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Buying, selling or leasing a commercial property? Our qualified legal specialists will take care of the legal side. Get a quick, no-hassle quote here.
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Frequently asked questions
Most people use the term ‘conveyancing’ to refer to the sale and purchase of houses. It can also be used to describe commercial property transactions though. It’s the process of changing ownership of a property or creating a new legal interest in a property, such as a lease. As you can imagine, it all needs to be carefully documented, considered and timed, so that the money and the title deeds change hands at the same time. It takes a lot of work to make that happen, so that everyone’s happy with the result.
What’s the charge for transferring the money?
This is what banks charge for moving thousands of pounds between accounts.
What are the search fees?
This is what we’re charged for asking different organisations, including such as the local authority and water authority, about the property and possible problems with it. It means we can warn you about problems like contamination, planned roadworks, and rights of way.
What’s Lawyer Checker?
This is an organisation that checks whether the other person’s solicitor is qualified, genuine and honest. Needless to say, it’s worth knowing.
What’s the Land Registry charge?
The Land Registry is a government organisation that keeps track of who owns every bit of land in England and Wales. When you buy a property, they charge a fee to change its their records. If you’re granted a new lease, we’ll pay them a fee to note or register it.
What’s stamp duty?
Stamp duty is a tax that you have to pay when you buy a home or let a property worth more than a certain amount. If you purchase a commercial property, the stamp duty will be a percentage of the home’s property price. If you’re taking a new lease, the stamp duty will be based on the level of rent and the length of the term.
Can you help me understand the terms of a contract I’ve been given?
Absolutely! It’s what we’re here for. We can help you to decipher and, if appropriate, negotiate a contract or other document relating to a commercial property. Contracts can be complicated – it’s important that they’re accurate and you understand what you’re agreeing to, so it’s always best to take advice from a qualified lawyer.
Can you help me negotiate the terms of my lease?
Sure – we review and negotiate leases every day. Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, it’s important that you’re happy with the terms of the lease you’re entering into. The key terms, such as the rent and the length of the lease, are normally agreed between the parties before we’re instructed, but we’ll document them and ensure that your obligations are reasonable and doable.
What types of commercial property work does LegalZoom specialise in?
We deal most frequently with sales, purchases, new leases and re-mortgages, but our dedicated team cover such a wide spectrum of work that we’d always encourage you to contact us about your needs. Chances are, if they relate to a commercial property, we’ll be able to assist. Here are some more examples of work that our specialist lawyers handle: overage deeds; option and pre-emption agreements; new rights over neighbouring property; assignments and surrenders of existing leases and requests for landlord’s consent.
Who could assess the condition of a building for me?
An appropriately qualified building surveyor would be the best person for the job. We will not inspect your property as part of the legal process, so we cannot advise on its physical condition or whether it is fit for purpose. In all property transactions, it is very important to know the state and condition of the building, so you should arrange a full survey. The survey should identify any physical defects in the property. You may then choose to have further specialist reports and inspections carried out before you commit your hard-earned cash to buying or letting the property.
What is ‘security of tenure’?
Security of tenure is a protection under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. It’s great for business tenants but can be troublesome for landlords. If a tenant benefits from security, the end of the contractual term does not necessarily mean the end of the tenancy. The tenant would be entitled to remain in occupation and call for a renewal lease, unless the landlord can rely on one of the very limited statutory grounds for regaining possession of their property. Even if the landlord can rely on a statutory ground, terminating the lease may involve payment of statutory compensation to the tenant. A business tenant automatically benefits from security of tenure, unless the tenant agrees to give up their security before the lease is granted. This is often referred to as ‘contracting out’ and a strict statutory procedure must be followed. As security of tenure can be problematic for a landlord, many short-term leases are ‘contracted out’.
What is an EPC and why is it important?
An ‘EPC’ is an energy performance certificate. It contains information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs, plus recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money. The EPC will include an ‘energy efficiency rating’ for your property from ‘A’ (most efficient) to ‘G’ (lease efficient). An EPC has to be obtained before a property can be marketed, either for sale or to let. You could face a hefty fine if you fail to do this. It’s also now even more important to have an EPC when renting a property, because, as of April 2018, it’s illegal for a private landlord to grant a lease of a property which has an energy efficiency rating of ‘F’ or ‘G’.
Do I have to pay VAT?
We’re property lawyers, not tax experts, so we always recommend taking advice from a suitably qualified tax advisor during a commercial property transaction. In short though, whether or not you’ll pay VAT will depend on the nature of the transaction and both parties’ tax status. If you’re buying or letting a property from a seller or landlord who is registered for VAT and has ‘opted to tax’ their building, you’ll probably have to pay VAT. There are some exceptions to this, such as a sale which is a ‘transfer of a going concern’, but you’d have to meet certain criteria. Tax can be a minefield and it can be very costly if you get it wrong, so taking proper advice from a qualified expert is a must.
Why is asbestos a problem?
Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause fatal diseases, so it’s a really important issue. Before 1999, asbestos containing products were commonly found in building materials. Now, those responsible for the maintenance of commercial premises have a duty to manage asbestos. This includes carrying out a thorough inspection of the property and, if asbestos is present, keeping an asbestos register and management plan up to date. Any asbestos found in a building may be in good condition and not likely to be damaged or disturbed, so you might be able to leave it in place and just monitor it over time. Sometimes though, asbestos needs to be removed. This can only be done by a suitably qualified contractor and it can be very costly. If you’re buying or renting a property, the seller or landlord should provide you with a copy of their existing asbestos survey. If you’re taking on a property though, we would always advise you to have an up-to-date assessment carried out. It is really important to be clear on asbestos, as the responsible person may be criminally liable if they do not comply with their duties and responsibilities.
What are CPSEs?
These are ‘Commercial Property Standard Enquiries’, referred to as ‘CPSEs’ for short. They are a detailed set of enquiries which are designed to help a buyer or tenant understand the property that they’re taking on. They include questions about, for example, rights of way, asbestos, VAT and utilities. A seller or landlord should take time to carefully prepare their replies to CPSEs, making sure that they are as full and accurate as possible. They will be relied upon by the buyer or tenant, who could try to bring a claim if they later suffer a loss as a result of the replies being inaccurate or misleading.
If my property is part-residential and part-commercial, which team at LegalZoom should I contact?
The commercial conveyancing team would be best placed to handle your matter. Our friendly, dedicated team of specialists would be happy to assist and are experienced in dealing with mixed-use properties.
What is a ‘covenant’?
A covenant is basically a promise by one party with another. They can be ‘restrictive’ or ‘positive’. A ‘restrictive covenant’ is normally a promise not to do something. They bind property, not just the owner of it personally, and therefore ‘run with the land’. This means a restrictive covenant would continue to have effect, even after the property is sold on. Restrictive covenants also still apply even if they were made many years ago and appear to be obsolete. A ‘positive covenant’ is a promise to do something. Positive covenants do not necessarily bind property in the same way that restrictive covenants do, so it is important to be sure that any positive covenants which are for your benefit will continue to be enforceable if the person making the promise sells their property.
What is indemnity insurance?
An ‘indemnity insurance’ policy would give you some protection if there is an issue with the property that either cannot be resolved or cannot be resolved quickly enough to meet your desired timescales for completion. The policy only offers financial compensation though and cannot correct a defect with a property, so having it does not mean that no problems will occur in the future. The policy will normally cost a one-off premium (rather than an annual fee) and will be in force for a fixed period of time (such as 20 years). If you’re taking out an indemnity policy, you should read all of the terms and conditions of the policy very carefully and be sure you can comply with them.