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The who's who of the property world

Below you can find further information on choosing and instructing:

Solicitors

A solicitor will manage all the legal aspects of taking on a lease or purchasing a property. There are certain areas where it always pays to use a solicitor, due to the technical complexity of certain aspects of the work. These include:

  • reviewing the lease drafted by your landlord’s solicitor (or, in the case of an assignment/assignation, reviewing the existing lease) to ensure your position is protected
  • serving or responding to notices eg. to exercise a break clause, deal with lease renewal negotiations or respond to rent review notices

If you are buying a property your solicitor will:

  • undertake investigations on the title of the property
  • carry out searches to check if there are any problems with the property 
  • ensure any purchase or disposal of property complies with the Charities Act
  • manage the completion of your purchase

Other than the smallest 'high street' firms, most law firms will have some degree of expertise in commercial property.  However, there are a number of unique issues that arise in property transactions for charities and social enterprises, and this is a particularly specialist area of law.  Taking up an offer of free or low cost advice from a solicitor without charity law expertise can prove a false economy if problems come to light later on.

Costs

Solicitors don't always charge a fixed fee for a particular job. The bill will often be worked out on an hourly basis, so the longer it takes, the more it costs. A solicitor must give you a cost estimate at the outset, usually at the first interview. If an hourly rate is quoted, you may want to agree a fixed spending limit. If the costs look likely to go over this limit your solicitor will contact you to warn you and get your agreement to continue. You should also clarify what the solicitor will charge you for abortive work eg. if you pull out of lease negotiations part way through. The agreed fee should be clearly specified in the solicitor’s initial ‘client care'/'engagement ’ letter.

When choosing a solicitor, you need to check who you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis. As with the fee, this should be specified in the 'client care' letter.

Surveyors

The term ‘surveyor’ is used to describe a wide range of professionals who work in land, property and construction. A ‘chartered surveyor’ is accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) as having reached a certain professional standard.

You can find advice on how to find a surveyor in 'Accessing Professional Support'.  Remember that using a local surveyor will help to keep costs down.

Ensure that you confirm a quote for the work required in advance. Surveyors might quote either on a fixed fee, or hourly basis, depending on the nature of the work. 

Building Surveyors

A building surveyor will advise on all issues regarding the building structure, and repair and maintenance of the premises.

Some building surveyors will offer a ‘walk and talk’ survey on small properties where you tour the property with the surveyor, and receive a very brief or no written report. This is cheaper than commissioning a full survey report. Building survey work is generally charged at an hourly rate.

Preparation of schedules of condition or dilapidations, or evaluation of repairing liabilities

Dilapidations work is generally quoted at an hourly rate.

Asbestos surveys

All buildings are required by law to have an asbestos survey. Many building surveyors can undertake asbestos surveys – or will be able to put you in touch with a reputable firm.

Commercial Property Surveyors and Commercial Property Agents

A commercial property surveyor will advise on the acquisition, valuation and disposal of property, and landlord and tenant issues.

Agency Services (letting and sale of land or buildings)

If you are looking to sell or let a property, an agent will market the property to identify potential purchasers or tenants, report on the offers received, negotiate sale or letting terms and instruct solicitors.

If you require assistance with finding premises, an agent will find a property on your behalf, advise on the terms of acquiring the property and liaise with solicitors on the purchase or leasing of the property.

Agents usually work on behalf of a landlord to sell or lease a property. An agent is usually ‘retained’ by a landlord to sell or lease a property. The landlord will then pay the agent’s fees. You can instruct an agent to search for and negotiate on properties on your behalf, but then you will need to pay the agent a fee for this service. Commissioning an agent can be a cost-effective way to secure a property.

If you are using an agent who is acting on behalf of the landlord, bear this in mind when you are negotiating on a sale or lease. You may feel that you’ve developed a good relationship with the agent – but at the end of the day he is doing the deal on behalf of the landlord who is paying his fees.

Agent’s fees are usually around 10% of the rent for a rented property or 1 to 1.5% of the price of a purchased property. You shouldn't pay fees for abortive work ie. if the sale or lease does not proceed. You should carefully review the detail of agency terms before signing any agreement.

Rent reviews, lease renewals and landlord and tenant issues

Fees for rent reviews and lease renewals may be based on a percentage of the annual rent, or a percentage of the saving on increase in the rent negotiated (subject to a minimum fee).

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