Do I really need a solicitor? Commercial property perils

Senior Associate Solicitor Cathy AllenIn this series, we explore real-life examples that our lawyers have encountered where failing to seek solicitor advice has caused clients all manner of problems. Along the way there are useful ‘takeaways’ to help you avoid making the same mistakes. 

When dealing with property, there are strict formalities that must be adhered to and countless traps for the unwary.

We often assist clients who find themselves in tricky situations, having not taken legal advice before making arrangements regarding their property.

Cathy Allen (pictured), Senior Associate Solicitor in our Commercial Litigation team and an expert on all contentious property matters, highlights some recent examples below.

Onerous liabilities from entering a lease without legal advice

Recently, Cathy has encountered several clients who have entered into leases without taking legal advice, and found themselves subject to onerous unforeseen liabilities.

For instance, one client found themselves liable to the landlord for damages for putting the property into repair at the end of the lease, even though the property was in a poor state of repair at the start of the lease.

Similarly, Cathy has recently advised a client who took a short lease of some office premises, not realising that the lease required them to share in the cost of structural repairs to the building. The landlord took the opportunity to carry out major structural works, and to seek to recoup the costs from the tenant under the lease.

In both instances, had the client taken legal advice at an early stage, we could have protected the client’s position and ensured they were not saddled with the substantial unforeseen costs at a later date.

Oversight in a business sale creates trouble years later

When our client sold their business, they did not realise the importance of formally transferring the lease of the office premises. Some years later, our client received an unwelcome demand for unpaid rent and damages from the former landlord, along with a substantial demand for business rates from the local authority. The purchaser of our client’s business had absconded, leaving our client with potentially huge debts.

Had our client taken property advice when the business was sold, they would have been fully protected against any unexpected claims.

Landlord’s costs for essential works unrecoverable

A landlord client carried out essential repair works to the roof and structure of a block of flats. The cost of the works was, in theory, recoverable from the tenants as part of the service charge under the flat leases, but the landlord was not aware that they had a statutory obligation to consult with the flat-owners on the anticipated costs before carrying out any works.

Unfortunately, having not consulted the tenants, the landlord could only recover £250 from each tenant, meaning the landlord was left substantially out of pocket.

Had the landlord taken advice on the complex legal requirements which govern residential service charges before carrying out the works, all the landlord’s costs would have been recoverable from the tenants.

Expert legal advice on commercial property disputes

For expert advice on any commercial property dispute, or for advice on how to protect your position in order to avoid disputes in future, please contact Cathy Allen at or 01323 435900.

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