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Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I am a small business in London, and have been renting offices

Customer Question

I am a small business in London, and have been renting offices since 1990 (ie. well over 20 years) directly from the landlords (two brothers). Back then, neither of us wanted an actual tenancy agreement, because I was worried about a punitive lease (standard at that time was 20 years, which seemed onerous for a small business), and it suited us both to have a flexible oral arrangement, whereby I could give a few month's notice, and they weren't tied up in anything legal themselves either. They own the other buildings in the mews, ran a business there themselves, but have now decided they want to sell the whole mews to a developer.
My question is - do we have any rights as very long standing commercial 'sitting tenants' if such a phrase still exists? How much notice must they give us, and are they obliged to offer us money to move? I know the law has changed in relation to residential tenants and squatting, but perhaps not to commercial. It's not that I'd feel comfortable squatting, but after all this time, the idea of moving out, and the expense of starting all over somewhere new is daunting, and expensive.
Could you let me know what rights I have, if any?
Many thanks
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 4 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 : It is bad news I am sorry to say.
Alex Watts : You have no written agreement which means that you have a tenancy at will.
Alex Watts : A tenancy at will gives no security if tenure whatsoever. This means that it can be terminated at any time by either party by giving notice.
Alex Watts : Depending in how you pay your rent would dictate how much notice you were to receive.
Alex Watts : For example if you paid monthly then you would be entitled to a months notice.
Alex Watts : If you paid quarerly then you would be entitled to 3 months notice.
Alex Watts : So to answer your question do you have rights as a very long standing commercial tenant - save for the above notice period, no
Alex Watts : You would not be squatting as you have rented that property for some time and are a permitted tenant.
Alex Watts : But sadly if you do not move they could seek a court order after the notice period expires.
Alex Watts : I am sorry if this is not the answer you want and it is certainly not the one I want to give you, but I have a duty to be honest.
Alex Watts : Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
JACUSTOMER-er0z0pvk- : Yes I would like to ask a couple of things but can't until tomorrow as had a small operation today and am a bit tired. Hope that's ok. Thanks
Alex Watts :

That is ok - but I am in Court tomorrow, so may be some delay.

JACUSTOMER-er0z0pvk- :

I was inevitably disappointed by the answer. I suppose I'd assumed that after all these years, we essentially had an oral contract which is as good as a written one. Out of interest, if we'd had a tenancy agreement, how different would the position have been ie. if it had said we had to give 3 months notice, or 6 month's notice for example? I do remember once my landlord telling me it would be 6 months notice on either side, to be fair, when I'd asked him what the position was hypothetically. He would probably deny knowledge of this conversation given that it was years ago.

Alex Watts : if you can prove 6 months then that is fine,
Alex Watts : I am sorry as I know it's not the answer you want but sadly without any agreement there are simply no rights.
Alex Watts : Does this help?
JACUSTOMER-er0z0pvk- :

But I still don't understand. I thought the law said that contractually an oral agreement is as binding as a written agreement? What is the law on that point?

Alex Watts :

Yes oral contracts are legally binding. Clearly there is an issue on evidence on that point.

Alex Watts :

Does that clarify?

Alex Watts :

Is there anything else I can help with?

JACUSTOMER-er0z0pvk- : Well as we clearly had an oral contract as tenants, where does that leave me? I feel none the wiser is the problem ...
Alex Watts : But all you would be entitled to is a few mo t
Alex Watts : But a,l yo
Alex Watts : But all you would be entitled to is a few months notice that is it.
Alex Watts : There is no lease, there is no fixed tenancy, it is a tenancy at will.
Alex Watts : If the block was sold sadly the new owner would just need to give you a few months norice.
Alex Watts : There is no security of tenure without a written lease I am sorry to say.
Alex Watts : Does that clarify for you?