It is impossible to ignore the increasing number of empty retail units in Harrogate –from Berwins’ town centre offices I can see two empty retail units, one of which promises that “something exciting is on the way”.
While industry research suggests that this is in line with a wider national trend, it is worth noting that a recent high street survey does suggest that Harrogate is actually faring better than many other towns and cities and is in fact Yorkshire’s most vibrant retail centre.
One of Harrogate’s strengths is the increasing number of local independents springing up over town, helping to create a strong identity and contributing to our town being an interesting retail destination for residents and visitors alike.
Many ‘indies’ opt for a retail unit and it is a professional privilege to support them with a new lease for their commercial premises. But, with a growing number of vacant properties, we are now seeing more landlords willing to allow businesses to test the water by opening a ‘pop-up’ shop as a short-term arrangement.
Aside from reducing empty spaces in our town centre, these arrangements can be beneficial for both parties as the landlord has some revenue from the premises and the tenant only has a short term commitment but from both parties’ perspective it’s important to ensure that these types of arrangements are correctly documented.
For a landlord, it is important to ensure that what is intended to be a short-term arrangement is just that and the business they have allowed into occupation does not obtain security of tenure and renewal rights under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
For an occupier, it’s important to understand the basis of the occupation and what the obligations as occupier are, particularly what costs the business may be liable for. In the early enthusiastic days of a business it is often easy to overlook the formalities of how you are legally entitled to occupy a property, but once a business is thriving and looking for investment for further growth – or indeed to sell on a successful concern – proving that the business has sufficient legal title to its premises is essential to satisfy a funder or purchaser.
Whether a business owner or a landlord, taking professional advice at the outset is essential. It will help to ensure that what is being signed up to is clear and the ‘pop up’ has strong foundations which ultimately means that for our town “something exciting is on the way”.
Jennifer Kirkhope is a Senior Associate within Berwins’ Commercial Property team.