The real estate sector is facing considerable change. From the impact of new technology on working practices to the effect of demographic changes on the housing market, there are significant challenges – and opportunities – for real estate owners, investors and occupiers.
In this changing landscape, you need the legal experts on your side. Our Real Estate team act for clients across all business sectors, with a national presence that means we can understand our clients’ markets from a local perspective.
We’ve put together this list of key legal developments affecting real estate in 2018 so you can avoid any potential risks and achieve your business ambitions. If you need help getting there, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards
Are you the landlord of a commercial property with an Energy Performance Certificate rating of F or G? If so, it will be unlawful to grant a new lease of your property (including by way of extension or renewal of an existing lease) after 1 April 2018 unless an exemption applies.
If you think one of the numerous exemptions applies to your building, you should lodge that exemption on a centralised register.
If you are a tenant of an F or G rated property you should carefully check the wording of your lease to see if your landlord is able to pass on the costs of complying with these standards.
• From 1 April 2018, Stamp Duty Land Tax will be replaced by a new Land Transaction Tax in Wales. Whilst broadly similar, there are some differences of which buyers and tenants of Welsh property will need to be aware. This is the first Welsh tax in almost 800 years and may be followed by a new tax relating to vacant land.
• Following the Autumn 2017 budget, we will see some reforms to business rates and additional taxation for overseas investors in UK property.
Electronic Communications Code
The new Electronic Communications Code (which will govern the relationship between telecoms providers and landowners) will be in force in 2018. The code tips the balance further in favour of telecoms providers, who will benefit from increased flexibility in upgrading and sharing apparatus.
Landowners and developers, in contrast, will face less certainty as to which operator has equipment on their land and will not welcome the changes in the way compensation to landowners is to be assessed.
A new mandatory service charge code?
RICS is consulting on a new service charge code, certain elements of which would be mandatory. The aim is to provide more efficient regulation of the area, to protect tenants from having to pay unscrupulous repair or maintenance costs and to increase confidence in the marketplace as a result. If the new code is adopted, it will mark a real sea change in property management.
• 2018 will see continued tension between the nation's identified need for substantially more house-building and the reluctance of most of the population to have it anywhere near them, especially in non-urban areas. Notwithstanding the government’s revised target of 300,000 homes a year by “the mid-2020s”, the Green Belt will remain sacrosanct – including the despoiled parts of it. The government will investigate land banking, and discover (again) that not much of it is taking place.
• The government will further complicate the already byzantine Community Infrastructure Levy.
• There will be wider permitted development rights, removing the need for some sites to obtain planning permission.
• The government will continue to target first time buyers with measures like Help to Buy and the Stamp Duty cut – but these measures will be capitalised into higher house prices, and will actually benefit home owners, not first time buyers.
The government has recently published two consultations:
1 The impact of the 2011 changes to the Construction Act (concerning payment, adjudication and suspension for non-payment)
2 The use of cash retention in the construction industry.
It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, these consultations give rise to.
Case law to watch out for
• In June, the Court of Appeal is to review what is believed to be the first decided case on the liability for property damage caused by Japanese knotweed. At first instance, it was found to be a legal nuisance to have knotweed growing within seven metres of a built structure on neighbouring land (Waistell and Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure)
• The Supreme Court is likely to consider the relevance of a landlord’s motive in opposing the renewal of a business tenancy on the grounds of redevelopment. The previous decision was that it was irrelevant that a landlord’s proposed scheme of works was merely a device to satisfy the relevant ground of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (S Franses Ltd v Cavendish Hotel (London) Ltd).
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