Commercial Rates-How the Property Owner Can Avoid Liability for the Occupier’s Rates

commercial-rates

Are you the owner of a commercial property which is let?

Are you concerned about outstanding rates not being paid by the occupier, and being stuck with a charge on your property?

The best way for you to avoid any liability for commercial rates is if your occupier pays the rates.

But there is another safeguard for you to avoid liability.

Let me explain:

Section 32(4) of the Local Government Act, 2014 states:

(4) The owner of relevant property shall be liable for a charge equivalent to no more than 2 years of the outstanding rates due from the previous occupier or occupiers where—
(a) the owner has not notified the rating authority in writing of a transfer of relevant property or an interest in relevant property in accordance with subsection (2)(a), and
(b) the requirements of subsection (2)(b) have not been met.

This means that the property owner can avoid liability for an occupier’s rates provided he complies with subsection 2(a) which obliges the property owner to notify the local authority within two weeks of a transfer of the property.

Provided the property owner does this he should be free of any liability for an occupier’s unpaid rates.

Section 2 states:

(2) Where relevant property, or an interest in relevant property, is transferred from one person to another person in circumstances that render that other person liable for rates on the property so transferred, then—
(a) it shall be the duty of the owner of the property (being the owner of the property prior to transfer) or such other person as the owner has authorised in writing to act on his or her behalf to notify, in writing, the rating authority in whose functional area the property is situated of the transfer not later than 2 weeks after the date of the transfer, and
(b) it shall be the duty of the person transferring the property being either the occupier or the owner, to discharge all rates for which he or she is liable for at the date of the transfer of the property or of an interest in it.

Here’s a link to section 32 of the Local Government Act, 2014.

So, while it is still best if the tenant actually pays the rates, provided you, as property owner, notifies the local authority within 2 weeks of any transfer/assignment/surrender of the lease you should be clear of any liability.

Regardless of how the property ends up back in the landlord’s possession-for example surrender or eviction- the safest approach is to send the notice to the local authority.

Some local authorities are requesting that these notices be sent in on a prescribed form, but a letter should suffice.

Assignment and Sub-Letting Your Commercial Premises-What You Should Know

commercial-lease-law-ireland

Do you hold a lease on a commercial premises?

Do you want to sub-let it? Or assign (transfer) it to someone else?

You may run into difficulties with your landlord, though.

Let’s take a look at the issues.

Most leases will have a restriction on alienation-assignment or sub-letting- contained in the lease. This is to allow the landlord to protect his investment by ensuring that the quality of his tenant is high.

Because any tenant can ultimately obtain security of tenure in the premises. And if he is a poor tenant and the landlord is forced to enforce the covenants in the lease it is going to cost time, money, inconvenience, and possible diminish the value of the landlord’s property.

However, the landlord will also need to consider how restrictive the alienation clause is, because if it is unduly restrictive it will have an adverse effect on the rent he can achieve. Quite frankly, less tenants will be prepared to take it on if they think that they cannot assign or sub-let it in the future, if necessary.

The tenant will need to consider his business, how restrictive the covenant is, and the premises itself.

Restrictions on Alienation

All commercial leases will contain a restriction on the assignment or sub-letting of the premises without the landlord’s consent, and an absolute prohibition on letting part of the premises.

Put simply, the landlord is entitled to ensure the property is not handed over to an undesirable who will devalue the landlord’s property.

However, the landlord is not entitled to unreasonably withhold his consent to alienation. The question of what is “reasonable” is a thorny one, though.

There is no statutory definition of a reasonable refusal, therefore it is a question of fact and circumstances in each particular case. If a tenant is not happy with the landlord’s decision, he can go to Court to seek a declaration that the consent is being withheld unreasonably and allowing the assignment/sub-letting to go ahead without the consent.

The case of International Drilling Fluids Ltd v Louisville Investments (Uxbridge) Ltd [1986] provides a good summary of the principles to apply in determining whether the landlord’s consent has been unreasonably withheld or not.

Many leases will also contain a pre-emption clause. This gives the landlord first refusal on any assignment.

He may also have the right to match any 3rd party offer.

Break Clauses

Tenants will look for a break clause in the lease. This will allow for circumstances changing in the future.

Generally, the breaks clause would be exercisable at the time of the 1st rent review, but this is entirely a matter for negotiation between the parties at the outset.

Most break clauses will only be exercisable when the tenant has complied with all provisions in the lease.

Assignment of Lease

The existing tenant must ensure appropriate references-trade and bank-are obtained and submitted to the landlord, along with the request for consent to assign.

The existing tenant will also have to be released from his personal guarantee, if he has given one.

The new tenant’s solicitor must make the usual conveyancing enquires about title, planning permission, mortgage on the property, and the usual pre-lease enquiries.

Service charges, and any other annual charges, will have to be apportioned between new and existing tenant.

The landlord, and his solicitor, will be anxious to ensure that the new assignee is as satisfactory as the existing one.

Sub-Letting

The existing tenant will be the landlord for the sub-tenant and he will be granting a sub-lease to the sub-tenant. He will need to get references from the sub-tenant to give to the head landlord, and apply for the head landlord’s consent to the sub-letting.

The sub-tenant, in addition to ensuring the proposed sub-lease is satisfactory, will need to ensure that the head landlord’s consent is given for the sub-letting.

The head landlord’s position is not affected from a legal perspective as he will still have his original tenant on the hook as that tenant will remain contractually liable to the landlord.

Partial Assignment or Sub-Letting

Most modern commercial leases will prohibit partial assignment or sub-letting.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you will see from the above that entering into a lease can be a complex matter which should not be undertaken without professional advice.

Quite frankly, it is easy to sign on the dotted line of a commercial agreement. Especially when you are starting a new business about which you are understandably excited.

But it is foolish to do so when you run the risk of running into costly difficulties later on, and find that you cannot assign or sub-let or you are staring at an eye watering rent increase through the rent review.

Rent Review Clauses in Commercial Leases-What You Should Know

rent-reviews-commercial-lease

Do you occupy a retail, industrial, or office premises?

If you do you will probably have you a commercial lease?

If you have, it will almost certainly provide for a rent review.

And you could be in for a very nasty shock.

Let me explain.

Over the last few years, since the property crash at the end of the Celtic Tiger years, quite a few commercial property owners were just happy to get their commercial premises let.

Any rent is better than an empty commercial unit or office.

Many of the leases granted then were on initially favourable terms for tenants, simply to get them let.

However, many of these leases are coming up to their first rent review, typically 5 years after commencement. The big problem for small business owners is that these rent reviews provide for “market rental value” which is causing a nasty shock, and in some cases unaffordable rents, for small business owners.

Because in some cases they are seeing their rents double, or more.

What is the legal position?

Is there anything you can do about it?

How does a rent review work?

Let’s take a look.

The purpose of a rent review clause is

  1. to protect the value of the landlord’s property
  2. to reflect the changing value of the property during the term of the lease.

What will normally happen is the landlord will serve a notice on the tenant seeking a significnatloy higher rent. Generally, time is not of the essence in relation to the service of notices by either landlord or tenant.

The tenant should then write back indicating his disagreement and asking what is the basis for the figure sought, and how was it arrived at.

Landlord and tenant will then instruct representatives such as valuers/surveyors/auctioneers to engage with the other side and attempt to agree the new rent.

Reviewing the Rent

The rent review clause will normally provide for the rent to be reviewed by an independent expert if the landlord and tenant cannot agree on the new rent. This independent expert will either act as an arbitrator or expert; in practice, the difference is not hugely significant.

Generally, the appointment of the expert will be the prerogative of the landlord if the landlord and tenant cannot agree on who to appoint.

If the landlord fails to make the nomination the tenant may be able to nominate, or the rent review clause may provide for appointment by the President of a professional body such as the Law Society or the professional bodies for Chartered Surveyors or Auctioneers/Valuers.

If there is a delay in agreeing the rent the tenant will be liable for the back-dated rent, plus interest at a “base rate” provided for in the lease.

The basis for reviewing the rent will almost certainly be to “current market rent” or “market rent”.

Up to the passing of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act, 2009 rent review clauses provided for “upward only” rent changes.

However section 132 outlawed “upward only” rent reviews in leases created after 28th February, 2010.

Therefore, it is possible, albeit unlikely, that the rent can be decreased to reflect market value. This was never the case with leases before the passing of the 2009 Act.

The critical date is 28th February, 2010; leases before this date can have “upward only” rent review clauses. After this date such clauses are of no effect.

Assumptions and Disregards

The basis on which the new rent will be determined will be on the basis of certain assumptions and disregards:

  1. that the premises will be let as a whole
  2. what it would fetch on a free and open market
  3. with vacant possession, that is, as if the premises was being let with full vacant possession as it was at the granting of the lease
  4. for a term of the greater of 15 years or the residue of the lease
  5. on the same terms and conditions as the present lease, including with a rent review clause
  6. that the tenant has fulfilled all his repairing and decorating obligations as provided in the lease, and has fulfilled all covenants in the lease
  7. no work has been carried out on the premises that diminishes its rental value.

Also, the following will be disregarded:

  1. any effect on the rent of the fact that the tenant has been in occupation and disregarding any goodwill he has built up and is attaching to the premises
  2. any effect of improvements or works carried out on the premises by the tenant.

In summary, the lease to be valued at rent review time is a hypothetical lease identical to the existing lease so that the rent will be calculated on the same basis as the existing lease.

Conclusion

Leases can be confusing, technical documents which require careful drafting and interpretation. Mistakes and oversights can be made in drafting them, including in relation to the rent review clause.

If you are facing an eye-watering increase in your rent on foot of a rent review it would probably make sense to have your solicitor take a close look at the lease.

Here’s 3 Things Which Would Make Me Fire You as a Client

clients-fired

Let’s be honest.

You’re thinking: “he’s a cheeky bugger”, “who does he think he is?”

And, perhaps, worse.

Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time.

But stick with me because the 3 things might surprise you.

And may even help you get more out of your professional advisor and better bang for your buck.

Let’s get started.

Problem numero uno:

  1. You Don’t Listen

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t know everything.

But to provide sound professional advice based on logic, professional training, careful analysis, and many years of experience in the crucible of business, and dare I say life, and to have the advice consistently ignored makes life seem too short.

Eventually our relationship must end, and the sooner the better-for both of us.

A closely related problem- the client who listens to everyone-the guy in the pub, the car wash attendant, the lady in the coffee shop, that nice girl in Tesco-and comes back to me and makes it perfectly clear that they are prepared to go a bit of the road with everyone.

If this what you want to do that is a matter for yourself. But I’m not the man for you.

 

The second type of problem that drives me nuts is:

2. You Want to Debate With the Other Party and Show Them a Thing or Two

This person personifies the difference between an amateur and professional.

The professional will generally only write a letter or take a step of action if it is likely to advance the position-even marginally-or because it is necessary to make a position clear.

An amateur on the other hand is happy to attempt to score points, debate, show how clever he is, get a dig in to the other party without much or any focus on the main prize: a successful outcome or resolution to the problem.

Debating is fun. But engaging solicitors to pursue an argument or debate is not the smartest use of your money and my time.

3. You Don’t Respect My Time

As a solicitor I sell chunks of my time and expertise. And there is only a limited and finite amount of time in each day.

So it can be a real problem if you just walk into my office unannounced or repeatedly ring me up on the phone to shoot the breeze about the same problem which we discussed yesterday and the day before and the day before that.

Trust me: I will find out very quickly what your problem is. And I will let you know whether I can help you or not.

But if I can? Let me get on with it-it will almost certainly be best for both of us.

A related problem, one which occurs before you become a client, is one I face on a daily basis. It has its roots in the fact that I provide a lot of useful, free information in a number or areas:

I get a large number of emails entitled “advice please”, and the emailer will set out their problem, send a huge amount of related documentation such as correspondence/contract of employment, and look for free advice.

Many people assume that I provide a free advice service and am a cross between Citizens’ Information and NERA.

In order to advise properly I need to ascertain all the facts, read the supporting documentation related to your issue, almost certainly raise further queries with you to elicit further information, perhaps carry out some research, formulate a considered, professional response, type it out and send it to you.

This takes time, as I am sure you will recognise, and if I get it wrong? You can sue me which will impact on my professional indemnity insurance.

So, I charge for my advice/professional opinion.

I think this is fair and reasonable.

Conclusion

To get the most out of your professional advisor, no matter what sphere of activity, do yourself a favour and listen to them, and give serious consideration to their advice. This will ensure that you get good value for your investment.

Buying Property from a Receiver or Mortgagee in Possession-Some Facts You Should Know

property sale by receiver

Everyone loves a bargain.

And buying property from a mortgagee in possession or receiver acting on his behalf is becoming more commonplace in Ireland.

Regardless of whether you buy at an Allsop’s type auction or by private treaty there are a few unique features of buying from a receiver or mortgagee in possession.

Some of these unique aspects could, quite frankly, cost you a lot of money.

Let’s take a look at them.

The Contract for Sale

The standard Law Society of Ireland contract for sale will be heavily amended and/or qualified by the special conditions inserted by the solicitor acting for the mortgagee in possession. This is to reflect the limited information and knowledge of the lender or receiver about things like:

  • Planning
  • Identity
  • Notices received by the legal owner/previous occupant
  • The services to the property.

The contract for sale therefore will have a special condition setting out the limited knowledge of the receiver about the property and you are purchasing in full knowledge that no warranties are being made in respect of these issues.

Standard pre-contract enquiries that a purchasing solicitor would make will not be replied to in a receiver’s sale and the purchaser and his client will need to be careful to make their own enquiries as best they can.

The Purchaser’s solicitor will generally be furnished with replies to the standard Objections and Requisitions on title along with the contract for sale. However this is as far as the receiver will go and further enquiries will not be entertained or answered.

The receiver sale may well provide a great opportunity to purchase a good value property, but it will be very much on a “take it or leave it, here’s the deal” basis.

In an ordinary, “non receiver” sale there may be some negotiation between the parties about certain conditions of the contract. This is not the case with a receiver sale and conditions tend to be non-negotiable.

The Receiver

A receiver is appointed by the lender by deed of appointment on foot of the mortgage document. The receiver will act as agent for the legal owner of the property and his powers will be set out

  1. In the mortgage document and
  2. In the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform act 2009 in respect of post 1/12/2009 mortgages and in the Conveyancing Act 1881 in respect of pre 1/12/2009 mortgages.

Because the receiver acts as agent of the legal owner he does not have the same powers as the mortgagee in possession. The most important power he does not have is the power to sell the property free of all interests, rights, and estates in respect of  which the mortgage has priority.

Therefore, if any charges, judgments, or mortgages are registered after the registration of the mortgage and charge the receiver may give possession of the property to the mortgagee in possession to complete the sale.

When the mortgagee in possession, that is the lender, completes the sale he effectively wipes out those burdens/encumbrances by “overreaching” and sells the property free and clear of the burdens.

Section 104 of Land And Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 confirms the position:

104.— (1) A mortgagee exercising the power of sale conferred by this Chapter, or an express power of sale, has power to convey the property in accordance with subsection (2)—

[CA 1881, s. 21(1)]

(a) freed from all estates, interests and rights in respect of which the mortgage has priority,

(b) subject to all estates, interests and rights which have priority to the mortgage.

(2) Subject to subsections (3)(b) and (4), the conveyance—

(a) vests the estate or interest which has been mortgaged in the purchaser,

(b) extinguishes the mortgage, but without prejudice to any personal liability of the mortgagor not discharged out of the proceeds of sale,

(c) vests any fixtures or personal property included in the mortgage and the sale in the purchaser.

(3) This section—

(a) applies to a sale by a sub-mortgagee so as to enable the sub-mortgagee to convey the head-mortgagor’s property in the same manner as the mortgagee,

(b) does not apply to a mortgage of part only of a tenancy unless any rent which is reserved and any tenant’s covenants have been apportioned as regards the property mortgaged.

(4) Where the mortgaged property comprises registered land, the conveyance is subject to section 51 of the Act of 1964.

Conclusion

Buying from a receiver or mortgagee in possession can give you the opportunity to buy a bargain; but you do need to do your research and due diligence carefully and listen to your legal advisor.

An Easy Guide to Tenancies, Leases and Licences in Irish Law

commercial-lease-law-ireland

Are you thinking about leasing or letting a property in Ireland?

Or maybe you are being offered a licence? And you’re not sure what the difference is?

Hopefully this guide will answer most of your questions.

Tenancies/Leases

Tenancies or leases fall into two broad categories:

  1. A tenancy for a fixed term
  2. A tenancy from year to year or other period of time.

Fixed Term Tenancies

A tenancy can be created for any fixed term of any duration. Once the fixed term is arrived at the interest of the tenant in the property ends and the lessor is entitled to possession.

Periodic Tenancies

A periodic tenancy runs for a period of time which can be a week, month, year, etc. It automatically renews on the expiry of the initial period and will continue indefinitely until the lessor serves a notice to quit.

The notice periods are set by statute and common law. These tenancies can be created expressly or by implication.

Tenancy at Will

A tenancy at will is a common law concept and involves the person being in possession of the property for an indefinite period with the consent of the owner. This type of tenancy can be terminated by either party at any time.

It is worth noting that the relationship of landlord and tenant does exist but the tenant has no interest in the land which he can transfer to third parties. His tenure is ‘personal’ between himself and the landlord.

This type of tenancy is not covered by landlord and tenancy legislation and is deemed to end one year after it commences unless determined beforehand.

Tenancy at Sufferance

This type of tenancy arises by operation of law and occurs when a tenant is in possession at the end of the lease without the landlord’s consent and without paying rent. However this tenant is not a trespasser as his original entry into possession was lawful.

A tenant at sufferance has no interest in the land and is not in a landlord/tenant relationship; in fact, he is only called a ‘tenant’ because his original entry into possession was lawful.

Statutory Tenancy

A statutory tenancy arises under various pieces of legislation such as the Housing (Private Rented Dwellings) Act, 1982 and the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1980.

Part 4 of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2004 also provides relief to tenants who have been in occupation of a dwelling under a tenancy for a continuous period of 6 months.

Temporary Convenience Lettings

These lettings can arise in residential or commercial situations. If they are genuinely for the temporary convenience of the owner of the property they fall outside the statutory protections afforded to tenants under landlord and tenant legislation.

In such commercial lettings, it is essential that it is stated in the letting agreement that the nature of the temporary convenience is set out. There is no legal definition of ‘temporary convenience’ but it must be for the bona fide temporary necessity of the landlord.

Otherwise statutory protection and controls will be available to the tenant.

There is no limit on the duration of such lettings.

Summary

There is a wide range of tenancies which can exist for both commercial and residential properties.

The Land And Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 provides that the relationship of landlord and tenant does not now arise in relation to a tenancy at will or tenancy at sufferance.

Property Licences

Property licences can often be confused with leases.

There are significant differences between a licence and a lease when it comes to the letting or use of property.

  1. A licence, unlike a lease, does not transfer any interest or estate in the land to the licensee
  2. A licence is a ‘mere permission’ to use the premises
  3. A lease confers statutory rights and protections whereas a licence confers none of these.

Should a dispute arise as to whether a user of a premises has a licence or a lease, a Court will look at what the parties intended, not what they say afterwards.

So, if an agreement has all the requirements of a tenancy/lease, the parties cannot insist afterwards that they only created a license.

Courts will, in the event of a dispute, look at the relationship between the parties objectively and if the agreement satisfied all the characteristics of a tenancy, decide that the agreement is a lease.

Types of Licence

There are a number of different types of licence including:

  1. A bare licence which is a mere personal permission. As it is personal to the licensee there is no interest that (s)he can transfer to a third party.
  2. A licence coupled with an interest. This type of licence can be transferred to third parties. This might arise where a person is given permission to enter another’s land to cut down and remove trees or shoot game.
  3. A contractual licence-this licence is created by a contract and the power to revoke the licence will be contained in the terms of the contract. There is no proprietary interest in the land though. A licensor can be prevented from revoking the licence which is not in accordance with the contract underpinning the licence.
  4. An estoppel licence. This will arise where a person who holds a licence relating to land sells an interest in that land to a third party who acts in good faith. The licensor in this situation may be prevented from revoking the licence as against the new purchaser and an estoppel licence may arise where the licensor is ‘estopped’ from revoking the licence.

Characteristics of a Licence

The main characteristics of a licence and distinguishing features from a lease include:

  • There is no interest in land
  • It may be revocable
  • The licensee does not enjoy exclusive possession of the land
  • The licensee occupies the land with the consent of the licensor
  • The rights in the license are personal to the licensee
  • The licensee agrees with the licensor to co-operate in relation to the control and management of the property.

Property owners or intending tenants need to be aware that entering legal relations which involve occupancy of a premises and on-going payments that they should be clear in advance as to what the relationship is.

They would also be well advised to speak to their solicitor.
By Terry Gorry
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Commercial Landlord And Tenant Disputes-The Facts You Should Know

commercial landlord tenant disputes

Landlord and tenant disputes are on the rise for obvious reasons with the downturn in the economy and landlords being faced with the choice of trying to recover outstanding rent or additionally trying to recover their premises and get the tenant out.

Generally the failure to pay rent by the tenant will be a breach of a covenant of the lease leading to a right accruing to the landlord for a straightforward breach of contract and the normal remedies available to the landlord when this occurs.

The legal proceedings that a landlord will take will depend on the amount of rent owed-if it is less than €6,348.69  it will be by way of Civil Summons in the District Court; if it is between that figure and less than €38,092.14  it will be by Civil Bill in the Circuit Court. (Note that these jurisdictional amounts have changed; the District Court has a limit now of €15,000 and the Circuit Court up to €75,000).

Higher than that and you will find yourself the subject of High Court proceedings.

Recovery of Premises

Most commercial leases will have a covenant providing for the right to recover possession of the premises when there is a breach of a covenant of the lease.

Notice To Quit

If a lease has just expired, that is the time is up, the landlord needs to serve a Notice To Quit giving whatever period of notice is stipulated in the lease itself.

After the service of the Notice To Quit the landlord should mark any rent received as “mesne rates only” as not to do so could be seen as a waiving of the Notice by the landlord.

Forfeiture

Forfeiture procedure is appropriate where the landlord wants to get the tenant out before the term of the lease is up.

He will want to do so if the rent is overdue and not being paid and the landlord thinks that he is better off trying to let the premises to someone else.

To do this the landlord must be sure that the lease makes provision for forfeiture in the event of rent not being paid or whatever other breach of covenant the landlord is alleging.

Most leases will contain such a covenant; if yours does not it will provide for forfeiture for breach of a condition of the lease.

In order to use the forfeiture procedure the landlord must first, by law, give the tenant the opportunity to remedy whatever breach has occurred.

Firstly the landlord will need to serve a Notice of Forfeiture on the tenant which will set out the alleged breach and the time within which it must be put right or that the landlord will re-enter the premises.

This is called a Section 14 notice as the requirement arises from section 14 of the Conveyancing Act 1881.

If the remedy is not forthcoming and the breach is not sorted out then the landlord can re-enter the premises peaceably-it is important that to note that anything other than the minimum damage can lead to a criminal offence being caused by the landlord.

If resistance is offered by the tenant then it would be very difficult for a landlord to enter peaceably and should withdraw.

Ejectment Civil Bill on Title Based on Forfeiture

If the landlord cannot take the premises peaceably he will need to go the Court route and it is by way of Ejectment Civil Bill on Title based on forfeiture.

Be warned that this is a slow process and the Courts have traditionally given a fair degree of latitude to tenants giving them more time to put things right.

Tenant Relief

Conveyancing Act 1881, section 14(2), provides some relief for the tenant provided that the landlord has not re-entered and the tenant has put matters right by paying the rent or whatever breach is alleged.

The courts have traditionally been very fair with tenants in these matters and a tenant who has paid up, even late, will be in a strong position to get this statutory relief from the Court.

Ejectment Civil Bill for Overholding

This procedure is used after the service of a Notice To Quit or where the original lease has expired and the tenant remains in possession.

Commercial Landlord and Tenant Issues in Insolvency

Liquidation

In a liquidation situation, any rental arrears which arose prior to the liquidation will rank as unsecured claims and participate in any dividend on a pro rata basis with other unsecured creditors.

Rent arising where the liquidator occupies the premises to wind up the failed company is deemed to be an expense of the liquidation and will rank, along with the costs of the liquidation, above all creditor claims.

Receivership

Rent accrued prior to the appointment of the receiver will rank as an unsecured debt.

Rent due during the period of receivership, the receiver is obliged to pay the rent as a priority expense of the receivership.

Examinership

Theoretically, rent accrued during examinership should be paid to the landlord. However, proceedings cannot be taken against a company when it is in examinership so it would be very difficult to enforce the payment of rent.

Repudiation of leases during examinership

Section 20(1) of the Companies (Amendment) Act 1990 allows the repudiation of any contracts of a company in examinership.

This includes leases and a Court has jurisdiction to approve the repudiation of a lease of a company in examinership. This is a discretionary power which will be exercised in each case in the particular circumstances of the case.

Disclaiming a lease

Section 290 of the Companies Act 1963 allows a liquidator to apply to Court for an order for disclaimer of onerous property or contracts.

The liquidator has 12 months within which to disclaim a lease and it is a slow process. The landlord will be able to claim as an unsecured creditor for damages as a result of the disclaimer.

However, whether there is going to be a dividend available to unsecured creditors or not will depend on the circumstances of each case.

The Entitlement to a New Lease

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1980 which was amended byLandlord and Tenant Act 1994 provide statutory entitlements to tenants in a landlord/tenant relationship.

The reliefs apply where the property that is the subject of the agreement is a tenement which is a legal description but has been interpreted fairly generously. It includes buildings which are not permanent and can include sheds erected without planning permission.

To qualify for the statutory entitlements the main purpose/use must attach to the buildings. If there is land involved then the land must be subsidiary and ancillary to the main use of the buildings.

Section 16 of Landlord and Tenant Act 1980 provides that a tenant will be entitled to a new tenancy at the expiry of his existing lease if he can prove one of the following equities

  • Business equity-if the tenant was in occupation for 5 years continuously and was using the premises/tenement for business purposes (this period used to be 3 years); temporary breaks can be disregarded by the courts. The five year period only applies to tenancies/leases which commence after 10 August 1994 and the tenant must occupy the tenement for the entire period
  • Long possession equity-this applies to both residential and business property and states that if the person was in occupation for 20 years then he/she was entitled to a new lease
  • Improvements equity-this also applies to both residential and commercial property and states that if the tenant would be entitled to compensation for improvements and they accounted for half or more than half of the letting value of the tenement when the notice of intention to claim statutory relief, then the tenant has an improvements equity

Terms of a new tenancy

These terms are to be agreed between landlord and tenant and failing that will be fixed by the court. If the tenant is entitled to a new lease based on business equity the new term shall be fixed at 20 years or such time as the tenant may nominate, provided it is over 5 years.

If the right to a new tenancy is based on long possession or improvements the term of the new tenancy will be 35 years or a lesser term that the tenant can nominate.

Rent

This will be fixed by the court at open market value if the landlord and tenant can not agree on a new rent.

Restrictions on a right to a new tenancy

Section 85 of the act prevented any provision contracting out of the Act.

However this was changed re the tenant of an office premises who could contract out of his right if he took independent legal advice and signed a renunciation under sect 4of his right and this had to be done before the commencement of the tenancy.

Other restrictions include the situation where the tenant is in breach of the lease in respect of payment of rent.

Furthermore where the landlord intends to pull the building down in order to redevelop the building/site then he can refuse to grant a new tenancy.

However if this occurs and the tenant would have been entitled to a new tenancy otherwise, then the tenant is entitled to disturbance compensation which is a right of both residential and commercial tenants.

How to claim a new tenancy

The forms required are set out in Landlord and Tenant Regulations, 1980. This notice must be served before the end of the tenancy or within 3 months of the end. (The courts have discretion to extend these time limits in limited circumstances)

Compensation for improvements

This is available to both residential and business premises. Where a tenant quits a tenement because of the termination of the tenancy he is entitled to be paid compensation for every improvement by him or any predecessors in title which adds to the letting value of the premises.

However he will not be entitled to compensation if he has surrendered the lease or the termination is for non-payment of rent.

Improvement notice

Where a tenant proposes to make improvements to the tenement he may serve an improvement notice on his landlord.

If the latter ignores it then the tenant can go ahead with the works and is entitled to compensation. However the landlord can then himself serve an improvement undertaking notice on the tenant and execute the works himself.

Or he can object to the improvement notice and the tenant can then withdraw his notice or apply to court which can allow the tenant to make the improvement or reject his claim based on the fact that he has not been in occupation for 5 years and is consequently not entitled to a new lease.

Any covenants in the lease which prohibit the selling of the building or the change of use of the building will be interpreted as only prohibiting this to occur without the landlord’s consent, and this consent must not be unreasonably withheld.

A similar interpretation will apply to any covenant in the lease prohibiting the making of improvements.

Update

The Civil Law Act 2008 has made some changes to Landlord and Tenant legislation. Previously only the occupier of an office lease could contract out of his right to a new lease as outlined above.

The Civil Law Act 2008 now allows any business user to renounce his right and furthermore allows him to renounce not just prior to the commencement of the lease but at any time. He must still receive independent legal advice.

Termination of Commercial Leases

The most common ways to terminate or end a lease are

1) Notice to quit

2) Forfeiture

Since the Residential Tenancies Act, 2004 lays down the procedure for the vast majority of residential tenancies Notice to Quit and Forfeiture now only apply to commercial tenancies.

You only use a Notice to Quit procedure where the tenant remains in possession after the expiry of the agreed term and continues to pay rent. This tenant is said to be overholding.

Where the landlord wishes to end the tenancy prior to the end of the agreed term, the appropriate procedure is Forfeiture.

Notice to Quit

Notice to quit is the most common procedure to recover the premises where the tenant is overholding.

Anybody who has received prior express authorisation may serve the notice to quit.

Where the landlord is not serving the notice to quit himself it is prudent to arrange prior written authority to be given to the server. This authority can not be given retrospectively.

There is no set form for the notice to quit but it must contain a clear and unambiguous intention to end the tenancy.

A description of the premises must be given and it must be addressed to ‘the tenant and all other persons in occupation’.

It need not be signed but it is prudent to do so.

Length of Notice

Firstly check the written agreement to see is there an agreed procedure. If not the statutory minimum is 4 weeks and the notice must end on a gale day (this is the point when one period ends and another begins).

The crucial question is how is the rent reserved in the lease (this is not the same as how is the rent paid).

A monthly tenancy requires one month’s notice expiring on a gale day.

A quarterly tenancy requires 3 months notice and this should expire on a gale day.

A tenancy from year to year requires 183 days notice expiring on the anniversary of the tenancy.

Personal service is best and in the case of a limited company on the registered office of the company.

Waiver of notice

You will be deemed to have waived the notice to quit if you

  • Serve another notice
  • Demand the rent
  • Accept the rent which falls due after the end of the notice period.

Landlords are advised therefore not to accept rent after the end of the notice to quit has expired.

Care should be taken to check the lease to see if any provision has been made for a specific method of terminating the tenancy.

Forfeiture

This is only appropriate where the term of the lease is still running. But a landlord has no right to terminate a lease prematurely unless the tenant has been in breach of one or more of it’s terms.

A landlord also loses the right to forfeiture if he does not follow certain statutory procedures which give the tenant a reasonable opportunity to remedy any breach.

It is extremely difficult in practice to forfeit a lease, especially if the parties are in court for the first time.

Grounds for forfeiture

The 3 main grounds for forfeiture are

1) Disclaimer by the tenant of the landlord’s title

2) Re-entry of ejectment where there has been a breach of a condition in the lease

3) Re-entry of ejectment where there has been a breach of a covenant which provides for re-entry for that breach.

Breach of condition of lease

Breach of a condition of a lease gives the landlord an inherent right to re-enter.

But the landlord must be careful to distinguish between a condition and a covenant.

Breach of covenant in a lease

A breach of covenant in a lease will only give rise to a right to re-enter if the covenant broken has a proviso for re-entry.

Before forfeiture can take place a ‘section 14’ notice must be served unless forfeiture is occurring for non payment of rent. In this case there is no need for a ‘section 14’ notice.

This notice calls upon the tenant to remedy the breach within a reasonable time.

If the notice is served and the time specified in the notice has elapsed without the remedy of the breach, a demand is again made for possession and the landlord may re-enter if it can be done without the use of force. There is a statutory prohibition on the use of force.

Ejectment civil bill on title

If the landlord can not re-enter peaceably the landlord’s remedy is to issue an ejectment civil bill and seek an order for possession in court.

Relief against forfeiture

There are 2 reliefs for the tenant to prevent forfeiture of the lease-statutory and equitable.

Statutory

Section 14(2) Conveyancing Act 1881 allows the tenant to apply to court for relief-it is then at the discretion of the court and there are no fixed rules for the court in exercising its discretion.

A sub-lessee will get statutory relief and his sub-lease will continue as if the superior landlord was the immediate lessor.

The Landlord and Tenant(Ground Rents) Act 1978 provides that forfeiture can not occur by reason of failure to pay ground rent in the case of a house where the tenant is entitled to buy out the freehold.

In general there is no statutory relief where the landlord forfeits the lease for non-payment of rent.

Equitable

Courts may use its equitable discretion to grant relief to the tenant, even for non-payment of rent, if it would appear to be just to do so.

Courts lean against forfeiture for non payment of rent and tend to give tenant’s plenty of opportunity to pay up. But it will look at the conduct of the parties prior to going to court.

Effluxion of time

Where the term of a lease is up there is no need to serve a notice. A letter prior prior to the end of term pointing up the end of the term and demanding possession will suffice.

Court Order

The court has jurisdiction under certain legislation to terminate a tenancy.

Exercise of an option (break clauses) in a lease

Commercial leases often have break clauses entitling either party to terminate prematurely.

Legal proceedings

It may still prove necessary to go to court, even after ending the lease by one of the methods outlined above.

Ejectment Civil Bill on Title Based on Forfeiture

The landlord’s claim is based on the fact that the tenancy has ended by forfeiture and the tenant has no right to retain possession. This is a very common procedure, especially where non-payment of rent has occurred.

The landlord may need to go to court a number of times to establish a poor track record of the tenant as the court is very reluctant to grant possession first time for non payment of rent.

Ejectment for non payment of rent

This is based on Deasy’s Act,1860. The huge disadvantage is that the landlord must wait until one years rent is due-not very popular method for this reason.

Ejectment Civil Bill for overholding

This is used following service of a notice to quit or where the original lease has ended and the tenant remains in possession.

From the tenant’s perspective under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1980 he must now serve notice to seek relief, that is to seek a renewal of the lease) within a certain period following service of the notice to quit.
By Terry Gorry
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Leasing a Commercial Premises? 10 Key Questions and 4 Vital Tasks for Your Solicitor

leasing-commercial-premises
Leasing commercial premises requires caution

Thinking about leasing a shop unit?

Coffee shop?

Office?

Other commercial premises?

If you are thinking about leasing a commercial shop unit in Ireland there are a number of key areas you need to consider before going ahead.

Set out below is a non-exhaustive list of issues that you will need to be satisfied about before investing your cash in a full repairing and insuring lease (FRI lease).

At the end of the piece I also deal with some common questions I am regularly asked by people looking to start or grow their business by taking on a commercial unit.

But before we look at the important questions there are 4 vital things to be taken care of-the conveyancing aspects of the lease. I have encountered a frightening number of tenants who entered into a lease for a commercial premises without using a solicitor.

A host of problems can then arise in relation to rent reviews, sub-letting, assigning the lease to someone else, etc. which the tenant may not have received any professional advice about when taking on the lease.

Don’t make this mistake. And here are some other issues your solicitor will need to take care of:

Conveyancing Considerations

a) Has the landlord title to grant the lease? Your solicitor should insist on seeing prima facie evidence, for example a copy of the deed to the landlord.

b) Is there planning permission?  Your solicitor needs to see proof that there is planning permission for the proposed use of the premises. He/she should also carry out a planning search.

c) Is the premises mortgaged? Your solicitor will need to check whether there is a mortgage on the premises. If there is the mortgagee may need to join in the lease as a party or give written consent to the granting of the lease.

d) Law Society standard pre-lease enquiries? Your solicitor will need to raise the standard pre-lease enquiries and requisitions with the landlord’s solicitor. These are standard queries-a check list essentially-which should be raised.

Once your solicitor has carried out these vital checks you, as proposed tenant, need to consider the following questions:

1) The term

How long will your lease be? Will you have statutory rights under the Landlord and Tenant (Amendment) Act, 1980? Will you have a break clause? Is Vat payable?

2) Repairs

Who is responsible for repairs? If it is a lease in excess of 5 years you as tenant will likely be responsible.
If it is a lease of less than 5 years you may only be responsible for internal repairs.

The question of whether it is a new building or an older building will also be significant and other issues to be addressed would include latent and inherent defects in the building, what is considered fair wear and tear and what risks are covered by insurance.

3) Insurance

If it is a full FRI lease then you as tenant will almost certainly have to pay the insurance premium held in your landlord’s name.
This will vary depending on whether you are the sole occupier of the building or if it is multi tenanted in which case you will be obliged to pay a proportion of the landlord’s premium.

You will therefore be concerned about the risks that the landlord is insuring against and whether the building is insured for reinstatement value or cost.

As tenant you will also want to insure against public liability, employers liability, plate glass and contents but this will depend very much on the nature of your business.

4) Alterations

You may need to make alterations when you take on the property to ensure that it is right for the purpose intended.
This will generally require the landlord’s consent which cannot be unreasonable withheld or delayed.

5) Alienation of the premises

Alienation is the legal term for your assignment of the lease to a third party; you will need the landlord’s consent to this but the landlord cannot unreasonably withhold or delay his consent.

However the question of reasonableness is one which might be disputed and the landlord may argue that his refusal is in the interests of “good estate management” and is therefore reasonable.

6) Service charges

Service charges may or may not arise in your particular circumstance. If there are service charges in respect of common areas you will need to ascertain exactly what is included and how much your service charges will be.

7) Rent reviews

How the rent will be reviewed will be of critical importance to you; generally rent reviews will take place at 5 yearly intervals and is an area that may require arbitration or some agreement as to how any disputes will be resolved.

8) Guarantee

Will you be obliged to provide a guarantee for rent, rates and other outgoings?

9) Break clause

Is there a break clause in the lease?

10) Stamp duty and VAT

You will be liable for the stamp duty on the lease but landlords also have an option to charge VAT or not. This is another area that you will want to check before investing as it can have a significant impact on your cash flow.

These are just some of the many factors you need to consider and be clear on before leasing a commercial premises.

Here are some questions that crop up repeatedly. If you have any questions simply send them in to me with the contact form below and I will answer them.

Stamp duty on commercial leases

If there is a premium payable stamp duty is payable on the premium at the normal non-residential stamp duty rate on a conveyance/transfer, that is, 2%.

Stamp duty is also payable on the rent as follows:

  • Lease not exceeding a term of 35 years: 1% of the average annual rent
  • Lease with a term between 35 and 100 years: 6% of the average annual rent
  • Lease with a term in excess of 100 years: 12% of the annual average rent

A rent review will also mean a fixed charge of €12.50, and each counterpart of an original lease attracts a fixed charge of €12.50

Commercial Premises F.A.Q.

‘How long should I sign a lease for?’

This very much depends on

  1. What you want and need
  2. What the landlord wants, needs, and is prepared to give you.

So, it depends on good, old-fashioned negotiation between you and the landlord, or his agent.

You need to consider your future needs and potential expansion/growth; however, you must also consider your business failing. It’s not a pleasant thought but you need to consider it. At least one break clause can give you a way out of the lease, and it could be exercised due to the growth and new needs of your business, or the failure of the business.

‘What documentation will I need?’

When you go to take a look at the premises to speak to the landlord and/or auctioneer, you don’t need any. Later on if you are going ahead, your solicitor will require some identification and anti money laundering papers, but initially when negotiating you don’t need anything.

‘What are my legal responsibilities (and the landlord’s)?’

Your main responsibilities will be to pay the rent, insurance, and any service charge. However, the location of your unit-for example in a shopping centre or multi unit development-may place some extra responsibilities on you. These will all be contained in your lease in the form of covenants and conditions; your landlord’s entitlements and obligations will also be found in the lease, and for this reason you need to negotiate a good one at the outset.

‘As the property is not finished it still needs toilets, railings walls plastered, staircases and a number of other unfinished works.  I am unsure as to what I should be asking them to finish as I don’t know what it is they will expect me to finish.’

This too is a matter for negotiation and agreement, and you want to be sure to avoid having to carry out a huge amount of renovations/refurbishments which may only benefit the landlord in the long run.

If there is work to be done, and the landlord undertakes to carry it out, get a surveyor or architect to check the work before signing a lease.

Your solicitor will also be looking for certificates of compliance with planning permission and building regulations from the landlord’s solicitor, but you need to be sure that the work is carried out to a satisfactory standard for your needs.
By Terry Gorry
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