Does a solicitor need to have the deeds to a property if I want to sell it?

If your property has been registered at the Land Registry, a record of ownership is filed digitally online and this can be downloaded. If they are available, it is always helpful to have the deeds as they may contain useful information that may not have been registered. However, if the property is unregistered a solicitor will always need to see the physical title deeds to establish proof of ownership.

Why is the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 important?

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 is very important in commercial business tenancies. In certain specified circumstances and subject to some exceptions, it gives commercial tenants the right to a lease renewal at the end of the contractual term and the ability to remain in occupation at the property. It therefore provides the tenant with security of tenure and secures business continuity. It is possible however, for a lease to be “contracted outside” the 1954 Act, meaning that the tenant will not have the right to remain in occupation or renew the lease at the end of the contractual term. Regardless of whether the lease is agreed to be granted inside or outside the 1954 Act, it is crucial for both the landlord and the tenant to seek specialist advice.

I have been told my property has development potential. What do I do?

If you’ve been contacted by a developer or a land promoter regarding a potential development to your property, you may wish to consider granting an option agreement or a promotion agreement. An option agreement is made between the landowner and the developer, where it is intended that the developer will apply for planning permission and requires an option to buy the property. A land promotion agreement is used where a developer agrees to apply for planning permission and will market the property for sale on the open market once planning permission has been obtained. This is usually in return for a proportion of the net sale proceeds. The law on this is very complex and you will need specialist advice. 

What is Stamp Duty Land Tax?

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is a form of tax which you may be required to pay if you buy, or in some circumstances rent, a property or land in England or Northern Ireland. The amount due (if any) will depend on the purchase price. If you are renting, the amount due will depend on the length of the term, level of rental and whether or not VAT is charged on the rent. If SDLT is payable on the transaction, you will be asked to complete a SDLT return. This will need to be submitted to HMRC, together with the amount payable within 14 days of completion, otherwise you will be liable to pay a penalty fee.  Your solicitor will be able to file the return on your behalf.

Do I need an Energy Performance Certificate for my property?

An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required by law when a property is built, is being sold or rented out. There is a duty to commission an EPC before the property is put on the market. It shows information about the energy efficiency of a property, including the property’s energy use and typical energy cost. The certificate also provides an energy efficiency rating from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for a period of up to 10 years. If a commercial property is let, a landlord is required by law to have a minimum EPC rating of “E” and may need to make improvements to the property until this has been achieved. 

There are certain types of property which are exempt from needing an EPC. These include those which do not have a roof or do not have walls, those which use no energy to condition the indoor climate, religious properties and buildings earmarked for demolition.

Should I have my property surveyed before renting or buying it?

Having a property surveyed before buying or renting is highly advisable. It can give you a good idea of the condition of the property and highlight problems which you may otherwise not know about. Commercial tenants should be particularly wary when entering into a lease. This is because the lease may contain repairing obligations that require a tenant to give a property back to the landlord fully in repair. This may be the case even if the tenant was not responsible for any damage, or the property was not in a good state of repair at the start of the tenancy. Your solicitor will advise that you try to limit these obligations. 

Are there any risks in buying a property at auction?

There are many risks that come with buying a property at auction. If the property seems like a bargain, there is probably good reason for it. It is strongly recommended you ask a solicitor to check through the legal pack in the weeks leading up to the auction date, as well as getting a survey done in case of structural or other issues.  You should be conscious of the fact that on the ‘fall of the hammer’, exchange of contracts takes place, which is a legally binding contract between the buyer and the seller. This is often misunderstood. You will be committed to proceed with the purchase in accordance with the terms of the contract, if your bid is successful. 

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What is furlough leave?

In English law there isn’t a statutory legal definition of ‘furlough leave’. However, the general understanding is that it refers to situation in which a temporary drop in business happens because of an unusual or extraordinary situation which impacts on the economy and commercial environment as a whole. Furlough leave is an option that employers can consider where staff would otherwise be made redundant.

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