Does Plan B mean that I cannot go into the office?

In an effort to tackle the large rise in Coronavirus cases, the government has recently implemented Plan B, which includes measures to try and reduce the spread of the virus.

In relation to those working in offices, the guidance states that “Office workers who can work from home should do so”. However, there are some exceptions to that recommendation. For example, when it is necessary to access certain equipment to allow a person to do their job.

The government has clearly taken into account the toll that working from home has had on certain individuals, as the guidance states that employers should consider whether working from home is appropriate for those “facing mental or physical health difficulties, or those with a particularly challenging home working environment.”

What has not changed is an employer’s obligation to provide for a safe working environment, and employers should remember this if staff will be going into the office.

The law in this article is current as of 20 December 2021.

If you have any employment law queries, please do not hesitate to contact David Nathan at dnathan@gscsolicitors.com or on 020 7822 2247.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

Commercial Landlords and Tenants with Covid-19 Rent Arrears – NEW Code of Practice

What is changing?

Commercial tenants are currently protected from eviction until 25 March 2022, to provide businesses with breathing space and help protect jobs when certain industries had to close in full or in part during the pandemic. A voluntary code for commercial landlords and tenants was introduced in June 2020, encouraging landlords and tenants to negotiate and settle rent arrears where possible.

This has now been replaced by a new voluntary Code of Practice (“the Code”), which will establish a legally binding arbitration process for commercial landlords and tenants who have not already reached agreement on existing rent arrears. The Code sets out that, in the first instance, tenants unable to pay in full should negotiate with their landlord in the expectation that the landlord waives some or all rent arrears where they are able to do so and/or agrees a payment plan, limited to 2 years.

When does the Code apply?

The Code applies to all commercial leases held by business tenants that have built up rent arrears (including service charges and insurance) due to an inability to pay, caused by being forced to close or cease trading as a result of the pandemic. This includes the hospitality, retail, leisure and manufacturing sectors. The arrears must have accrued during a ring-fenced period, being from 21 March 2020, when business closures first came into force, to the date when specific restrictions were last removed for that relevant business sector (“Ring Fenced Debts”).

The business tenants must have a “viable” business. There is no set definition of viability and the parties are asked to consider whether the business tenant, aside from the Ring Fenced Debts, has or will in the foreseeable future have, the means and ability to meet its obligations and to continue trading.  If a tenant business has not been able to pay any rent since Covid restrictions were lifted this may be evidence that the tenant business is not viable.

The Negotiation Process – what you need to show

The Code promotes a settlement that preserves – in so far as possible – the tenant business and the jobs that it supports, without undermining the solvency of the landlord. Tenants will need to show landlords sufficient evidence to substantiate their need for assistance with rent.  Landlords should also make clear to the tenants the impact of late or non-payment of rent on their own circumstances.

Evidence will vary depending on the specific circumstances but could include, existing and anticipated credit/debit balance, business performance since March 2020, overdue invoices or tax demands, exceeding overdraft limits, creditor demands, loss of important contracts, insolvency of a major customer.  When considering what is affordable for either party, this should not include restructuring, borrowing, or the taking on of further debts.

Binding Arbitration – if there is no settlement

Where the parties are unable to reach a settlement, The Commercial Rents (Coronavirus) Bill (“the Bill”) introduces a binding arbitration process.

  • Step 1 A letter of notification: the landlord or tenant must notify the other party of their intention to pursue binding arbitration. At this point the party will be expected to submit a proposal for settlement of Ring Fenced Debts, supported by any appropriate evidence of affordability.
  • Step 2 The other party may respond and can either accept the proposal made or submit a counterproposal.
  • Step 3 An application by either the landlord or the tenant together with a fee: the application must include the notification sent during the pre-application stage, their proposal for resolution and relevant supporting evidence.
  • Step 4 The other party will then have 14 days to submit their own proposal, together with any supporting evidence. Following that, the parties will have the opportunity to submit revised proposals for what the arbitrator’s award should be.
  • Step 5 Both the landlord and tenant will then be given the choice of a public hearing or, if neither party asks for a hearing, the arbitrator will consider the matter based on the documentation provided.
  • Step 6 The arbitrator will seek to conduct a hearing no more than 14 days from the receipt of a request for one. The arbitrator will decide how to conduct the hearing, which should not last more than six hours.
  • Step 7 The arbitrator will consider their decision based on the written evidence and any hearing and notify parties, within 14 days of a hearing, of the award made. The arbitrator’s award will be legally binding.
Timeframe and Fees

Parties will be given 6 months from the date the Bill comes into force to apply for the arbitration process.  It is currently anticipated that the Bill will be passed by 25 March 2022 (being the date upon which the current protection for commercial tenants expires).   The fees payable for arbitration will be payable in advance and are yet to be decided. The fees are expected to be variable; with a sliding scale, relative to the size of the rental arrears owed, used to determine a fee cap and ensure it is proportionate for each case.

Prevention of other Enforcement Action

It is important to note that the Bill will prevent other remedies from being exercised in relation to the Ring Fenced Debts, until either a settlement has been reached or the 6 month timeframe for applying to the arbitration system has passed.

Landlords will not be able to issue debt proceedings nor enforce any judgments obtained in relation to ring-fenced debts between 10 November 2021 and the end of the 6-month window for arbitration.  Landlord’s will also not be able to take any action through the Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery procedure nor commence any insolvency processes.

 PRACTICAL POINTS – what landlords and tenants need to consider
  • Landlords will want to consider carefully the long-term impact of tenant businesses failing and leaving their property empty and liable to business rates.
  • Tenants should be proactive in approaching their landlord and providing sufficient information about the impact that the pandemic has had on their business.
  • Transparency is important for both parties as agreements struck on the basis of false or misleading information are unlikely to be enforceable.
  • Landlords should not seek historic financial information or personal guarantees from tenants where none were provided when the lease commenced. The lease remains an ongoing contract between the parties and should only be varied to reflect the impact of the pandemic upon both parties.
  • Agreements made conditional upon future rent payments or payments towards arrears of rent being honoured by tenants should be flexible enough to accommodate future trading restrictions that the Government might have to impose to manage the pandemic. Future commitments might best be framed by reference to the number of days a business is able to trade normally, such after trading for X days the tenant will pay £y.

For further questions please contact Michael Shapiro directly on: mshapiro@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2246, or  Mark Richardson directly on mrichardson@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2240.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

Autumn 2021 Budget: Highlights

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, delivered the Autumn 2021 Budget on 27 October 2021. Many anticipated for there to be a major overhaul of taxes, including Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax in order to recover Government spending during the Covid-19 crisis, i.e., the cost of the Furlough Scheme. However, in fact, the Chancellor introduced very little changes to the tax system.

The most important announcements for the private client world are listed below.

Lifetime Planning
  •  The deadline for reporting and paying any capital gains tax (CGT) on a sale of residential property in the United Kingdom has been extended from 30 days to 60 days after the completion date. The time limit applies to both UK residents and non-UK residents disposing of property in the United Kingdom.
  • The income tax rates applicable to dividend income will rise by 1.25%. The dividend ordinary rate and the dividend upper rate will rise to 8.75% and 33.75% respectively. The dividend additional rate and the dividend trust rate will rise to 39.35%.
  • From 1 April 2022, the annual chargeable amounts for the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) will increase by 3.1%.
Real Estate
  •  The Government will introduce a new Residential Property Developer Tax (RPDT) on residential property development profits of a residential property developer derived from UK residential property development. This will take effect from 1 April 2022 for relevant profits arising on or after this date.
  • A new tax regime for Qualifying Asset Holding Companies (QAHCs) will come into effect from 1 April 2022. A QAHC is exempt from UK tax on gains on disposals of specific shares and overseas property as well as profits of an overseas property business that are subject to tax in an overseas jurisdiction. A number of other measures designed to simplify the taxation of financing arrangements for QAHCs will also be introduced to ease the tax and administrative burden.
Charities
  • The Government has no intention of removing any of the existing business rates reliefs, including the mandatory and discretionary charity reliefs.
  • The Government will introduce a new temporary business rates relief for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties for 2022-2023. Charities with eligible properties (such as charity shops) will benefit from a 50% relief. There will be a cap of £110,000 per business.
Companies
  •  The Government has published a Consultation containing proposals for enabling the re-domiciliation of a company’s corporate seat to the UK. It seeks views on the introduction of a UK re-domiciliation regime.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact James Cohen directly on jcohen@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2257.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

GSC Solicitors LLP’s higher rankings in the Legal 500 2022

We are proud to announce another year of continuous achievement in the Legal 500 United Kingdom 2022 rankings. A total of 10 lawyers are mentioned by name in Legal 500 UK commentary for their standout contribution to respective practices. Consistent with last year, our work has been praised by a large number of clients, current and new ones, domestic and international. Furthermore, this is another year when in the newly announced rankings, we have received, yet again, higher positions.

In particular, we were pleased to see the increase in the tables for our already highly ranked Commercial Property team that has ‘unrivalled technical knowledge with innovative thinking and superb commercial awareness’. Noted for its strong client following of blue-chip companies and high-net-worth individuals, the firm is ‘notably active in the hospitality, leisure, retail, media, healthcare and fast-food industries’. One of the names to note is practice head Harvey Posener, who is described by clients as ‘the best property lawyer in London bar none’ and ‘an exceptional lawyer, a very talented operator who is both pragmatic and intelligent;. He advises large corporate occupiers on leasing or acquiring significant headquarters buildings across the UK. Peter Belcher is also singled out as an ‘extremely experienced property lawyer who understands the complexities of purchasing a hotel’. Carole Joseph who works alongside Peter Belcher, has also been noted as ‘calm under pressure’ ‘who manages (client’s) impatience with the other parties to get the deal through.’ In general, the team is acknowledged for its ‘first-class service’ that provides ‘unrivalled property advice, far surpassing magic circle firms while retaining the benefits of a smaller practice’ while combining ‘unrivalled technical knowledge with innovative thinking and superb commercial awareness.’

We are also proud of our Private Client team that was distinguished for their ‘exceptional talent and putting the client first’ when dealing with the full array of private client matters ranging from international ultra-high-net-worth clients through to significant owner of blue-chip companies. Saleem Sheikh heads the ‘client orientated‘ team that ‘differentiates from other firms through its level of service and dedication’ that deals with a diverse range of matters such as succession planning for children coming into the business. Saleem is endorsed for his many outstanding attributes, including his ability to ‘build long-term relationships’, ‘always providing a solution’ and his ‘experience and international contacts to rival anything seen in the field’. Amanda Chapman has been noted for ‘a rare combination of’ ‘technical flair, charming personality and philanthropic passion’ as well as for her ‘specialist knowledge’ and being ‘very responsive and creative’. She was also singled out for her ‘excellent Middle eastern client base and contacts’. James Cohen is endorsed as an ‘excellent communicator’ and ‘extremely efficient’. Clients praised James as ‘a stand out individual’ who is ‘always available, friendly and efficient’. The team was also praised for its ‘focus not on the problems but structure solutions’, ‘synergy and personalised service’ and for its ‘substantial linguistic capabilities’.

Headed by Michael Shapiro, a ‘hard-working’ and ‘committed to his clients’ litigator with over 30 years of experience in dispute resolution, the ‘dedicated and strategic’ Commercial Litigation department regularly acts for clients in complex litigation matters, including cases in the Commercial Court and Privy Council. Clients recognise Michael’s ‘frank appraisals of their dispute’s risk profile’ and for his knowledge of ‘how to package a case to ensure it is favourably received in court’.  Senior Consultant Barry Samuels is continuously recommended as ‘highly experienced and active in complex commercial disputes since the 1980s’ and ‘an outstanding lawyers, who is wholly dedicated to doing his best’. GSC’s Litigation Rising Star Sana Sheikh is also mentioned in the guide.

Recommended purely on its merit, our Real Estate Finance team acts for domestic and international high-net-worth individuals and clients in the retail, hospitality and care home sectors. Peter Belcher leads the team, with skills in handling acquisition and development finance mandates, while Matthew Phillips  is adept at matters involving commercial property. ‘Competent and very easy to talk to’, the team introduced a new offering – a wide range of Islamic finance products that the firm is now able to advise clients on.

IP, Media & Entertainment that is particularly active in advising copyright collecting societies including the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), Video Performance Limited (VPL) and the Performing Right Society (PRS), is also recommended for its music industry expertise. Justin Goldspink who leads the team handles a wide range of IP matters relating to music, copyright and branding, and he is also a key contact for PPL. He co-heads the practice with Clive Halperin, who ‘offers great insight’ and has a particular interest in technology and artificial intelligence. He was described by his clients as ‘without doubt one of the best lawyers’ in the past 20 plus years’ with ‘knowledge in his field second to none’ who ‘is always available and provides concise yet detailed responses to questions and problems’.  Ross Waldram is another name to note.

Finally, we are particularly pleased with one more area that has been included in this year’s edition, our Corporate Commercial department with its M&A work. Fielding a diverse team with distinctive international capabilities, our corporate practice is noted for its ‘ever-growing focus on property technology and healthcare sector transactions, often with a cross-border element’.

Commenting on the 2022 rankings, Senior Partner Saleem Sheikh said: “The Legal 500 is a leading independent guide into the best law firms in the UK. In its 35th year, it is widely acknowledged as the world’s largest legal referral guide. We are delighted that GSC is consistently recognised for our key specialisms including commercial litigation, real estate, personal tax, trusts and probate, Media & Entertainment and now our Corporate practice. It is especially rewarding to see the genuine and exceptional testimonials given to us by our clients. With the strong client base that comes from the five continents globally, solid and longstanding client relationship remains our most valuable asset. We value that feedback especially because of the current climate in relation to COVID-19 and Brexit, the time when found it particularly important to focus on providing the sturdy guiding hand to businesses and individuals, and being there for them as their strong support system.’

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

 

Michael Shapiro features in The Guardian

Residential and commercial evictions – where are we now? That’s the question asked by The Guardian readers and answered by Michael Shapiro, who heads GSC’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution.

On 31 May 2021 the restrictions on evicting residential tenants came to an end. ‘Eviction dates are now being listed and we can expect a spate of people being evicted from their homes and pressure being put on the local authorities to rehouse them’, says Michael.

‘The restrictions on possession and forfeiture of commercial leases for non-payment of rent, and seizing a tenants goods during the Covid 19 period was due to expire on 30 June 2021 but this has now been extended until 25 March 2022. This will give tenants more time to resolve their arrears with their landlords, if they can.’

‘Commercial landlords and tenants ought to work together to avoid properties becoming empty. Landlords clearly want to have tenants in occupation paying the ongoing rent and remaining liable for all outgoings, and tenants want to stay in business and earn an income.’

The article can be accessed here

If you have been affected by the new change in law, please do not hesitate to contact Michael Shapiro directly on: mshapiro@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2246.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

 

 

Execution of a warrant of possession coming on 6th July

Today Richard Curtin who heads GSC’s Insolvency & Restructuring department, received notification from the court of the execution of a warrant of possession on 6 July.

This shows that the Courts are now enforcing warrants of possession for residential premises and sooner than many would have expected.

As to commercial premises, the moratorium on forfeiture & winding up petitions is due to end at the end of this month.

If not extended by the Government then Richard expects to see plenty of activity on the part of landlords, solicitors, insolvency practitioners and the Courts.

If you have any questions or concerns about your business, contact Richard Curtin directly on rcurtin@gscsolicitors.com or 020 7822 2222.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

Abbey Road Institute’s Revival of Angel Recording Studios

We are absolutely delighted to have concluded the acquisition of Abbey Road Institute’s new home at Angel Recording Studios in Islington!  Harvey Posener and Amee Popat in our Real Estate team did the legal work for the lease of the premises and are delighted to have been involved in this exciting new chapter for the Abbey Road Institute, Abbey Road Studios’ education division, which is part of the Universal Music Group.

Angel Recording Studios is an iconic studio which has hosted names such as Adele, Sam Smith and Florence and the Machine, and recordings of film scores such as GoldenEye and Downton Abbey.

It sadly closed in 2019 but will be restored by ARI over the coming months to house cutting edge music and audio production and training facilities for its students as well as a commercial recording studio.

https://abbeyroadinstitute.co.uk/blog/abbey-road-institute-to-move-into-angel-recording-studios/ 

For further questions or for help with your property-related issues, please do not hesitate to contact Harvey Posener directly on hdposener@gscsolicitors.com   or Amee Popat on apopat@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2222.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

Sana Sheikh featured in UKPBC’s Business Times magazine

GSC’s Senior Associate Solicitor Sana Sheikh, who advises on matters under Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution, has recently been interviewed by The Business Times magazine, the official publication by the UK Pakistan Business Council (UKPBC).

Sana spoke about The GSC’s Next Gen programme, an initiative run by GSC Solicitors LLP and aimed at providing guidance and support to tomorrow’s business leaders.

Describing the initiative, Sana explained who it is purposed for, what the main objectives are and how it can help the next generation of entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners.

The Business Times features most prominent people, such as Imran Khan, Boris Johnson, Imran Ismail, Sahibzada Jahangir and many more.

The publication is aimed at creating a vast international business network though which businesses can share knowledge and forge trading relationships.

If you would like further explanation or become a member of The GSC’s Next Gen, please do not hesitate to contact Sana Sheikh on sanasheikh@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2214.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

 

 

 

Budget 2021: Highlights

On 3 March 2021 Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered the Spring Budget setting out his plans as the United Kingdom starts to ease the lockdown and revealing the goals that he is looking to achieve after the pandemic.

Presenting the government’s spending plans for the year ahead, the Chancellor announced the new measures with the intention of helping businesses and jobs through these difficult times.

The measures are aimed at supporting the country’s long-term economic recovery as well as rebalancing the public finances with the help of tax rising.

Below is a summary of the key announcements for the private client world.

Property
  • The stamp duty holiday has been extended and will now end on 30 June instead of 31 March.
  • The nil rate band will be £250,000 until the end of September. The government will return to the usual level of £125,000 from 1 October.
Tax
  •  The income personal allowance will increase to £12,570 from £12,500 for the 2021/22 tax year. The basic rate threshold will increase to £37,700 from £37,500.
  • The income tax personal allowance and higher rate threshold are then to be frozen until April 2026.
  • The starting rate limit for savings will remain at £5,000 for the 2021/22 tax year. This band of savings income is subject to the 0% starting rate.
  • The Capital Gains Tax (CGT) annual exemption will remain at £12,300 for individuals and personal representatives until April 2026.
  • The lifetime allowance on pension contributions has been frozen at its current 2020/21 level of £1,073,100.
  • The annual ISA adult subscription limit will remain at £20,000, and the annual subscription limit for Junior ISAs will remain at £9,000.
 Charities
  •  The government will continue supporting the country’s social enterprises that are looking for growth investment by extending the SITR scheme to 6 April 2023.
  •  The government will provide armed forces charities with up to £475,000 in the 2021/22 tax year to support the development of a digital and data strategy.
  • The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust will receive additional £10 million in 2021/22 tax year for charitable projects and initiatives that support veterans with mental health needs across the country.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact James Cohen directly on jcohen@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2257.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.

Budget 2021: Stamp duty holiday extended until 30 June

Delivering his Budget statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced today that the stamp duty land tax holiday will be extended.

Sunak has confirmed that the current stamp duty holiday (nil rate band of £500,000) has been extended and will now end on 30 June instead of 31 March.

The stamp duty holiday was initially introduced to boost the property market hit by the lockdowns due to Covid-19 and help buyers who might have suffered financially from Covid-19 and its consequences.

According to Sunak, the policy is to assist people to buy their own homes: ‘As the prime minister has said, we want to turn generation rent into generation buy.’

In order to ‘smooth the transition back to normal’, the nil rate band will be £250,000 – ‘double its standard level’ – until the end of September. The government will return to the usual level of £125,000 from 1 October.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact James Cohen directly on jcohen@gscsolicitors.com or 0207 822 2257.

© 2021 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.