16 times a smaller business should be thinking about using a lawyer, part four: Property

Author: Emma Shipp
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Acquiring business premises

A business may use a commercial property agent to find premises and negotiate basic terms on a commission basis. This means the lawyer’s role relates to the process of acquiring the property or entering into the lease and the vital formal legal terms. 

It may be sensible to take legal advice before even non-contractual heads of terms are agreed. The right lawyer will be able to help with all elements of the process including making sure you’re negotiating from the strongest position. Interim arrangements such as Exclusivity Agreements or options could be put in place to help with this.

Technical questions can also be of great commercial significance and are worth considering early on:

  • Will you be able to end the lease early? 
  • Will you have statutory protected tenure? 
  • Are you taking on a large financial commitment for any existing disrepair of the premises? 
  • Are building works to be carried out by the Landlord and will they be to the extent you expect? 
  • Are the provisions for periodic rent reviews fair? 
  • Are the premises compliant with legal obligations for disabled access? 
  • Is the planning use correct? 
  • Will you have to tie up working capital as a rent deposit or give personal guarantees? 
  • What are the energy performance compliance issues?

Anticipating key requirements and framing the offer accordingly can save a lot of subsequent negotiation and, even more importantly, avoid delay and disruption to the business.

“Intellectual Property”

Property comes in many forms and for many businesses their main assets are not tangible things like bricks and mortar or equipment. The legal rights your business holds over property you cannot touch, can be hugely valuable and, as a result, are worth protecting. 

For example:

  • A database of prospects, customers and contacts will be a key asset but can only be used if certain procedures have been followed. 
  • If capital has been invested in establishing a brand, trademarks and copyright are likely to be important. 
  • Technical innovations may require protection by patents or other forms of registration. 
  • Enforceable confidentiality undertakings and restrictive covenants may be essential to protect ideas or know-how which cannot otherwise be protected. 

The value an IP legal expert can bring can take many forms. Issues in relation to intellectual property often arise from the licensing of IP from or to third parties - finding that you’re saddled with an inappropriate licence can be very costly. But it goes further than this. The right lawyer will help you leverage your intellectual property to ensure you’re getting the very best from and for it. Managing your IP properly can be a core part of your business plan and, in the same way as you might take advice to seek out ways to improve the value in bricks and mortar, it stands to reason that intellectual property should be treated the same way.  Getting it right from the outset is key here as it is easier to protect your brand and ensure it is held in a tax efficient way when it has little or no value.

Want to find the right lawyer for your business? Book your free 30-minute consultation with one of our advisors by clicking here. We’ll talk through the options and suggest at least two law firms that we think are a good fit for your business. We aren’t paid any commission and you won’t be under any pressure to work with any law firms we put forward.