Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
I note you have no formal lease and a former licence expired 4 years ago and there has been no attempt to negotiate a new lease.
In practice have you had sole occupation of the whole office premises?
Can you show that you have paid regular rent each quarter or whatever rental period you agreed and that that rent is not in arrears?
In practice have you had sole occupation of the whole office premises?Yes. The building is split into offices and we soley occupy and pay business rates for Office A-B.
Yes we pay every Q
Thanks and you're not in arrears?
Thank you. Based on what you say you have the basis to claim you hold a sub lease of the property from the sub landlord as you can show that you have occupied the premises solely and paid regular rent and no further licence or any other form of tenancy has been in the process of being negotiated. This means you have the basis to claim tenant status.
the effect of forfeiture by the head landlord (freeholder) means that the sub landlords lease is extinguished and with it your unwritten lease
However any tenant or subtenant can claim releif from forfeiture. As sub tenant your right to claim releif is contained in s146(4) Law of Property Act 1925.
providing you can show that you have a tenancy, as discussed above, and that your rent is up-to-date, a court has discretion to grant relief from forfeiture under the above Act. Your landlord can also apply if he bring his rent up to date.
Does the freeholder have any right to access the premises and change the locks?
If the court grants relief, in the case of your landlord, the court would order that his lease is reinstated and with it your tenancy. If you apply, there is no lease to reinstate but the court can order a new lease is granted directly between you and the head landlord (freeholder) oon such terms as it thinks fit in the circumstances having regard to all the circumstances.
To make an application for relief you apply using form N5A
Alternatively you could consider negotiating a new lease directly with the Head Landlord either as an alternative or at the same time as making the above application
Ref your last post, if rent is unpaid by your Landlord then providing his lease has a reentry provision (most commercial tenancies do) the head landlord is entitled to re-enter the premises and change the locks. this action, providing it is authorised by the lease as above, has the effect of bringing that lease to an end and no further obligations in terms of rent are owed under it though the head landlord can still potentially pursue your landlord for repairs but this is a matter between the head landlord and your landlord rather than you
the impact on you is that the above action, providing is properly authorised as above, also brings your tenancy to an end hence the requirement for you to consider whether to negotiate a new lease or apply for relief from forfeiture using the above form.
Does the above answer all your questions or is there anything I can clarify or help you with any further?
The letter suggests we are trespassing and doesn't say how long we can stay at the premises if we don’t agree a lease with the freeholder. Does the freeholder have to give us any notice to leave?
that's the last question......
Unfortunately not. A tenant has no redress against valid forfeiture except an application for relief. Your only immediate redress is for an urgent application for relief as above. Equally of course there is nothing preventing simulataneous negotiation for a new lease with the head landlord.
do remember that from a landlord's point of view, unless he is looking to redevelop the property, an empty property is a liability and so he will be keen to let the property in most circumstances as quickly as possible
It should therefore be possible to come to an amicable arrangement without recourse to court but the application for relief at court is there if necessary.
If I can assist any further as the situation develops please do not hesitate to revert to me
Will do. Once I have calmed down I will negotiate a new lease with the new Landlord who is not a pleasant man.
many thanks for your help....
Do get a solicitor involved as commercial leases can hide very costly clauses and there is little protection like there is for consumer contracts.