Commercial property is a core practice area for Clarkslegal and our experienced lawyers offer legal support and advice to a top quality client base from the commercial, public and third sectors and pension funds.
Many of our clients are international companies or large public companies, but we also work with small companies and businesses and are able to offer practical advice at all levels. We are particularly experienced in advising clients with large and varied operational and investment property portfolios. Our team is capable of taking on large and sophisticated development projects, where we handle everything from site acquisition and procurement onwards.
We are experienced in property management for business parks and shopping centres and proud of our expertise in public sector projects, notably in the fields of health and education. We are currently seeing a considerable increase in activity, particularly in relation to commercial lettings and investment.
We act for many clients of differing sizes in respect of acquisitions and disposals. Examples include acting for a FTSE100 company on the proposed sale of part of a trading estate with major title complexities and issues regarding restrictive covenants affecting the site. In the public sector, we have made a number of high value disposals of surplus land and property.
We also support our corporate team on acquisitions and disposals for both asset purchases and share purchases. Our team is experienced in drafting and negotiating warranties and indemnities, as well as disclosures in respect of property, carrying out property due diligence and ensuring that documents are made available in the context of a data room. We are experienced in using extranets as a way of sharing information.
The team regularly advises on joint venture transactions.
We have experience in dealing with agricultural land, both in the public sector and for large, landowning clients. Most recently, we have advised on:
- Disposals for the purpose of realisation of value, which have been subject to Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies, as well as Farm Business Tenancies, some involving sales of part resulting in apportionments under those tenancies
- The Single Farm Payment and its impact upon disposals and in the context of the grant of Farm Business Tenancies
- The grant of a large number of Farm Business Tenancies and are fully conversant with the issues, including the notice procedure
We also deal with advising on termination and have experience of the grant of grazing licences in a number of contexts.
We are used to dealing with husbandry and land maintenance issues in an agricultural context.
The team advises a number of developers and also companies entering into leases which are conditional on development works being carried out. Our excellent construction team are available to advise on technical issues.
Acting for the public sector and for large portfolio landowners, we have frequently dealt with a variety of issues arising in respect of infrastructure and utilities. Examples include advising on:
- 104 agreements and on the successful resolution of disputes in respect of adoption on account of changes of policy within water companies
- The laying of new services and landowners being required to accept the laying of new services within their land
- The negotiation of diversion rights
We often assist on complex projects that are subject to restrictive covenants preventing the type of development required. We have an excellent record in resolving such issues for our clients. A recent example was the acquisition of a large site for the development of apartments where the existing restrictive covenants prevented the building of apartments. Resolution was reached and the development is now taking place.
We offer expertise in sustainable procurement, renewable energy projects and modern construction methods, to take into account energy efficiency and climate change legislation.
Clarkslegal is instructed by various financial institutions, as well as for those taking funding, to ensure that their requirements are properly met and they are fully advised. Our corporate team are also able to advise in respect of corporate instruments, such as debentures and floating charges.
We have provided advice to many overseas clients wishing to acquire property in England and Wales, whether for investment purposes or when taking leases of premises needed for the operation of business. We are experienced in advising on the intricacies of our property system.
Our team is experienced in acting for landlords and tenants on the grant of leases of all types of commercial property. We advise a number of large clients with considerable property holdings on matters arising out of the management of those portfolios.
We also act for large numbers of tenant occupiers with diverse needs in respect of not only new acquisitions and related fit-out requirements, but also lease renewals. We recently acted for a client taking a high value lease of part of a building already set up as a data centre; this was the client’s first data centre outside North America.
We regularly advise commercial landlords on leasehold enfranchisement issues, whether lease extensions or freehold acquisitions and our residential team has the experience to assist tenants in this area.
Clarkslegal acted for the University of Reading in successfully completing the largest ever single disposal of student accommodation in the UK. The project ran for almost three years and during that time we provided a number of specialist teams to work on the project. We worked closely with the University’s in-house team to identify key issues and risks, provide seamless support and enable the University to reach its goals.
We have a long record of representing NHS organisations which dates back over many decades and continue to provide general advice and assistance to numerous NHS clients and NHS Foundation Trusts.
In addition to the recent trend for the high-value disposal of surplus land – something that has intensified with the continuing announcement of serious budget cuts in the public sector - we have been assisting several NHS trusts in relation to the major transfer of property that was necessary in connection with the dissolution of PCTs in 2013.
We also advise PFI hospitals on occupational leases to be granted.
A routine part of our practice is dealing with licences to assign, sublet and alter. We regularly advise on the appropriateness of conditions to be imposed on assignment and ensuring that the relevant party’s interests are properly covered, including guarantees, authorised guarantee agreements (from guarantors as well as tenants) and rent deposits.
With regard to alterations, we ensure that the reinstatement obligations are clear and, when acting for a tenant, protect against unreasonable obligations which landlords may seek to impose. In our work for both landlords and tenants, we are frequently involved in licences to alter, most commonly in the context of initial fit-out works upon the grant of a lease.
The majority of leases granted nowadays are excluded from the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 and the procedure for validly excluding security of tenure is one we follow meticulously on behalf of our clients. We also regularly act in respect of renewal proceedings under the 1954 Act, both for landlords and tenants.
Our property litigation team deals with all notices, deadlines and procedures and ensure that the rules are correctly followed and they work closely with transactional colleagues to ensure that the lease is drafted and negotiated in a timely fashion, in accordance with the parties’ requirement, and within the confines of the relevant provisions of the 1954 Act and relevant case law. We are well placed to advise in respect of termination, both for landlords and tenants, when a tenant is holding over.
Options, pre-emption rights and contracts conditional upon grant of planning permission, premises licences or other matters are often required and we are experienced in drafting the necessary documentation required.
We regularly advise both public and private sector clients on clawback and overage as well as anti-turning obligations. These obligations for payment of uplift on any re-sale of the property within a defined period prevent (particularly public sector) sellers from being subject to the embarrassment of appearing to have sold a property at an undervalue.
There is considerable complexity of such arrangements and we are experienced in ensuring that such arrangements operate in an effective manner.
We have expertise in dealing with planning agreements on behalf of our clients and regularly advise on contracts conditional on the grant of “satisfactory” planning permissions.
We seek to manage the risk for clients by ensuring notices are served correctly and in a timely fashion. We have considerable expertise in the case law which has been generated in respect of the service of notices (particularly those related to break clauses) and we regularly give briefings in this regard.
It is becoming increasingly common for City of London Certificates of Title to be required, particularly in the context of project type work. We regularly draft and negotiate these, most recently in respect of the acquisition of a property where our client’s funder (who was using Islamic finance) required a certificate of title.
We have acted for many years for developers who are assembling sites for development. Currently the team is dealing with the first registration of a substantial site in the north of England, which is intended for development by its owner but where the site boundaries in the original title deeds are so vague as to prevent planning permission being granted prior to first registration of the site.
The work undertaken by our team is as follows:
We are experienced in dealing with all aspects of the residential sales and purchases of freehold and leasehold interests. We act for both sellers and buyers of land and properties.
The team acts for a number of clients with substantial property portfolios both in London and the West Country.
The team are regularly instructed by both sellers to prepare legal packs for sales and by buyers to consider legal packs and to act on the pre-completion work.
This includes remortgages, the refinancing of portfolios and the preparation of legal charges for private lenders.
We recommend the first registration of unregistered land and our work often includes preparing and submitting applications to Land Registry including where deeds have been misplaced.
We act regularly for both freeholders and leaseholders in applications (both contested and settled prior to trial) for extensions of the term of leases under the Leasehold Reform Act 1993 to include advising on statutory entitlements of parties and thereafter the preparation of Section 42 Notices and Section 45 Counter-Notices, liaising with surveyors and the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and drafting/approving the new Leases. We act for a property company in the Thames Valley who own a number of freeholds subject to long leasehold interests.
It is important when a property is bought jointly to clearly outline the beneficial interests of the parties and we are able to prepare Declarations of Trust in conjunction with the completion of purchases.
We advise individuals and companies (including leasehold management companies) on Land Registry titles and the stated rights and obligations, the interpretation of Leases, the management of flats, the collection of service charges and service charge disputes, ground rents and boundary disputes and tenancy disputes and management problems.