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UK Commercial Property Leases; Seek Professional Advice

Nov 17, 2007
Businesses are being warned to avoid tempting but potentially costly shortcuts in commercial property leases. The advice comes following the publication of a new stronger code of practice that includes a step-by-step guide for tenants to negotiate a lease. Leading city law firm, Hegarty Solicitors, welcomes thecode of practice, but says it is not a substitute for expert legal advice that can often secure substantial savings for businesses and anticipate issues that arise years after a lease is signed.

New Government Backed Code

The new 'Code for Leasing Business Premises' that was launched in March 2007 by Housing Minster Yvette Cooper, has been published to clarify the process and aims to assist new businesses that are new to negotiating leases for shops and offices.

Commercial Property Partner Richard Hegarty says businesses might be tempted to try and handle negotiating the lease themselves, but it is their lack of experience that makes them more vulnerable, and they need to realise the importance of using experienced property lawyers.

Richard explained, "The new code is not compulsory but is regarded more as a basis for negotiation rather than a blueprint for a lease."

"I would strongly recommend that anyone entering into lease negotiations takes expert legal advice. The code is still quite complicated, and businesses should take into consideration the time they want to spend trying to understand the lease, and what happens when something goes wrong at a later stage"

"Also, the code is standardized but every property is different. A commercial property lawyer would able to provide specialist advice on each individual scenario and know to look for anything unusual in the lease."

Negotiating Yourself; A False Economy

He continued, "When people are starting up we know that every penny counts, and they might think they will save money handling the lease themselves. A commercial property lawyer is really like an insurance policy. We are highly experienced at negotiating leases and can often obtain a better deal than they could themselves. The savings they could make can dwarf the legal costs involved, and they have peace of mind knowing they are fully aware of their rights and commitments in the lease."

The new code suggests that landlords may not want to tie tenants in for lengthy periods. Richard says that when a company is unsure of it's future, perhaps because it is new or in an unstable market it can make sense to have a shorter lease period. However, many other businesses prefer to have the security of knowing they will not be looking for other premises or incurring moving costs in the near future.

"When you are busy running a business the last thing you want to contend with is the pressure of having to find new premises. The length of a lease is very important, and a commercial property lawyer would be able you help you make a decision to suit you and your business," commented Richard.
About the Author
Richard Hegarty founded the firm of Hegarty LLP in Peterborough 1974. Website www.hegarty.co.uk. Richard Can be contacted via email at richard.hegarty@hegarty.co.uk
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