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Deposit – return

Section 49 LPA 1925 says ‘the court may, if it thinks fit, order the repayment of any deposit’. But, the court is likely to take a hard approach. This is well illustrated by a recent case where, one week before completion, the seller was told by the buyer that he might be late completing because of delay in funds coming from Nigeria. The seller then made two offers to put back the date of completion, in return for a modest increase in price. That was not agreed, so when the completion date arose, notice to complete was served. Unfortunately, the funds did not come through until one day after the deadline, so the seller forfeited the buyer’s deposit of £430,000 – and then sold elsewhere for a profit.

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Rates – appeals

Many landowners (especially in London) can expect substantial increases in business rates as a result of the latest revaluation. If in doubt, it is important to appeal that revaluation as soon as possible.

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Rentcharges – beware

If a client buys a property subject to a rentcharge then be sure to give clear and emphatic advice about the importance of never allowing rentcharge payments to fall into arrears.

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Public rights – signage

There has been much emphasis in recent years on the importance of erecting signs to prevent rights of way arising by prescription. In particular, readers may remember the case of the Conservative Club whose forecourt was used by customers of an adjoining fish and chip shop; it was held that the clear sign (‘private carpark’) was sufficient to prevent a private right of way arising. (See Winterburn [2016] – noted in our July 2016 issue, p14).

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Prescription – boundaries

If a right over land is acquired by long use (prescription) then how do you determine the boundaries of the land affected?

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Airbnb – unlawful letting

There has been much publicity about the Upper Tribunal decision on whether a long-lease T can do short-term holiday lets (eg airbnb). The conclusion is that, in most instances, such lettings will be in breach of the covenants in the lease. In our November 2016 issue (p19) we looked at that case, in which the lease said that the premises were not to be used ‘for any purpose whatsoever other than as a private residence’, although there was no clause prohibiting sub-letting. T argued that an airbnb letting did not prevent the flat from retaining its characteristic as a ‘private residence’ and thus she was not in breach of the lease. In short, she argued that there was no difference between a short-term airbnb let, and an assured shorthold tenancy (which would have been permitted).

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Highway – ransom strips

Buyers need to be alert to the existence of highway ransom strips – which are strips of land in third-party ownership separating the site from the publicly adopted highway. In such a situation it will not be possible for the landowner to get directly onto the highway without crossing the strip, and thus an action (or injunction) for trespass may lie.

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Airbnb – Deregulation Act 2015

Deregulation Act 2015 allows the use of residential premises in Greater London for temporary sleeping accommodation for up to 90 days pa, without this being a material change of use (for planning purposes). At the same time, the Act allows LAs to apply to the Secretary of State for particular residential premises to be excluded from that provision.

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SDLT – 3% surcharge

At the end of 2016, HMRC published updated guidance on the 3% SDLT residential surcharge as it applies to: student accommodation, subsidiary dwellings, lease extensions, legal interests with no beneficial interest, and mixed-use property:

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SDLT – commercial property

  A reminder that in March 2016 SDLT on commercial premises changed from the ‘slab’ system to the ‘slice’ system (in the same way as is charged on residential property). The rates are:

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