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10 Top Tips if you occupy a former PCT owned building

If you are a tenant in a building formerly owned by the PCT, you will be aware that your landlord is now either the NHS Property Services Company (PropCo) or Community Health Partnerships (CHP). You now rent from commercial landlords whose priority is to maximise the return on their property portfolio. The following tips should help you protect your position:

  1. Your occupation may well be protected by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (“the 1954 Act”) unless you have a lease excluding it. If you are protected, your new landlord cannot simply evict you without satisfying certain specific grounds.
  2. The 1954 Act sets out a process whereby a tenant can request a new lease on similar terms to the current one, regardless of whether the current position has been formally documented. Changes to rent or service charges cannot simply be imposed by PropCo but can be agreed or set by the court.
  3. If you have a lease or occupy without documentation and pay increased rent or service charge demands simply because PropCo or CHP ask you to, you may have unwittingly agreed changes to the terms of your occupation.
  4. Conversely, if you refuse to pay legitimate rent or service charge demands you may put yourself in breach of your lease and forfeit your 1954 Act protection.
  5. If you are asked to sign a new lease, remember that there is no obligation on you to sign anything and indeed you should not do so without legal advice. The fact that you are already in occupation probably means that you have a tenancy in some form.  If your occupation has lasted more than six months that tenancy may well be protected by the 1954 Act even if you have no documentation.
  6. Remember that all leases are negotiable. You may  be given a new ‘national lease’ to sign and told that amendments cannot be accepted, but this does not mean the document  cannot be negotiated and changed to more properly reflect your circumstances and the nature and condition of the property  you propose to rent. Properties vary in all kinds of ways and leases should be bespoke to reflect this.
  7. Ask for supporting evidence of all charges even if they seem justifiable under the terms of your lease. It is surprising how often service charges and other demands cannot be supported by third party invoices.
  8. Make sure you have evidence of any arrangements you may have made with the PCT to discount your rent or service charges: PropCo will not be keen to honour such deals.
  9. If you are to be responsible for any repair work, particularly if replacing items of infrastructure is involved, ensure you obtain a full structural survey of the property  before signing a lease. It is essential that you know who is responsible for repair and maintenance of the internal areas of the property and the structure of the building.
  10.  Be careful to ensure that the terms of your GMS/PMS contract are accurately reflected in your lease and remember that the rent and terms of a new lease must be approved by NHS England before the lease is signed and completed.

Surgery leases are long term commitments with potentially huge liabilities. Do not agree a new lease or accept any changes to the terms of your occupation (such as increases in rent or service charges) or simply ignore demands from PropCo or CHP without first seeking advice. Every practice will occupy its PropCo property under different terms and it is vital to obtain specialist assistance in this area to avoid losing or prejudicing your rights.

Posted on February 12th 2014 in News and Publications, Newsletters


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