It never rains but it pours. That’s the situation with this column anyway. Write about PayPoint and a clutch of retailers ring up with ever-so-slightly different stories. Ditto with Camelot. Also fridges breaking down. And now property leases.
After I wrote about one retailer losing his shop to redevelopment with no compensation, I got more calls. One told me that he hasn’t had a lease for the past eight years and his landlord has just sold it on to someone else, who has given the retailer one month to quit. I’ve sent him to Lawyers for your Business to see if he has any rights.
Another had a 21-year lease on a shop that had been empty for four years. It ends in January 2015 and he wants to get out, but how? He should negotiate to get the landlord to surrender early, possibly by assigning the lease to someone else or offer a deal: three months for the remaining six.
I didn’t think that advice up by myself and I’m going to hand on some other generic information gleaned when I consulted property specialist Barry Frost, who runs Commercial Plus (Chester).
There are three golden rules: get professional help when taking on a lease: put the date of the lease and its renewal/rent review date in your diary and 6-12 months ahead go back to that professional for renegotiation; you must be proactive. Ignore and then find out the landlord has increased the rent and backdated it. And, again, if you have issues, get professional help.
You might be thinking that Barry Frost would say that, but he spends every working day, all day, handling nothing but property issues.
At the moment Barry is working on seven cases involving ‘restrictive covenants’ (where you are excluded from selling certain goods) and the slightly softer ‘restrictive user’ clause (where you shouldn’t sell booze, for example, without the landlord’s prior permission). He is handling these cases for post offices where councils and housing associations have tended to place historical covenants to restrict the sale of alcohol. Up his sleeve is the fact that in 1998 EU competition law aimed at covenants in general meant these can be successfully challenged in court.
So if you are a subpostmaster and have a problem with covenants, call Barry on 01244 659101.