Despite the title this jotting isn’t anything about recipes or cooking but hopefully may make you think about the opportunity to make savings. On being instructed to manage a property all too often I’ve been assured by the client everything is fine, straightforward, and there’s nothing to worry about. But, on commencement of management this has proven to be far from the case. So, whenever instructed, whatever the property I insist upon undertaking due diligence. In some instances this can take just a couple of days, in others collation of all relevant data and working out how it all fits together can take months.
Due diligence can take many forms. These include tenure, facilities, service charges and financial. It’s the financial aspect I touch upon here. I’m currently undertaking financial due diligence on commercial premises. This has highlighted the landlord hasn’t been reimbursed the insurance premium by the tenant for a number of years. In similar vein the process has identified incorrect billing for water going back many years. How or why this arose is lost due to the passage of time. The outcome is a £750 year on year saving. When reimbursed the landlord should be around £10,000 better-off.
Circumstances such as the above aren’t freak one-offs. Just the other day I was asked about securing reimbursement of a long outstanding insurance premium from a tenant. In this instance it’s only around £200. Just think what you could do with in effect a £200 windfall. And, it’s not just about rent and insurance. There are many opportunities to make savings. For instance, what standing charge do you pay for gas and electricity if you have vacant property? An example from inspecting a property just this morning where I noted maize growing in a gutter. Whilst it may cost to have it removed now how much is the property owner going to save in the long term by reducing the risk of water over-flowing the gutter possibly leading to deterioration of decoration, bargeboards and possibility brickwork?
I could go on to mention a £3,000 annual rates saving. I’m not going to as hopefully the above has left you with the appetite to take the opportunity of seeing and making savings for yourself. If you’re not sure and believe we may be able to assist whether you’re a Landlord or a Tenant by all means contact me for free no-obligation advice. You never know what you might save!
Jeremy’s jottings do not constitute advice on any specific matter. Lawson Commercial recommends you seek professional advice before taking action. No liability can be accepted by us for any action taken or not taken as a result of the jottings.
With the economy showing some positive signs of growth, business confidence has improved greatly. This has resulted in good demand for shops in Uckfield High Street and currently there is very little actually available. 166 High Street has just come on the market as the lease is expiring at Christmas and the occupier has decided not to renew. So this is a fantastic opportunity to acquire just over 600 sq ft of shop in a good location and at quite a competitive rent of £12,500 pa. The rateable value is under £10,000 which means rates payable should be less than £5,000 a year even before any small business rate relief. This is a really good sized shop at very affordable terms.
Local business Reversing Made Easy, who provide specialist camera equipment for the trucking industry, have expanded securing new premises in Horsted Square on the Bellbrook Business Park in Uckfield. They have taken a lease on the 1st floor of Unit 2/7 in Phase I allowing them to continue to develop and expand their business. It is good to see a local, homegrown business expanding whilst staying in the Town. We wish them continued success in the development of their product which is of significant benefit to lorry drivers.
The refurbishment works at the Knights Business Centre on the Squires Farm Industrial Estate at Palehouse Common, on the outskirts of the Uckfield, are now well advanced and the first tenants are moving in. Two units have been secured by a logistics company from Heathfield and other units have been let to an engineering company from Plumpton, a microbrewer from Groombridge and an industrial fastenings company already in Uckfield who have moved to larger premises. This activity is all very encouraging and we have three of the large units all in solicitors’ hands to a variety of businesses, one local to Uckfield, one from Ninfield and one from Heathfield. We currently only have three units available, two of around 1,500 sq ft and one of just under 3,000 sq ft. Hopefully this take up of space will encourage the owners to construct some new units on land that they still retain.
The Council’s so-called road improvement works are, as many know, causing absolute chaos in the Town. They certainly do not seem to have been planned very well and I think they have been seriously caught out by the volume of traffic trying to get round the Town particularly first thing in the morning and around going home time. Somebody, somewhere I think got it seriously wrong!
I have been selling and letting shops in Uckfield for over 25 years. My wife was even a retailer in the Town many years ago. One of the great attractions of the Town has always been the fact that you could quite often find a space in the High Street, park and pop into your chosen shop. Many retailers tell me that the ability for a shopper to be able to do that is invaluable. Therefore I am not totally convinced that these road improvement works including widening the pavements and doing away with High Street parking, are actually going to help retail businesses in the Town.
I am sure the new stone paving slabs, street furniture and planters will make the High Street an attractive place to be – although I do have some doubts about the eco-friendliness and durability of the stone used for the paving slabs. However will it actually help the retailers? It is quite clear that, despite the best efforts of Uckfield FM and others to encourage people still to shop in the Town while the works are under way, shoppers are voting with their feet and going to other Towns to shop. If they enjoy the experience or get in the habit of it, it may be difficult to bring them back again. I suppose time will tell. The likes of Tesco, Waitrose and Boots can take this sort of hit but for the local individual retailers it is very hard. I have emailed Nigel Hannam Director of Environment & Community Services at Wealden District Council, who is one of the officers involved in this project, to see whether retailers who are badly affected by these works could claim business rates relief for the period of the works. Bearing in mind that, in 2015 , there is another 30 weeks of this sort of activity it seems only fair and reasonable. At the time I asked him the question he did not know the answer, which seemed to me a little strange for someone so intimately involved in the project, but I have had an email subsequently saying no they won’t automatically get relief. That in my view is iniquitous.
I have suggested to the Chamber of Commerce that they should carry out a survey amongst the retailers to get their views on this issue and if necessary try and persuade the Council to reconsider. I am not aware that this has been done. However there is some suggestion that the public outcry from people such as myself has had some effect with it being indicated on Uckfield FM in the last day or so that individual businesses may be able to apply to the Council for relief although they will have to provide evidence and there is no guarantee they will get any relief.
In many ways I think the High Street might have been better if it had been left substantially as it was with just one or two areas being improved with new paving and/or pavement widening. If anyone has got a particular point of view on this issue do send me an email and I will forward it on to the Council and Chamber of Commerce.
Lawson Commercial have let the former Caesars italian coffee shop at 146 High Street Uckfield, on the corner of Grange Road and the High Street, to established retailer Josephina. They saw an opportunity to relocate into the main body of the High Street and at the same time to significantly enlarge their trading area. We are very pleased to see a local retailer expanding and this shows that business confidence continues to improve. After extensive shop fitting Josephina will be opening in their new premises in early November. A rent close to the asking figure of £15,000 pa was achieved.
We have a detached modern industrial unit just become available of just over 8,000 sq ft sitting in its own compound. The unit is in good order and can be rented at a very competitive figure of £3.62 pa per sq ft for the first year. The unit has excellent height if a storage facility is required with an eaves height of 25’6” making it ideal for the installation of a racking system. Windows can be installed in the elevations to provide more natural light as can a mezzanine floor if required. An opportunity well worth considering.
A 3 room suite of offices is now available in Framfield which would be ideal for a small office based business. The suite is newly redecorated and has new carpets, new electric panel heaters + new kitchen & w.c. facilities. A modest rent is being sought of £5,500 pa and there are 2 car spaces allocated on the forecourt to the front. A good opportunity here if you are seeking a small office unit and don’t require a town centre location.
Small industrial units don’t become available on a freehold basis very often but Unit 1 Ghyll Road, Heathfield is now available on that basis. It is a good smart modern unit with no mezzanine floor installed and it has the benefit of full gas-fired central heating which is a bit unusual in an industrial unit. It is on the market at a price of £135,000 and would be ideal for a small business that wants to own its own premises. We do not anticipate this will remain available very long as the market for such properties is very keen in our experience recently. Generally they sell quite quickly. So do give us a call without delay should you want to view.