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Court’s approach to business lease renewal term clarified

Landlords and tenants asking for business lease renewals face more of a balancing exercise by the courts, meaning some tenants may end up with longer terms than they applied for, following a recent ruling.

A supermarket occupied a site for 20 years under a 35-year lease and asked for a renewal lease under landlord and tenant law for a term of five years. It argued that it needed flexibility, given the store’s under-performance and the volatile market.

The landlord asked for a 15-year lease on grounds that a shorter term would affect the value of its reversion, and that other supermarkets in the area had recently taken 15-year leases of their premises. The parties also disagreed about rent.

In the past, courts have usually given tenants the terms they ask for. But in this case the court ruled that the lease renewal must be for ten years with no break option. It struck a balance between protecting the tenant’s business (the main aim of the relevant law) and being fair to the landlord.

A relevant factor was that the existing lease was for such a long period. Other factors could include the length of the tenant’s occupation and the problems created for either party by granting a particular term.

Recommendation

Landlords and tenants applying for business lease renewals should present evidence as to why they are asking for a particular term, rather than evidence of terms in comparable leases, and be aware they risk a longer term being ordered than the term they applied for.

Case ref: Iceland Foods Limited v Castlebrook Holdings Limited [2014] PLSCS 95

23 October 2014

Alex Cook initially trained as a Barrister (non-practicing) before cross-qualifying as a specialist commercial and property litigation solicitor. Prior to becoming joint owner of Helix Law in 2013, he was Head of Litigation and one of the youngest partners in the region in a large firm based in Eastbourne. Comfortable and experienced litigating against large international City firms, he has successfully resolved complex commercial and property disputes for clients ranging from large international businesses and property investors to individual business people. Alex is an accredited commercial mediator  and he is increasingly asked to advise on contracts, risk, dispute avoidance and exit strategies. He also continues to develop and innovate our products, services and funding arrangements with the aim of making specialist litigation services more transparent and accessible.

This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of  this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice. 

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