The Lease At Ravensbury Mill
There is a general problem with leases, and that is that the mention of them, let alone the sight of them, is
likely to send anyone, lawyer, landlord or tenant, to sleep. The eyes glaze, and there is an overwhelming
temptation to do something, anything, to justify shifting it on to someone else's desk.
On top of this, there is no money in it for solicitors - i.e you can not charge commercial rates for the hour or
so it takes just reading through it each time you pick it up, just to remind yourself what it says in the small
Typically this problem is solved by the Landlord's solicitors creating a standard form of lease, designed to
cover all eventualities, and insisting on its universal application, however inappropriate. This way they have
only one lease to remember, and can quote relatively modest fees for a price competitive residential sale.
There are material differences between standard residential leases, and the longer commercial ones, but the
tenant normally pays for the extra polish in those.
The poor tenant, on the other hand, is unlikely to instruct a solicitor who has ever dealt with exactly that
form of lease, and will have to pay his solicitor for the learning curve, or accept a greater risk if either
merely assumes the lease must be in order, because it is `standard'.
At Ravensbury we have fallen foul of a full set of these conflicting matters, with the added complication
that the Landlords solicitors with whom we are now dealing are not the ones who drafted the lease, had
assumed it was all agreed, and have been reluctant to go back to scratch and read it properly without
someone agreeing to pay them to do it.
The problems are these:
1. The Developers' solicitors drafted an adequate domestic lease for the flats sold on the estate,
and decided it would form the basis of our lease to achieve some degree of consistency and,
possibly, (but perish the thought), save time and money;
2. They then amended it by inserting clauses taken from the planning agreement;
3. They further amended it by foisting in some commercial lease clauses;
4. Then they took out the payment provisions which a commercial tenant would normally have
5. But forgot to look at the real building (as opposed to a plan), and forgot to consult their clients
over what had been promised by them in gaining the planning permission.
The result was not a pretty sight. Most important, the mill wheels, and their mechanisms, would have been
excluded. We would have had no right to renovate them, let alone run them. The Landlords would have
been directly liable for their maintenance, with no tenant under a legal liability to contribute. It would have
been a disaster, with English Heritage and the Environment Agency squabbling over the pieces, and
ourselves ducking the flack in the middle. If Faircloughs had still been the Landlords, this would have been
easily dealt with. The new Landlords, with no background in the planning history to refer to, were a different
matter, and needed convincing.
This hurdle has now been overcome, and at last there is real discussion about what the new lease should
cover. By next newsletter, with any luck, we will be the tenants of Ravensbury Mill.