Business Q&A’s

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Can I buy a care home

The simple answer is that you can, and indeed anyone can, but there are very strict guidelines for such things which are set down by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Without satisfying all of the appropriate checks such as CRB and obtaining appropriate registration with the CQC you will not be a fit and proper person to run a care home. It is essential professional advice is sought before you commit yourself

Can I deal with the extension of my lease myself

There is nothing to stop you carrying out your own legal work; the restrictions are where you charge for that work. Having said that the area of the extension of leases and the purchase of freeholds under various statutory regimes is peculiarly complicated. Particular forms of notice must be served. Certain time limits must be adhered to. Different types of valuation are applied. It is an area that is very complex and often a lot is at stake and so the help of a lawyer would be advisable in our opinion.

Can I object to my neighbours planning application on the grounds that it blocks my light

Typically this is not a consideration for planners, however, it can be in certain circumstances. There may be further information to assist in the deeds to your property. Please contact our planning expert Robert Walton to discuss this further.

Do I need a Personal Licence

A Personal Licence is required to supervise the sale of alcohol in any premises as a designated premises supervisor. Therefore at least one person concerned with the business will be required to be a personal licence holder.

Do I really need to do a Fire Risk Assessment on my shop premises

Most definitely. This is a legal requirement for commercial premises, and certain other premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and indeed any regulations made under it. It is, of course, for the safety of the occupants of the building so that consideration has to be given to fire exits, fire extinguishers, and so on. There is also an argument that any buildings insurance may be invalidated by the lack of a fire risk assessment in the case of a fire at a property. The bottom line is that anyone owning a property is committing a criminal offence if there is not a fire risk assessment in place.

Do I require planning permission for a shed or outbuilding

This is dependant on the size of the shed/outbuilding related directly to the squared metreage of that construction. Typically with a small shed or greenhouse planning is not required depending on the square metreage. If in any doubt please contact Robert Walton, our planning expert who can assist you in this.

I have been approached by a company offering to put solar panels on my house. I will even make money out of it. Is this a good idea?

Whether it is a good idea or not is difficult but they are quite dangerous because the company putting the solar panels up can obtain what is called security of tenure. This means it can be quite difficult to remove them. There is also consideration to be given if there is a mortgage on the property as their consent will be required and there may be building regulations requirements. Before any paperwork is signed it is essential that legal advice is taken.

Do Premises Licences simply apply to buildings

No it can now include areas in the open air and vehicles and vessels and movable structures.

How do I apply for a Premises Licence

A Premises Licence is applied for through the local Council serving the property in question. All documentation is available direct from the Council and if you require any assistance at all one of our Licensing experts can assist.

How do I pay for a solar farm to be removed from my land when a Lease has ended

This is often a difficulty in that it is quite possible that this will be an expensive exercise. Often it will be the liability of the power company, but this is little comfort in that in this turbulent market the power company could easily go into liquidation. Sometimes the Lease will provide that a certain amount of money is put back every year to go towards this cost. An alternative is that a bond is purchased from a bank or perhaps an insurance company that will pay for its costs. It is very difficult to predict what the cost will be and a good Lease would say that this valuation issue will be revisited every two or three years.

How is an employees statutory notice calculated

The Employment Rights Act 1996 states that an employee shall receive one weeks’ notice if he/she has been employed by the employer for more than one month and up to two years. Two weeks’ notice if the employee is continuously employed for more than two years and one additional week’s notice for each year of continuous employment up to a maximum of 12 years.

I am building some houses in order to sell them. Do I have to provide the buyers with NHBC cover

If you are building new houses or converting a building into a house that was previously something else, then you have two choices. One is to provide NHBC, Premier Guarantee or a similar guarantee recognised by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. The other is to obtain a certificate from a professional such as an architect, in a particular form which is approved by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. Even if your buyer is not having a mortgage, most of us solicitors will work at least to the standard that the Council of Mortgage Lenders requires and so it is almost invariably necessary to do this

I am interested in taking over a lease of a pub. The local area manager has given me the paperwork to sign and told me I can have the keys as soon as I have signed it. Is it as simple as that

Not really. The entering into any kind of document of this nature creates a landlord and tenant relationship and in this case a commercial lease. It is also very important to know what the main terms are of that lease. With a lot of pub leases breweries tend to restrict what tenants can do in terms of the acquisition of drinks. Tied pubs as they are called, have to buy drinks and sometimes other goods directly from suppliers that our preferred by the pub company. There is no guarantee on prices and it can adversely affect profitability of the business being run.

I am thinking of buying a mobile home park. Can I just buy a field and apply for planning

You can but you may not be terribly successful. The development of a mobile home park is something that is quite strictly regulated and there is quite clear law on the matter. It is not just a matter of obtaining planning as you need to obtain a Site Licence under the Caravan Site and Control of Development Act 1960 Very strict guidelines are imposed. If you are interested in the acquisition or development of a mobile home park it is essential that you seek professional advice.

I have a long lease of a flat but I do not know who my landlord is. Is it possible to purchase the freehold

Yes. There are certain procedures in place which we can help you with.

I have agreed to an Option for a Lease to a power company. The power company say they will pay my fees if I go to a solicitor appointed by them. Should I

Every solicitor has a duty to act in your best interests. You should be sure they have the experience of dealing with solar farms, will have a knowledge of you and your affairs and your land and also may well have dealt with (as we have) many different power companies and so be in a position to advise you as to how the Option and draft Lease compare. Nobody can force you to use any particular solicitor; it is basic right to be able to choose your advisors freely. So our advice would be to stick with your own solicitor as long as they have the right and correct expertise It is an expertise we have here.

I have been approached by a very reputable company and asked to sign an early access agreement to enable them to go on to my land and put up a telecommunication mast. Should I sign it

The short answer is no. You should seek legal advice immediately because as soon as you enter into that agreement you are essentially entering into a binding contract to allow them onto your land without seeing any of the documentation they will require of you.

I have been approached to buy a log cabin in a secluded place in Cornwall. I am being told that I can buy it and I will not have to pay any Stamp Duty Land Tax and I am being asked to enter into a simple licence agreement. Is this too good to be true.

In reality it may not be. Log cabins and caravans are not entirely straight forward though. The short answer is that if something has wheels then it is regarded as a caravan and it does not attract Stamp Duty Land Tax when you buy it. Also because it is on wheels you do not enter into a long lease but a licence because it can be moved so it has no specific location. It is always best to check the detail and have a solicitor check over any documentation that you are asked to sign in this respect.

I have had enough of the telecommunication mast at the bottom of my field. It is an eyesore. The lease is just about coming to an end so what do I need to do to arrange for them to remove their equipment and vacate the site?

This is not a simple question because there are two concerns. First, under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 a commercial tenant can have what is called security of tenure. This protects their occupation and makes it difficult for landlords to seek their removal. Legal advice is certainly needed if this is a consideration.

Secondly, telecommunication masts are governed by the Telecommunications Code 2003. This gives added security to a mobile phone provider and can make it almost impossible for them to be removed from a site. If there are difficulties in this respect legal advice is an absolute essential requirement.

I have just bought some land which is subject to something called an ESA Agreement. Is that a problem

An ESA Agreement, or an Environmentally Sensitive Area Agreement is a very important document when acquiring land. They have now been replaced by Entry Level Scheme Agreements and Higher Level Scheme Agreements. They dictate how land should be farmed. The plus side of it is that money is paid by Natural England if the land is farmed in the appropriate manner. It is all related to the protection of the environment. If you buy land subject to any of these agreements then you will be required to honour this generally as part of a sale contract.

If you sell land subject to this and a buyer does not comply with the obligations, you can be asked to repay any grant. Seek legal advice before buying or selling land subject to these kinds of agreements.

I have planning permission to develop a building into flats but there is a covenant saying that it can only be used as a single dwelling house. Is there any way around this

There may be. First of all we would check that the covenant is properly enforceable. Very often they are not. Another possibility is taking out an insurance policy. If nobody has made reference to the covenant during the planning process there is a good chance such a policy will be available. You could approach the person with the benefit of the covenant although there are dangers in this in that it is likely to be uninsurable if you have made the approach and they are bound to want a substantial amount of money for its release.

I put my Industrial Unit on with a local commercial agent to sell. They have told me I have to have an Asbestos Survey to sell the property. Is this right

The short answer is yes. This is required for the purposes of complying with Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 or Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. This has been in force for many years and an assessment needs to be done and if there is the presence of asbestos it is possible to have a scheme in place to manage it. Expert advice is essential in this respect.

I sell takeaway food but not alcohol do I still need a Licence

Yes if you sell hot food or hot drinks between the hours of 11pm and 5am for consumption on or off the premises. However provided you do not sell alcohol for consumption on or off the premises or both then you would not need a Personal Licence.

If I break the planning laws and wait long enough, can the local planning authority always sue me?

No. In most circumstances if you change the use of property and wait ten years or if you carry out building or other constructional work and four years have passed then there is nothing the planning authority will be able to do to enforce the law against you. There are one or two exceptions – for example the breach of a planning condition would need ten years to pass before it became unenforceable. The planning system is designed to have some in built flexibility.

Is there a way I can agree to only buy a piece of land if I know a planning permission I am about to apply for is successful

Yes, provided that the person selling it will cooperate. The best way forward would be an Option to purchase. This means that within perhaps one year you could serve a notice and be guaranteed purchasing the property at a certain price. An alternative is a planning conditional contract – your seller will prefer this because provided you get the planning permission you have to buy. You could not simply change your mind. Finally you could wait until the planning permission is granted, but the process can take eight weeks and you may stand the chance of losing the deal

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