PropertyLaw.guru Blog

EG 02-05-20

More coronavirus market news and predictions of a radical change in the attitude to work - more working from home, less need for offices and the death of the co-working shared office space market (until a vaccine is found)

p.34 What will courts and tribunals do post covid? Since mi-march virtually all civil hearings have been heard by video or telephone. However the litigation system lives and breathes paper - bundles of paper. Many courts will only accept hard copy filings. There is rarely the facility for witnesses to use electronic bundles and judges cannot sometimes access electronic documents! The saving in travelling to a distant court  for 10 min hearings is removed, and waiting time. However county courts are underesouced and may have less IT and admin support for much greater volume of business transacted there. Looks at the problems and the possible future

p.37 Furloughed employers - what happens next? Will employers extend it beyond 30th June, with or without government support? Discusses the practical and safety issues of a return to work, phased returns, discrimination issues, selection criteria, redundancy options, flexible working, etc.

p.38 Enfranchisement reform - how are the Law Commission’s proposals affecting the market? Discusses the confusion multiplicity of options the January Law Commission report suggested. The main tricky point is how to deal with marriage value - none payable, hope value, or no change, plus 7 sub options! They consider the status quo will remain, but processes will be simplified and unified across all three scenarios (lease extension, collective enfranchisement and buying the freehold of a leasehold house). There may be ground rent capping. It could all take years, and the article discusses what tenants should do in the meantime if they need to take action, such as leases nearing 80 years left, voluntary deals.

p.40 How should rent be valued during the pandemic? Looks at the position of commercial lease renewal under the 1954 Act and the difficulties of assessing the rent payable by  the hypothetical ‘willing lessees/landlords’ in the current pandemic. The difficult of comparable or narrow user clauses, closed properties (e.g.pubs), rent-free applications negotiations in the market etc are all discussed.

p.42 Community Infrastructure Levy - looks at a rare decision on CIL, Oval Estates v Bath & North East Somerset Council [2020] EWHC 457, where developers were held to be only able to spread CIL payments over development phases if a phasing plan is included in the list of approved plans on the face of the permission. It is not sufficient to assume the s.106 can deal with it.

p.43 Breaching housing standards in HMOs Sutton v Norwich CC [2020]UKUT 90 considered whether a local authority had correctly levied financial penalties on the director of an aparthotle for breach of housing standards. The former office block in question had been converted to an Aparthotel in breach of building regulations. The council designated it an HMO under s.257 Housing Act 2004 (blocks converted into self contained flats where fewer than two thirds ae owner occupied) and served improvement notices. The owner failed to comply and civil penalties of £236,000 were imposed on both the company owner and its sole director! The owner appealed saying it was a hotel not an HMO but the UT held is a relevant criterion, and 30 of the 47 flats were residences held on licences that were in reality ASTs. The fines were reduced to £174,000 but this case is a warning to developers jumping on the bandwagon of converting scruffy office blocks to bedsits.
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