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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10915
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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Hi. I am the lessee of a small village shop and post office,

Customer Question

Hi. I am the lessee of a small village shop and post office, which includes living accommodation. I purchased the goodwill, stock and fixtures from previous tenants and I pay rent under the lease to the Landlords who are Trustees of 1971 Settlement of a local Estate.

There have been 7 small signs on grass verges directing people to the shop from the nearby B road and pedestrians from the local marina for many years. On purchasing the business I bought the existing signs from the outgoing tenants. During my 2.5 year tenancy some of the signs have become dilapidated and I have replaced them with new ones of the same size. There have been no objections to the signs.

Last week 5 disappeared. A number of shop customers advised they had seen estate workers take them. I phoned the estate office and asked them to be returned by the following day. I heard nothing from them and reported it to the police as theft. They visited estate office and refuse to give me a crime number as they were told the signs were taken "in error" and in the opinion of the PC no crime committed. The following day one sign was reinstated, the others have not been returned. I cannot claim on insurance as police will not give crime number.

Yesterday I received letter from owner of Estate stating signs had been removed because they were on estate land and therefore my permission was not sought prior to removing the signs.

My understanding from Highways and Parish Council is that the land is Highways as they were all on grass verges adjacent to road or pavement. On all locations there is a fence or hedge separating estate land from the verges and my signs were all on the highway side.

The items clearly belonged to me as they have the name of the shop on them. I believe they were taken by the estate owner in order to deliberately deprive me of the signs in order to put me out of business. He has made it very clear in the time I have been here that my ethnicity is not to his liking and he "would get more rent if premises were converted into two houses".

Is the removal of the signs theft, regardless of whose land they were on? Although the police accepted their explanation that they were taken "in error" the letter subsequently received from estate owner clearly states they deliberately took them. I explained to the police why I believe they were taken and they are not interested.

If not theft, can I demand they return signs to me?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.

Alex Watts : Hello my name is Alex and I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return You do not need to wait here as you will get an email when I reply.
Alex Watts : Is there anything in your agreement regarding erection of signs please?
JACUSTOMER-xspusrvj- :

No. The signs were already there when I bought business. I replaced them 18 months ago with same size. Although estate say land is theirs, neither the Highways or Parish Council agree as they are on grass verges outside the boundary fences of estate land.

Alex Watts :

Have the Estate provided evidence that it is theirs please?

JACUSTOMER-xspusrvj- :

No, they have not provided evidence of who owns the grass verges. Their letter says ...."the signs were displayed on Estate land - not land belonging to the Highways Department"

Alex Watts : If they have not provided evidence then they can not simply say this is the case.
Alex Watts : This is theft and criminal damage.
Alex Watts : Therefore you could sue for breach if contract.
Alex Watts : You could get a replacement quotes and ask them to replace it,
Alex Watts : You need to write and set out your losses and request a refund within 14 days or say you will go to Court within 14 days. You should make sure you send this signed delivery and keep a copy. If they do not refund you then you can issue proceedings in the County Court. You can either do this online at: www.moneyclaim.gov.uk (but as you are abroad the system may not let you) or by completing form N1 http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n001-eng.pdf and take it to your local County Court. The Court will then issue a claim which a copy will be sent to the Defendant who will have a limited time to defend it, if not you can enter Judgment and enforce. If the matter is defended it will be set down for a trial. If the claim is for £10,000 or less it will be a small claim and you will not need representation. Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
JACUSTOMER-xspusrvj- :

I am not sure what you mean by "as you are abroad". I am in the UK. I don't understand what you mean by breach of contract. I fail to see what this has to do with my lease. As I stated, my Landlords are the Trustees of the estate. The person who told the estate workers to take my signs is a beneficiary of the Trust not one of the Trustees. The police are not interested as he happens to have a title, but one would expect the same laws to apply regardless. If it is theft and criminal damage, can I insist police give me a crime reference number?

Alex Watts : I can't see where I mentioned abroad?
Alex Watts : Breach of contract - this is because there is no clause saying its their land or they can remove it, so beach of contract.
Alex Watts : You can insist on a crime reference.
Alex Watts : Does this help?
JACUSTOMER-xspusrvj- :

You can either do this online at: www.moneyclaim.gov.uk (but as you are abroad the system may not let you) or by c

JACUSTOMER-xspusrvj- :

Your response said "You can either do this online at: www.moneyclaim.gov.uk (but as you are abroad the system may not let you) or by ..."

Alex Watts : My mistake I did not mean to put that.
Alex Watts : Is there anything else I need to help you with?
Alex Watts :

If this answers your question could I invite you leave feedback on my service which I hope has been excellent today, if you need more information or help then please click reply.

Please remember that I am always happy to help if you have future questions, even if I am in Court I can normally respond within a few hours. For future information, please start them with ‘For Alex W’.

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