In the Kings Speech 2023, the Government reiterated its commitment to getting the Renters or Renting Reform Bill through Parliament and passed into law. It also set out further amendments that the Government proposes to introduce to the Bill, including:
No fault possession notices
Our First article, published after the first reading of the Bill (read it here), sets out its key features, including the fundamental principle that “no fault” possession notices (section 21 notices), should be abolished.
In the supplemental notes to the Kings’ Speech, the Government confirmed that it does not intend to proceed with the abolition of section 21 notices until Court reforms have taken place to speed up the process of giving possession orders.
Currently, after serving a section 21 notice, and if the landlord has complied with duties relating to the provision of certain certificates and information, a court order for possession can be granted without the need for a hearing, using the accelerated procedure. The end of ‘no-fault’ evictions will mean more cases will be put through the courts, as fault must be proved by the landlord. Landlords are therefore concerned that a ban on no fault evictions could not only make evicting problematic tenants harder, but also significantly increase the time taken to regain possession due to the severe backlogs and delays in the court system.
The Government recognises that speeding up the courts process is essential so landlords can quickly regain possession of their property if a tenant refuses to move out. It is therefore making an initial commitment of £1.2 million to begin designing a new digital system for possessions. As work progresses, the Government proposes engaging with landlords and tenants to ensure the new system supports an efficient and straightforward possession system for all parties.
There is no indication how long this process will take and it is difficult to see how this significant undertaking can be achieved with speed. It is therefore unlikely that section 21 notices will disappear in the near future which may bring some relief for landlords.
Renting to tenants with children or in receipt of benefits
Provisions will be added making it illegal to have a blanket policy of not renting to tenants with children or tenants who receive benefits.
A criticism of the Bill, as originally drafted, was that landlords of students in the private rented sector would no longer be able to grant fixed term tenancies and quickly get back possession. The student letting market is based upon the expectation of short -term lets which are aligned to the academic year. The Government has not agreed to retain fixed-term tenancies for private rented student lets but will introduce a new ground of possession to allow landlords to recover student houses. Further details are awaited but Landlords will remain concerned if achieving possession will still take time and money and they will not have the certainty of being able to grant new student lets at the start of each academic year.
The Government also announced it was scrapping proposals to require landlords to meet EPC Rating C from 2025 in their private rented residential properties. This follows the Prime Minister’s prior announcement to the same effect in September 2023. The minimum EPC rating for the letting of residential properties will therefore remain at E with EPC ratings of bands F or G being ‘substandard’ and subject to the prohibition of granting new tenancies or continuing to let substandard premises.
We will ensure we provide further updates, as and when required.
For more information on how the Renting Reform Bill could affect you and the properties you own and rent…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our highly knowledgeable Commercial Property team are on hand to provide the latest updates in regard to the progress of the bill.
The government introduced the Renters (Reform) Bill (‘the Bill’) to Parliament on 17 May 2023 proposing significant reforms to the residential letting sector in England. Some provisions also affect Wales.
The Bill is likely to be subject to change as it passes through parliament and the purpose of this update is to highlight some of the possible changes coming down the road and what these could mean for landlords.
The changes will affect new residential tenancies other than purpose-built student accommodation.
The key points in the Bill are:
Currently a landlord can provide mechanisms for reviewing or increasing the rent to avoid the statutory regulation of rent increases. The Bill will prohibit landlords from increasing rents other than by serving a statutory notice, and only where the market rate rises. Tenants will be able to challenge the rent increase. The First-tier Tribunal (FTT) will continue to hear those challenges and will determine the correct market rent. The Bill also includes a requirement for landlords to give at least two months’ notice before increasing rent and rent increases will only be permitted once a year.
Abolishing fixed-term tenancies
Fixed-term tenancies will be abolished and tenancies can only be periodic. The period can be no longer than one month. Tenants will be able to end their tenancy by giving two months’ notice (unless the parties have agreed to a shorter period) or a landlord can provide evidence for a valid ground of possession. Note that a fixed-term tenancy of more than seven years cannot be an assured tenancy.
Abolishing assured shorthold tenancies (‘ASTs’)
ASTs have been the standard form of tenancy granted by private landlords in the residential property market since they were introduced in 1997. The Bill will abolish them. New residential tenancies are likely to be assured tenancies.
Abolishing ‘no fault’ possession notices
As a consequence of abolishing ASTs, the mechanism to end quickly and at no fault (by the landlord serving a section 21 notice), also falls away. Existing fault-based grounds can be used to end a tenancy. These will require service of a notice specifying a particular ground for possession and then, most likely, a court hearing.
New grounds for possession
- Landlord selling property: Landlords who wish to sell the property will have a mandatory right to seek possession so long as the tenancy has existed for at least six months.
- Landlord wishing to move in: A mandatory ground for possession should the landlord or close family members wish to move into the property as their only or main home, so long as the tenancy has existed for at least 6 months.
- Serious rent arrears: Where there have been at least two months arrears on any three occasions within a three-year period, a longer notice period must be given (four weeks rather than two at present), but the court must grant possession, even if the arrears have been cleared at the hearing.
- Serious anti-social behaviour: This wording arguably introduces a lower threshold for the landlord to meet, although possession is not mandatory and the court will still have to find it reasonable. The notice period required is shortened and a possession claim will be capable of being made immediately.
The Bill proposes a new “property ombudsman” who can deliver binding decisions in landlord-tenant disputes (including payment of compensation), and these decisions can be enforced just like court orders. This will be free to tenants and funded by landlords. Private landlords will be required to join this scheme.
Landlords will have to provide tenants with a written statement, including terms of the tenancy before the tenancy starts.
Tenants will be given a right to request permission to keep a pet in their home, which cannot be unreasonably refused (although landlords can require the tenant to maintain pet insurance or cover the landlord’s reasonable costs for doing the same). A decision must be given within 42 days.
Various financial and criminal penalties will be introduced for landlords who breach their obligations. For example, if a landlord uses the new possession ground to move a family member into the property and subsequently lets the property within the prohibited three-month window, the local authority may impose a financial penalty of up to £5,000 (which may be recurring if the contravention continues for more than 28 days) or prosecute for a criminal offence.
If the abolition of ASTs and ‘no fault’ notices become law, investment landlords are likely to want to see a commitment by the government to introduce court reforms to provide an effective mechanism to remove tenants who are withholding rent payments. In any event, Landlords will need to consider the increased legislative burdens and costs of these proposals.
Talk to Tollers
We will provide more updates on the Renters (Reform) Bill as it progresses through parliament.
If you are a landlord and would like more information on how the Renters (Reform) Bill could affect you and the properties you own and rent…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced Commercial Property experts are on hand to guide you and provide the latest updates on the progress of the bill.
Are you thinking of leasing a commercial property? If so, there are a few factors to consider when negotiating the key lease terms. We have set out a list below to guide you through this process.
One of the first steps in the negotiation process is understanding the full extent of the property being let. A lease can be of whole or of part of a property and it is important to distinguish between the two.
If a lease is of part of a property, then a plan will be needed to identify the relevant area being let. You will also need to consider whether you need any rights over the landlord’s remaining property, for example a right of way or a right to park.
Length of the lease
The length of the lease is an important factor to consider as it will determine how long your obligations under the lease will last.
Generally, the shorter the lease the more flexibility you will have if for whatever reason you do not want to stay in the property for the long run. However, you will need to balance this against the stability that a longer-term may provide. Your financial situation and the local market will have parts to play in this decision.
Another point to consider is whether the landlord is trying to exclude security of tenure. Generally, commercial leases benefit from security of tenure which means that you will have a right to remain in the property after the end of the term (although there may be a rent uplift). If security of tenure is excluded then you will not have any right to remain in the property and the landlord does not have to grant you a new lease at the end of the term.
Annual rent and other costs
One of the key points to negotiate is the costs you will incur. You will need to consider whether the annual rent and other costs (such as service charges, insurance rent, utility costs and business rates) are viable in the long term.
The rent may be subject to VAT. The default position is that commercial property is exempt from VAT, but a landlord may choose to tax the property which means that you will need to pay VAT on top of the annual rent and other costs due in the lease.
Often tenants think that when they take a commercial lease, the landlord will accept ‘fair wear and tear’. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. Generally, you will be responsible for repairing the property to a good and substantial “A1” condition. If the property is not in that condition at the start of the lease, then you may find yourselves repairing the property to a better condition which could be costly.
There are a few options to limit this fairly onerous repairing liability. Firstly, if you are taking a lease of part of a property only (see above) then usually you will only need to repair the interior and the landlord will be responsible for the exterior or structural parts.
Secondly, you may wish to exclude any specific parts of the property (e.g. the roof or flooring) from your repairing obligations, so that the landlord will remain responsible for repairing these parts.
Alternatively, a common arrangement is to limit your repairing liability with a schedule of condition which is a set of photos and/or written description of the condition of the property at the start of the lease. You will only need to repair the property to the condition that is shown in that schedule.
Most commercial leases will allow internal alterations with the landlord’s consent but will prohibit any structural or external alterations.
If you are planning on carrying out any significant works to the property then the landlord may require a ‘Licence for Alterations’. This will formalise their consent to the proposed works.
A landlord is leasing their property in the hope that they will receive full rental payments on time and that you will comply with all of your other obligations in the lease. If this is not the case, then the landlord is likely to suffer financial loss.
As a result, often landlords require some security in the event that breaches occur. A rent deposit may be required to compensate the landlord for any loss they suffer, and it is usually the equivalent of 3 to 6 months’ worth of rent. Alternatively, if the tenant is a company then the landlord may request that an individual director acts as a guarantor under the lease. This means that the landlord may pursue that individual personally for loss or damages resulting from a breach of the lease. The liability of a guarantor is unlimited so you will need to think carefully about this before agreeing.
Options to vacate
Finally, whilst we hope that everything runs smoothly in your new commercial property, it is sensible to think about some ‘get out’ options.
You may wish to break the lease early by giving the landlord notice to vacate. Often, such notice will only end the lease if all payments are up to date and you leave the property empty.
Alternatively, you may be able to assign or sub-let the lease. Assigning will transfer your interest in the property to a third party, but it is common that you will give a guarantee that the new tenant will comply with their obligations. If you sub-let the lease you will be creating a new lease and will become the landlord of the sub-tenant.
Next Steps and overall process
In most transactions, the landlord or their estate agent will usually issue Heads of Terms once the key points of the lease have been agreed. The landlord’s solicitor will then produce a draft lease which the tenant’s solicitor will review and negotiate. The tenant’s solicitor will also carry out any other matters relevant to the transaction, which may include submitting searches, raising enquiries and reviewing the landlord’s freehold title. Once the lease has been agreed and the other matters undertaken, you will receive a report and the documents for signing.
If you are considering leasing a commercial property…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our Commercial Property team is here to guide you through the process from the negotiation stages to picking up your keys to your new property.
Right of first refusal is important to understand.
how does it affect you?
Freehold blocks of flats can be good investment properties, but it is important to be aware of the law surrounding the sales and purchases of these properties.
If you own (or are looking to purchase) the freehold of a block of flats, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (LTA 1987) is an important piece of legislation that affects the rights of the flat owners and will need to be given careful consideration at the time of any sale or purchase.
Likewise, flat owners should be aware of the LTA 1987 and how it can affect them.
What is the right of first refusal?
The LTA 1987 gives qualifying owners of leasehold flats the right of first refusal to purchase the freehold – this means that if the freeholder wishes to sell the building, they must first offer the leaseholders the chance to purchase.
This must be done by way of a formal notice, following certain prescribed steps – and the leaseholders will then have a period of time (usually 2 months) to decide whether they wish to accept the offer and purchase the freehold.
The offer can only be accepted collectively, by a majority of the leaseholders – so if (for example) only 4 out of 10 qualifying flat owners express an interest in buying the freehold, they would not be able to exercise their right of first refusal, and the freeholder would be able to sell the property to a third party (on the same terms as it was offered to the leaseholders).
What are the consequences for not complying with the LTA 1987?
If the owner of a freehold block of flats sells the property without first offering it to the leaseholders as set out above, they may be committing a criminal offence. Careful consideration should therefore be given to the LTA 1987 and whether it applies to the proposed sale; and it is important to take legal advice to ensure the correct steps are taken and the right of first refusal is offered to the qualifying tenants where appropriate.
What do I need to do when selling my freehold property?
When selling the freehold of a block of flats it is important to consider whether the LTA 1987 applies – generally, it will apply to any building consisting of two or more flats held by qualifying tenants.
If your building is caught by the LTA 1987 then you will need to serve valid offer notices on the qualifying tenants, before proceeding with any sale to a third party.
What do I need to do if I am purchasing a freehold block of flats?
The main obligations in the LTA 1987 (and consequences for failing to comply) affect the owner/seller of a freehold block of flats, but a purchaser can also be affected. This is because a sale of the building without following the necessary steps in the LTA 1987 could lead to the leaseholders serving a notice on the new owner and calling for the building to be transferred to them. It is therefore important for anyone considering purchasing a freehold block of flats to take legal advice on this point and ensure that the seller complies with their obligations during the sale process.
What if you think your building has been sold in breach of the LTA 1987.
If you are the owner of a leasehold flat and you believe the freehold has been sold in contravention of the LTA 1987 (for example if you did not receive an offer notice before the building was sold) you may be able to ‘step into the purchaser’s shoes’ and acquire the building from them, at the same price.
This will require careful consideration (and collaboration from the majority of the qualifying leaseholders).
If you have a question relating to the Landlord & Tenant Act or the Right of first refusal…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our experienced Commercial Property team is on hand to guide you through and advise you on your options.
More information can be found by visiting the Leasehold Advisory Service which has helpful guidance – Right of First Refusal – The Leasehold Advisory Service (lease-advice.org)
Commercial Property Acquisition and Disposal | Tollers Solicitors.
Acquiring new commercial premises for your business is exciting. It can also feel daunting with so many factors to consider, such as how the move may affect your employees and clients and the future development of your company. Tollers are here to assist you in your big move and have collated a list of points to consider when viewing prospective premises.
You will want to find a balance between price and location and think logically about the use of the premises.
Ideally, your commercial premises should be conveniently situated for employees, clients and suppliers with good transport links.
Whilst your premises should be accessible, visibility may not be a priority for your business. For example, if the premises are to be used for storage or if you travel to clients or assist them remotely, there may be other, more cost-effective options for your business.
It would also be sensible to review long-term development plans for areas to assess whether they may help or hinder property values in that location in the future. An increase in value of your premises would increase your business capital.
Liquidity / Cash Flow
It is important not to overspend on commercial premises, in case your business requires a cash injection at a later date.
If you are buying premises, mortgage lenders tend to ask for a deposit of 20% of the value of the property.
If you are renting premises, less capital is invested, but in addition to the rent, insurance rent and service charge, the Landlord may also require payment of a rent deposit upfront.
Stamp Duty Land Tax may also be due on the value of either the purchase price or the annual rent over the term of a lease.
When budgeting, also consider the cost of fitting out and furnishing your new premises, as well as long-term upkeep and ongoing costs. The Seller or Landlord (transaction dependent) should be able to provide you with an estimate of costs such as business rates, service charge and insurance rent.
Leasing or buying
Generally, we would advise that new businesses or start-ups opt for short-term leases and you may even want to negotiate a tenant’s right to break the lease before the term end date.
A short-term lease offers flexibility to restructure your arrangement or to relocate as your business evolves.
A longer-term lease could provide you with more security, but you would want to ensure that there are flexible options for subletting the property or assigning it to another company. Depending on the premises, it may also be worth checking whether there are any restrictions to changes in the use of the premises.
An established business may consider it to be more cost-effective to buy premises within the area where they are recognised, instead of leasing. Buying a property gives you more control over its management and maintenance and gives you complete freedom to adapt the property to suit your needs and compliment your brand. Commercial Property Funding and Finance | Tollers Solicitors
You could even lease part of the property to a third party, which would provide you with an additional stream of revenue and day-to-day running costs would be shared.
You would hopefully also make a profit on selling the property in the future.
Your business will evolve over time, but it is impossible to predict the future. When choosing your premises, you will want to think ahead. Whilst you may need more space in the future, you do not want to pay for lots of space that you do not need now.
If the premises are too big for your business right now, it may be worth taking the lease and subletting part of the property, which would provide you with a source of income and also help cover service costs. If you are considering this option, it would be sensible to inform the landlord from the offset to ensure that subletting of part of the property is permitted.
It would also be sensible to consider how you would fit out the premises, because furniture, stock and equipment all take up valuable space. Health and safety regulations require you to ensure employees have enough space at work, so you should consider those requirements and regulations.
Whether you are looking to buy or let commercial premises, it is important to ensure that you consider all of the options when making your decision, in order that it works for your business now and in the long term.
Tollers Commercial Property team is on hand to guide you through the process and help negotiate a deal to achieve the best outcome for you and your business.
To find out more…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and a member of the team will be happy to assist you.
What is meant by Commercial Property
Reduced rates of stamp duty land tax (SDLT) lasting until 31 March 2021 were announced on 8 July 2020 with immediate effect. The holiday applies to all residential property, whether liable at standard rates or at higher rates, where completion occurs within the period 8 July 2020 to 31 March 2021.
New Rates of SDLT during the Holiday:
There is some guidance from HMRC here.
The table below shows the reduced rates of stamp duty land tax for “standard rate” purchases from 8 July 2020 onwards.
|So much as does not exceed £500,000
|So much as exceeds £500,000 but does not exceed £925,000
|So much as exceeds £925,000 but does not exceed £1,500,000
|o much as exceeds the remainder, if any
For “higher rates” purchases we have to add an extra 3% of the whole price. This means that the same reduction in the amount of SDLT applies to both kinds of transaction during the SDLT holiday period. The maximum saving for a transaction involving one dwelling is £15,000 and applies where the purchase price is £500,000 or more.
The standard rates apply for example where the buyers have no other properties or where they are selling an existing home and buying a new one.
The higher rates apply for example where a company buys residential property, or where individuals buy when they own another property and do not meet the “replacement of main residence” tests.
What if I had previously exchanged Contracts?
There is nothing to stop the benefit of the saving, so long as completion happens between 8 July 2020 and 31 March 2021. The only problem would be if there was “substantial performance” before 8 July 2020 which could be by taking possession of the property before then.
Does this saving apply to purchases of residential property by Companies?
Yes, these changes apply to higher rate transactions as well; we just add 3% of the price to the SDLT which would be due on the reduced standard rates.
Some buyers of a new home consider transferring their old home into a company so that the purchase of the new home can escape the 3% surcharge. The company has to pay stamp duty land tax on the prevailing rates on the market value of the property it acquires.
There is still a trap for acquisitions by companies for over £500,000, where the 15% flat rate of SDLT can still apply. Care needs to be taken here to make sure that one of the reliefs from the 15% rate applies to leave the new SDLT rates (with the extra 3%) in place.
Those with buy to let portfolios who have been considering transferring the properties to a limited company will find the SDLT cost is lower than before the rates reduction. The limited company could be special purpose vehicle, perhaps a family investment company.
How does this work for Lease Extensions?
The same principles apply to the payments made for residential lease extensions. So often there will be no SDLT to pay where the premium payable for the extended lease does not exceed £500,000. But care needs to be taken in case the 3% surcharge applies. This could be the case if the lessee (or a spouse / civil partner) has other property interests.
I am buying from a developer and agreed an allowance against the price for Stamp Duty.
If contracts have already been exchanged and the contract contains an allowance / incentive on account of stamp duty for a fixed amount of money, then it might well be that the allowance has to be taken off the amount paid to the developer at completion, even though there is now no (or reduced) SDLT to pay to HMRC. It will depend on the wording in the contract.
If contracts have not yet been exchanged, then the parties might need to renegotiate the allowance. For example they might decide instead to give the equivalent extra value through enhancements to the specification of the property or through a cash incentive. This change might have to be notified to the lender, though many mortgage lenders have already said a new Disclosure of Incentives Forms will not be needed.
What about ‘Help to Buy’?
Homes England have confirmed that the ‘Help to Buy’ process is not affected by the stamp duty changes. It is only increases in incentives which would need to be reflected in the Disclosure of Incentives Form required for ‘Help to Buy’ equity loans. If the incentives switch from one form to another then the disclosure form does not need to be amended; this is only required where the incentives increase. Incentives still cannot be more than 5% of the full purchase price.
What about First Time Buyers’ Relief?
First time buyers’ relief does not apply for the period of the holiday because the reduced rates are more generous than the rates where first time buyers’ relief applied, which only gave a relief for up to £300,000 of the price. It is set to revive though after 31 March 2021.
For more information and guidance regarding the reduced rates of stamp duty land tax holiday… talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and the Conveyancing and Commercial property teams will assist you.
If you lease your business premises, do you know if the lease includes a ’Break Option’? The unprecedented events surrounding Covid-19 are having a profound effect on business. Some businesses may need to close or downsize, some may permanently change the way they work, and a lucky few may be booming and need to expand. What all these situations have in common, is a requirement to close down or move premises.
Most businesses occupy their premises as a tenant under a fixed term lease. They must see out the full term, unless they can negotiate otherwise with the landlord, or find a new tenant to take over the premises. However, some leases provide the tenant with a “break option”, which is a right to end the lease early, provided certain conditions are met.
Conditions of a Typical Break Option:
A typical break option will allow the tenant to end the lease on a specified date only, known as the “break date”. To exercise the option, the tenant will be required to give the landlord written notice, usually at least six months in advance of the break date, although some leases specify even longer notice periods.
Other typical conditions include obligations to:
- Pay all rent and other amounts that fall due before the break date, even if they relate to a period after the break date.
- Completely vacate the premises.
- Hand the premises back in the state of repair required by the lease.
Where available, a break option is ideal for a tenant that no longer needs its premises. However, the conditions are always interpreted very strictly in favour of the landlord. The tenant must therefore fully comply with every condition, otherwise the lease will not end, and the tenant will remain liable for the rent, and all the other lease obligations, until the end of the term.
If you are a tenant considering exercising a break option in a lease, we recommend that you talk to Tollers… on 01604 258558 as early as possible. A member of the Commercial Property team will be happy to discuss the conditions that need to be complied with, and what needs to be done to ensure that the lease will end on the break date.
Much is being written about the General Data Protection Regulation which comes into force in May 2018. Some of that content uses jargon that needs to be explained.
Privacy by design
Is an approach to projects that promotes privacy and data protection compliance from the start. This has always been an implicit requirement of the data protection principles but the GDPR makes it an express legal requirement.
Privacy impact assessments/data privacy impact assessment/PIAs/DPIAs
All terms describe the same thing. A privacy impact assessment is a tool to help an organisation identify the most effective way to comply with its data protection obligations and to meet individual’s expectations of privacy. A PIA is an integral part of taking a privacy by design approach and will enable an organisation to systematically and thoroughly analyse how a project or system will affect the privacy of the individuals involved.
Right to be forgotten
The right of an individual to require that a data controller deletes all information relating to that individual where the data is no longer required; the data has become irrelevant; where the individual withdraws consent to the processing of that information; or where the data is unlawfully processed.
Right to data portability
This is the right of individuals to obtain and reuse their personal data across different services.
Data Protection Officers
The individual responsible for compliance and training and who must be the first point of contact for all matters relating to data privacy. A data protection officer or DPO must be appointed by public authorities; organisations carrying out large scale and systematic monitoring of individuals; or organisations that carry out large scale processing of special categories of data or data relating to criminal convictions and offences.
For more information on the GDPR and how it may affect your business please Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and ask to speak to Liz Appleyard in our Commercial Team
Just got engaged and planning your wedding? Congratulations! We know there is a lot to think about when planning for the biggest day in your life so far and we have set out below some guidance to help make the big day run smoothly and your life together more secure.
Contracts and terms and conditions
As you will quickly learn, weddings are expensive and, more likely than not you will be required to pay large deposits to secure bookings with your suppliers, for example with your venue. It is vital that you ensure you have a contract in place with each supplier you engage and that you read the terms and conditions that apply to you before you sign any documents and pay the deposit. Having something in writing will ensure that both you and the supplier are clear on the terms agreed which will help avoid any disputes later down the line.
You should also keep a record of a payment schedule to ensure that you pay various suppliers on time. If you miss payments, the supplier may have the option in their terms and conditions to terminate the contract or suspend their services until they receive payment from you.
Deposits and cancellation rights
As you will be paying big deposits you should check whether the terms and conditions allow you to cancel the contract. You may want to do this if you change your mind about a supplier or you may need to in the event of any unforeseen circumstances such as the death of a family member.
If you have signed the contract away from the supplier’s premises (e.g. online) you are afforded some rights under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 (“Regulations”). The Regulations give consumers a ‘cooling off period’ which is the right to cancel the contract within 14 days (usually from the date of the conclusion of the contract) without giving any reason or incurring any costs. The supplier is also required to give you certain information before you sign the contract, such as their full details and how you can contact them, the prices of the goods/services, their complaint handling policy etc. If the supplier does not provide you with this information, then your right to cancel may be extended to 12 months from the date the contract was signed.
If the contracts are actually signed at the supplier’s premises, you will not have the cooling off period granted by the Regulations but you should still check what the cancellation provisions state as you may need to cancel the contract. Most suppliers will want to recover most of the deposit or a percentage of the full price as compensation for their loss. The closer the date you cancel the contract to the date of your wedding, the more likely you will be required to pay a bigger sum to the supplier. However, suppliers have to be careful and ensure that any sums they retain actually reflects their reasonable loss. If the provisions are considered as a ‘penalty’ under common law, the clause will be unenforceable. We can review the terms and conditions for you and provide you with advice.
Faulty goods/services and dispute management
Once you have booked the goods/services you should follow up in writing with the supplier for every new or amended terms agreed over the phone. This will help avoid any confusion and protect your interests in the event of any disputes.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (“CRA”) gives consumers additional rights in respect of faulty goods or services provided by traders (i.e. photographers, venue suppliers etc).
With regard to any goods you purchase (e.g. table centre pieces, decorations, stationery), the CRA says goods must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. During the expected lifespan of the goods you are entitled to the following:
- up to 30 days: if the goods are faulty, you can get a refund
- up to six months: if the goods cannot be repaired or replaced, then you are entitled to a price reduction or a refund of the price paid
- up to six years: if the goods do not last a reasonable length of time you may be entitled to some money back
With regards to services you book (e.g. musicians/DJ):
- you can ask a supplier to repeat or fix a service if it is not carried out with reasonable care and skill, or (more relevant to a wedding or other one off event) get some money back
- if you have not agreed a price upfront, what you are asked to pay must be reasonable
- if you have not agreed a time upfront, the services must be carried out within a reasonable time
Writing a will
It’s not the most romantic thing to think about but a Will is an important legal document that gives you the opportunity to set out your wishes and determine how your assets (or estate) will be dealt with when you die. If you already have a will in place, you do need to review this after or before your marriage as marriage will automatically revoke an existing will unless that will has been made expressly in contemplation of your impending marriage. Our Trusts and Estates team who would be more than happy to answer any queries you have and to prepare a will for you.
Where are you both going to live? You may decide to move homes before or shortly after your wedding. You will need to think how you wish to own the property with your partner. Again, not the most romantic thing to think about but you may need to consider what you wish to happen on the death of you or your partner or in the event of a relationship breakdown.
You may own the property either as joint tenants or as tenants in common. Under a joint tenancy arrangement, you and your partner would own the property jointly and in equal shares and upon the death of one party, the property will automatically vest in the survivor. In this scenario there is no share capable of being left in the will. However, you will need a will to determine what will happen to the property in the event that you both die.
As tenants in common, you and your partner would take distinct fixed shares in the value of the property. This will usually be equal shares unless you specify unequal shares, for example to reflect contributions to the purchase price. Upon the death of one party, the survivor would retain their own share in the property whilst the share of deceased would pass according to their will or pursuant to intestacy rules if there was no will.
Moving homes can be a stressful time especially whilst planning your wedding. Our conveyancing team can advise you of your options and support you through the process so that it runs as smoothly as possible.
We wish you good luck in your planning but if you would like more information about the issues above or any queries you may have, Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558.
Tenants trying to exercise a break clause in their leases before the end of a quarterly rent period should beware trying to pay only a pro rata part of that rent when it is demanded, or risk the break being ruled ineffective by the court.
A tenant’s lease required rent to be paid “yearly and proportionately for any part of a year” in equal quarterly payments. The tenant served notice to end the tenancy under a break clause in the lease – a clause allowing it to get out of the lease at certain points specified in the lease, provided it met certain conditions. As drafted, the break clause was only effective if the tenant had paid:
- rents under the lease up to and including the break date; and
- a sum equivalent to one month’s rent.
The effect of a valid break would be that the lease would end on 22 August, before the next full quarter had finished.
The landlord issued an invoice for a full quarter’s rent for the period from 24 June. The tenant paid the sum in the invoice in full, and referenced the invoice number. On the face of it, it seemed the tenant had not paid the sum equivalent to the additional one month’s rent, and the landlord argued the break had not been validly exercised.
The tenant claimed that according to the wording in the break clause it only had to pay rent up to 22 August. It therefore argued it had complied with the break conditions, because the payment it had made was for both rent up to 22 August, and also the extra sum it had to pay (equivalent to one month’s rent).
The High Court disagreed, ruling that the tenant was contractually obliged to pay the full quarter’s rent in advance on the quarterly rent day despite the break notice, as there was no certainty at that point that the break would be successfully exercised. There was an exception if a lease specifically allowed a tenant to apportion rent in anticipation of the successful exercise of a break. But in this case, the words “proportionately for any part of a year”, even read in conjunction with the break clause, did not specifically allow such an apportionment. The tenant had not paid the extra sum equivalent to one month’s rent.
The court went on to say that, even if the tenant had only been liable to pay an apportioned rent it would still have decided the break had not been validly exercised. This was because, by referencing the invoice number when making its payment, it had led the landlord to believe it was only paying the full quarterly rent demanded, but not the extra sum.
Tenants should ensure:
- they know whether they are obliged to pay the full quarterly (or other periodic) rent for a period during which they anticipate successfully exercising a break clause, or are entitled to pay an apportioned rent only;
- if they must pay the whole rent, that they know whether they are entitled to claim repayment of an apportioned part of it once they have successfully exercised the break clause (and should expressly reserve the right to do so when making the payment);
- if they are liable to pay any other sums, that they make it clear which parts of their payment should be allocated to each liability.
Case ref: Canonical UK Ltd v TST Millbank LLC EWHC 3710