trader is informed of the cancellation.

If the value of the goods has been reduced by the consumer’s handling, the trader can deduct an appropriate amount from the refund.

Return of Goods.  The trader is responsible for collecting the goods if:

  • he has offered to collect them or
  • the goods were delivered to the consumer’s home and they cannot, by their nature, normally be returned by post.

In other cases, the consumer is responsible for sending the goods back to the address specified by the trader. The consumer is responsible for the cost of returning goods unless either the trader has agreed to meet those costs or he failed to tell the consumer about the consumer bearing the cost in the information provided at the beginning.

Services in Cancellation Period.   The trader must not start services within the cancellation period unless he is asked to by the consumer. If services are then performed in full, the consumer’s cancellation right is lost. If services are partly performed and the consumer cancels within the 14 day period, the trader is entitled to payment on a proportionate basis for those services.

Supply of Digital Content.    Where there is a contract online for the supply of digital content, the trader should not supply the content before the end of the cancellation period unless the consumer has given express consent for early delivery and the consumer has acknowledged that the right to cancel the contract will not apply.  So, if you are selling downloads of music or maps, you need wording to ensure that the consumer agree to waive his cancellation rights as he goes through the buying process on your website.

Helpline Charges.    If it trader operates a helpline, this must not involve the consumer in phone charges above the basic rate. If it does, the trader is obliged to refund the extra cost to the consumer.

 Excluded Contracts.   These Regulations do not apply to certain contracts including: financial services and insurance; leases of property and contracts for the sale of land; contracts for construction of new buildings or conversion of existing buildings.

 Exclusion of Cancellation Rights.   The right to cancel a contract does not apply in some circumstances including:

  • goods that are tailor-made for the consumer or personalised in some other way;
  • goods that are liable to deteriorate or expire rapidly, such as fresh food;
  • goods or services where the price is dependent on fluctuations in the financial markets;
  • newspapers and magazines;
  • sealed goods which, after delivery, are unsealed and are no longer suitable for  return due to health or hygiene reasons – e.g. underwear;
  • audio or computer software that is supplied sealed and then unsealed after delivery;
  • goods that become inseparably mixed after delivery – e.g. sand mixed with cement.

For ContractStore’s template Terms of Business for the Sale of Goods Online click here

For more detailed information, the Regulations are available online and are quite easy to read.  Also there is Guidance published by the Department of Business Innovation & Skills.

 

 

What You Need to Know about Leasing a Shop

Guest post by Judith Long

Taking on a business lease can be one of the most significant financial commitments that your business will make.  It is important for a tenant to be aware of the key provisions of its business lease so that it can check what the respective rights and obligations of the business and the landlord are and be aware of the procedures to follow in case there is a problem.

What’s in a Shop Lease?

The lease will normally include the following:

  • Details of the premises.
  • The term of the lease – this will usually be 3 or 5 years or a multiple thereof.
  • Whether the lease is renewable at the end of the term.
  • Whether lease can be assigned during the term together with any conditions.
  • Whether part of the premises can be sublet.
  • The amount of the rent, including details of any rent reviews.
  • The amount and the terms of any rent deposit.
  • Whether a personal guarantee is required.
  • Details of any works that will be the landlord’s responsibility during the tenancy.
  • Details of any service or other charges that may be payable to the landlord during the tenancy.
  • Details of any works that will be the tenant’s responsibility during the tenancy.
  • Details of remedial work that will be required at the termination of the lease.
Check your shop lease before signing to avoid nasty surprises later on!

Check your shop lease before signing, to avoid nasty surprises later on

Things to Consider when Leasing a Shop

The matters set out below are the sort of things you may need to think carefully about and to negotiate with the landlord before agreeing to the lease.

a.      Check the length of the lease.  The tenant should know when the term will end and whether it can be terminated earlier by either party.  The right to terminate early is usually referred to as a break clause.  Tenant break clauses are commonly linked to rent reviews so that, if the rent is likely to be unacceptable to the tenant, it can terminate the lease and limit its financial responsibilities.

b.      Check the position on security of tenure.  Business tenants generally have the right to renew their lease at the end of the contractual term (subject to certain exceptions).  Note, however, that the lease can be contracted out of the security of tenure provisions, in which case there will be no right of renewal at the end of the term and the property must be vacated.

c.      If the lease provides for a rent review, consider whether this should be a simple inflation-linked increase or linked to comparable premises in the open market.

d.      Are you required to give a rent deposit or a personal guarantee?  If so, think carefully about the impact on cash flow and personal liability as a guarantor.  Many start-up businesses prefer to take a lease in the name of a company with a cash rent deposit.

e.      If giving a rent deposit, consider whether it should be released if you prove to be a good tenant and your accounts show that your business is on a sound footing.

f.       The lease is likely to contain a number of restrictions in connection with assignment and sub-letting.  These provisions should be carefully considered.

g.      If you intend to carry out work to the premises, it is best to agree these at the outset and document them as part of the initial deal or you may need to obtain landlord’s permission incurring additional costs and delays.

h.      Even if the premises aren’t in a good state of repair at the beginning of the lease, the repair clause might require you to hand them back to the landlord in a good state of repair. Therefore it is wise to ask your landlord for your repairing obligations to be limited to the current state of the premises recorded in a detailed Schedule of Condition supported by photographs.

i.       Find out what your business rates liability will be.  Check whether the premises are separately rated.

j.       If the premises are part of a larger building, check the service charge accounts for at least the previous 3 years and try to negotiate a cap on the service charge for at least part of the term.

k.      Check whether the premises have their own meters and mains supplies or are these located in a part of the building you can’t reach?

l.       Would you require parking facilities or 24-hour access?

Please note that the above are just some of the matters which you need to consider before leasing a shop and this guide is not intended to be exhaustive.  Landlord and tenant law is a complex area of law and specialist legal advice is always recommended before entering into a lease whether you are a landlord or a tenant.

 

About Judith Long

Judith Long, property lawyer

Judith Long, commercial and property lawyer

Judith is a solicitor with her own practice and her specialist skills include all aspects of commercial property law and business law. With nearly 30 years experience in the law, she has worked in industry as well as private practice.

Her practice was formed in 1997 and she provides specialist business legal services to public and private institutions and individuals.  For more information see www.judithmlongsolicitors.co.uk

What You Need to Know About Assigning a Lease

Guest post by Judith Long

If you are renting a business property, you might come to a point where you want to move on. What are your options if you still have a lease running?

 

Does your lease lock you in? Check for lease assignment conditions before you sign.

Does your lease lock you in?

Firstly let’s look at what it means for a tenant to assign a lease:

  • When a tenant sells their interest in a lease, the sale is referred to as an assignment.
  • The seller (the tenant) can sell only the unexpired remainder of the term granted by the lease.
  • The terms of the lease are not open to negotiation by the buyer because the lease is already in existence and the buyer (the assignee) must take it or leave it as it stands.

What Will the Landlord Expect?

The lease that you, as the outgoing tenant, are selling will almost certainly include a clause stating that the landlord’s consent to the assignment will be required.  So do check your lease carefully – assignments are usually dealt with in a specific clause that is variously called ‘alienation’, ‘dealings’ or transfers’.  The consent process will usually involve you entering into a formal licence to assign with the landlord before the assignment can be progressed.

Unsurprisingly, the landlord is likely to require various checks on the proposed new tenant, possibly including some financial assurances or guarantees.  This can be the cause of some delay.

The lease is also likely to require you and your assignee to satisfy other conditions before the assignment is allowed depending on when your lease was granted:

  • If a lease was granted before 1 January 1996, then the law provided that the original tenant remained potentially liable for payment of the rent and to observe and perform the other lease covenants for the whole term even if the lease had been assigned many times.  In such leases, sometimes called ‘old leases’ by lawyers, because the landlord has the comfort of original tenant liability and the potential liability of successive assignees for the duration of the term, the main requirement will be to get landlord’s consent and enter into the licence to assign.
  • Leases granted on or after 1 January 1996 – still sometimes called ‘new leases’ don’t make the original tenant potentially liable for the whole term, because the law was changed from that date.  The law, however, allows landlords to require an assigning tenant to enter into an ‘authorised guarantee agreement’ (usually referred to as an ‘AGA’) under which the outgoing tenant guarantees the obligations of its immediate assignee but not any future assignees.

Any guarantor that you provided when you entered into the lease would also be required to enter into an AGA to underwrite your own AGA obligations.

There may be other conditions to comply with – the most common being getting a direct covenant with the landlord from the assignee (which is given in the licence to assign and will last for the duration of the term) and a requirement for the assignee to provide a third party guarantee also for the remaining duration of the term.

What Will your Buyer, the New Tenant, Expect?

The buyer (the assignee) will also raise enquiries and is likely to want to check at a minimum:

  • The lease terms they will take over.
  • That you are paid up-to-date on rent, service charges and outgoings.
  • That the landlord agrees you are not in breach of the lease.
  • The property title at HM Land Registry.
  • Replies to pre-contract property enquiries.

Your rent deposit will also need to be returned and apportionments worked out if you have paid rent and service charge to the next quarter day.

Please note that this guide is not intended to be exhaustive and specialist legal advice is always recommended before assigning a lease. If you are looking for example Lease Assignments, ContractStore has suitable templates to download, including:

 

About Judith Long

Judith Long, property lawyer

Judith Long, property lawyer

Judith is a solicitor with her own practice and her specialist skills include all aspects of commercial property law and business law. With nearly 30 years experience in the law, she has worked in industry as well as private practice.

Her practice was formed in 1997 and she provides specialist business legal services to public and private institutions and individuals.  For more information see www.judithmlongsolicitors.co.uk