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Your top property questions answered

This page gives you some examples of the kind of questions the Property Advice Service receives most often. Use the answers given to search and explore our Property Advice Resources to help you with your property enquiry.

1. We’re a fairly new charity looking to move into our first property – how do we go about looking for an office to rent?

2. We are running out of space in our current building. We’ve found new premises but are worried about the move itself – what do we need to think about when moving offices?

3. Our current lease is coming to an end in the next 12 months. We’re not yet sure whether to stay or go. What advice can you give us about ending or renewing our lease?


4. Our Chief Executive is keen to buy a building as a base for our charity. Would you recommend buying? If so, what is the process for purchasing that perfect building once we've found it?


5. We are thinking of subletting part of our property. What are the issues that we need to bear in mind?

6. We’ve just taken over responsibility for managing our building. What advice can you give us so that we can manage the building as responsibly and efficiently as possible?


1. We’re a fairly new charity looking to move into our first property – how do we go about looking for an office to rent?

  • Firstly decide whether you really need an office.  As a new organisation running an office may be expensive not just in terms of rent but travel costs, equipment and insurance.
  • If you decide you do need an office, think about what type of office space you need; just one desk in a shared office or a whole building?
  • Start putting together a brief which should cover items such as accessibility, IT, staff, travel, cost and even the quality of the premises.
  • Once you have decided what you want, it's time to find an office that meets your brief. Make sure you carry out your viewings in a systematic manner; create a checklist from your brief to make sure the building has everything you need.
  • Think carefully about the full costs of renting a building: as well as rent these might also include IT costs, energy bills, repairs, maintenance, security, cleaning and insurance.

2. We are running out of space in our current building. We’ve found new premises but are worried about the move itself – what do we need to think about when moving offices?

  • Now that you’ve found a new property and have negotiated a good lease, how do you make the move as easy as possible?
  • Moving always takes longer than you think! To make the process as smooth as possible you need to do a lot of forward planning
    • You will need to think about your existing premises: 
      • Doing any works required by your lease; 
      • Cancelling all services and utilities - and potentially moving those contracts over to your new building.
    • For your new building you may need to:
      • Put together a budget for refurbishment and fit out;
      • Organize new IT systems for your office;
      • Print new stationery and update your website (so people know you’ve moved!) 
      • Ensure your staff know how the move is going to happen.
  • The property you will be moving into may well require some form of refurbishment or fit out to make the space suitable for your organisation. When planning a refurbishment project you need to keep an eye on three things;
    • Cost (contractors, materials, and whether you are eligible for empty property relief);
    • Time (getting a good estimate of time needed);
    • Writing a brief of the refurbishments you want done.
  • If you are planning a substantial refurbishment project you may need to find financing for your project, possibly through grants or a loan.
  • Part of the refurbishment brief will involve designing the layout of your office: it is important to ensure you make the best possible use of the space you have. Think about how your organisation and staff work best, but also think about technical issues such as where your IT cabling will be.
  • You will need to ensure that you’ve organised for all the key services to be in place from day one. Services are an easily overlooked but essential part of the moving process, and include basics like gas and electricity, your phone and IT systems, waste and recycling, insurance and post!

3. Our current lease is coming to an end in the next 12 months. We’re not yet sure whether to stay or go. What advice can you give us about ending or renewing our lease?
  • If your lease is coming to an end you need to think carefully about whether to stay or leave. Think about what you want from a building:
    • Do your current premises meet all those needs? 
    • Are you happy with the rent you are currently paying, or might you be able to negotiate a reasonable new lease? It’s worth having a look around the local property market to see if you have a great bargain or an overpriced elephant!
    • Are your service and utility bills manageable? 
    • Do you feel the management of your building is taking up more staff time then it should?
  • If you decide you would like to stay, you should start working towards renewing your lease. You can do this yourself but if you don’t feel confident it might be a good idea to look into appointing a commercial property surveyor to negotiate the terms. You can find a reliable and affordable surveyor using our Register of Property Professionals.  You should note that if you have security of tenure under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, the landlord will only be required to grant the new lease on essentially the same terms as your expiring lease, except for setting a new rent.
  • If you decide to move, think about what moving might cost you: this will include moving costs, professional fees, staff time and resources.
  • When you’ve made the decision to leave your current property you will need to begin the process of ending your lease, whether simply leaving the property on the last day of the lease, assigning the lease to another organisation or exercising a break clause.
  • The process of moving out is often overlooked but getting your staff ready to move, cancelling all services, redirecting mail and booking movers can all take longer than anticipated.
  • One important point to remember is dilapidations; you must leave the premises in the state stipulated in your lease. This could be as simple as cleaning the office and a quick coat of paint, or might be more considerable, for example removing partition walls and doing major works on the building.
  • Your landlord will send you a schedule of dilapidations listing the work that needs to be done. This can be very expensive but remember that you can negotiate to reduce the scope and costs of dilapidations. You can engage a building surveyor who specialises in dilapidations to help you with this.
  • Whichever route you take, ensure you’ve considered all the costs involved so that you end up in the best place for your organisation.

4.  Our Chief Executive is keen to buy a building as a base for our charity. Would you recommend buying? If so, what is the process for purchasing that perfect building once we've found it?
  • As always it is good to start with the question of whether you should buy. There are advantages and disadvantages to buying a property; you have a more secure asset for your organisation from which you may be able to sublet space or extend the premises and you won’t be exposed to sudden rent increases. But you may be affected by interest rate rises, by property values going down and you will be responsible for all services, repairs and maintenance.
  • Is buying a building feasible for your organisation? You will need to consult various people to make an informed decision; 
    • Check whether your board is prepared to buy; 
    • Does your solicitor believe you can get out of your current lease easily?
    • Will your bank be willing to give you a mortgage - or a trust a grant?
    • Does a local surveyor believe you can find a building to your specifications and price in the areas you are looking?
  • Once you’ve done all your background research and decided that purchasing a property is the right decision for your organisation, now comes the potentially hard task of finding a suitable property.
  • Searching for the perfect property can be a long process. Put together a thorough brief for your search to ensure you are as focused as possible.  You may want to consider choosing and instructing a commercial property agent or surveyor to undertake a search for you. Be inventive about where you look and don’t forget to walk around the area you are interested in moving to: you never know what you might find!
  • Financing the buying of a property often requires a mixture of different types of finance, usually including some form of loan. You need to begin with a realistic purchase price which includes money for refurbishment, moving, legal fees and any taxes you may be eligible to pay. Putting together a finance package which is manageable for your organisation is key; you do not want to end up with repayments that will not be sustainable in the long term.
  • You will need to engage a number of different property professionals throughout this process: make sure you are clear when you should engage professionals and how to make the most of their knowledge and skills.
  • As a charity you will need to ensure that you are complying with the relevant sections of the Charities Act 2011: this requires you to have taken on any loan and building at the best terms possible. 

5. We are thinking of subletting part of our property. What are the issues that we need to bear in mind?
  • An increasing number of charities are considering becoming landlords.  Being a landlord can range from renting a couple of spare desks in your office to establishing dedicated serviced office accommodation. 
  • You then need to think about why you want to be a landlord: are you letting space purely to generate income or are you hoping to nurture smaller groups and give them a helping hand? This will impact on the sort of rents you might charge and the spaces you might let out.
  • It is most important to figure out how much being a landlord will cost and what you will need to charge prospective tenants to make it feasible. This will need to cover rent, service charges and any VAT.
  • Once you know what space can be let out and how much you will need to charge, it's time to find some tenants.
  • You will also need to set up a lease or licence which will protect you as landlord, but also be fair and reasonable for your tenants. As a landlord you should always get professional advice when carrying out property dealings. This is a specialist area and you can trip up badly without advice. You will need to instruct solicitors and commercial property surveyors to help you set up the legal agreement between yourself and your tenants.  You can find suitable professionals through our Register of Property Professionals.
  • When your tenants move in you will need to ensure that communication between you is strong, that the tenants are aware of their responsibilities and that you are clear about how you will act if they ever breach the lease or licence.
  • Whether you are subletting to generate income from surplus space – or as an innovative way of supporting start-up organisations – there are real benefits to be achieved for the charity and its tenants.

6. We’ve just taken over responsibility for managing our building. What advice can you give us so that we can manage the building as responsibly and efficiently as possible?
  • Whether your building is large or small, managing it can be a drain on resources, in terms of time and money. But if you plan for the future and get a clear understanding of what your responsibilities are, then you can save yourself money and run the building efficiently.
  • Whether you are a landlord or tenant there are a number of health and safety issues that you must consider and act on if necessary. But be aware the law states that if you employ over five members of staff, you must have a written Health and Safety Policy and Risk Assessments completed.
  • As a charity you want to be available to as many of your community and clients as possible, so part of your ongoing property management should be aimed at making your premises more accessible. Equality Act 2010 compliance states that you need to make reasonable adjustments to your property - but anything which you can do to make a space more accessible for a range of disabilities should be considered.
  • Many charities are committed to trying to reduce their environmental impact. It is an important issue and there are a lot of things you can do to your building to help you reach that target. Many of these actions will also save you money as they make your energy usage more efficient and save on waste.

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