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News - 17 April 2003

Industry Squeals at Stamp Duty Increases

Tiring of the industry's slow take up of voluntary codes for commercial leases the Chancellor last budget introduced stiff increases in stamp duties that will discourage the long leases that he feels are hampering business growth (see KnowledgeBase for story - Odds on Survival of Long Term Leases Shortened by Budget Measures) but industry leaders are crying foul

Accountants have accused the government of effectively blackmailing them because he had suggested that they had until December of this year to come up with an alternative. Together with increasing impatience about the poor rate at which "upward only" rent review clauses are being replaced with "open market" reviews this move probably reflects the governments resolve to make the negotiation of commercial leases much less one sided. Given that the average commercial lease is little more than a cast iron guarantee for landlords at the expense of tenants it is a resolve that has been a long time coming. If landlords are reluctant to accept open market review clauses, where the rent can go down in a poor economic climate, a shorter term for new leases may restore some balance because at lease renewal rent can go down as well as up.

Unfortunately since rental movements are based on evidence from similar properties in the same street or area the market pressure is still likely to be upward unless there is a deep recession. However, the move towards shorter lease terms of perhaps five years will at least allow businesses the opportunity to move on to larger premises and expand without being hampered by the obligations of their existing lease

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