Our recent property litigation breakfast seminar, titled "Protect & Survive", was held at our Africa House headquarters in London.
Our expert panel was chaired by Mishcon de Reya real estate partner and firm chairman, Philip Freedman CBE QC (Hon). The other panel members were guest speaker and eminent barrister Jonathan Seitler QC of Wilberforce Chambers; Daniel Levy, partner and head of our property litigation group; and Chhavie Kapoor, legal director in our property litigation group.
The panel shared some tricks of the trade for real estate investors, developers and occupiers looking to protect their real estate assets in the current uncertain environment.
Philip Freedman provided an analysis of legal issues for an uncertain selling and letting market. These included penalty clauses, lease assignments, changes to partnerships and company restructurings. He cautioned that in any sort of economic downturn, tenants are unwilling to pay more than absolutely necessary, particularly with respect to service charges. This can make disputes almost inevitable.
Daniel Levy shared his thoughts on break clauses, an area of law in which there have notably been well over 500 reported court cases and at least two recent trips to the Supreme Court. Some common themes he picked out were the importance of serving break notices correctly; material compliance with lease covenants; and the courts' current preference for clarity and certainty.
Rights of light specialist Chhavie Kapoor critiqued the different types of insurance policies available in the context of rights of light. She explained how insurance can be used to ring-fence financial liability for developers in the current market. Listing the pros and cons of the three main types of policy – "wait and see", "agreed conduct" and "reactive" – she warned that as the latter policies are relatively new, wording is still evolving and should be carefully studied.
Guest panellist Jonathan Seitler concluded the event with an eye-opening list of the top 10 mistakes in property disputes, and how best to avoid them. Ranging from the seemingly obvious "not reading the entire document" to the less straightforward "thinking time is money", he cautioned against the most deadly pitfalls to avoid, should you find yourself in a legal dispute.
Click here to view a selection of photos from the seminar.