Expertise

Development: Oliver Smedley

Our Development team works with Registered Providers, local authorities, public sector organisations, landowners and developers.

We advise on the property aspects of large scale development, mixed use and regeneration projects in the social housing sector, including site acquisition, site assembly, joint venture and collaboration agreements, development option agreements, pre-emption agreements, forward funding agreements (including golden brick and warehousing) and conditional purchase agreements.

We advise on all forms of land and property acquisition including specialist areas such as rural housing, garage acquisition and inner city schemes.

We also provide specialist advice on Stamp Duty Land Tax, Community Infrastructure Levy and on VAT-sheltering schemes.

Planning: Chris Charlton

Our national Planning and Environment team provides expert advice on the full range of contentious and non-contentious planning and environmental law issues in relation to residential and commercial and mixed use development, transportation, ecological and cultural heritage issues and contaminated land and pollution.

Our team is consistently recommended by the legal directories, Chambers and The Legal 500.

We regularly deal with planning applications and appeals, planning and highways agreements, advocacy at planning and other inquiries and before Planning Committees, environmental impact assessment, enforcement proceedings, CPO procedures and environmental prosecutions.

We work with a number of social housing providers, advising them on the planning issues associated with acquiring affordable housing land and units subject to existing Section 106 Agreements and “freestanding” affordable housing sites, as well as on open market units being developed to subsidise their affordable housing stock.

Construction

Our Construction team has a significant presence in the social housing sector and is consistently recommended by the legal directories, Chambers and The Legal 500.

Our work includes drafting and advising on development agreements, building contracts, consultants’ appointments, collateral warranties, performance bonds, guarantees and other surety documents, framework agreements, measured term contracts, partnering agreements and building licences.

We work closely with our Procurement team in drafting the construction documents to be included within tenders procured under the European Public Procurement Rules, advising upon the affect of the different procurement procedures (restricted, negotiated and competitive) upon the drafting and negotiation of those construction documents and ensuring that the construction documentation works seamlessly with the PQQ, ITPD and ITT.

Ours is one of the few construction teams nationally to include dedicated specialists in contentious construction law (as opposed to property litigation). Our construction litigations have extensive experience in court proceedings, construction pre-action protocol, mediation, adjudication and arbitration. We also advise on professional negligence, defects or projects being over budget and/or in delay and issues such as termination, withholding payment and insolvency.

Sales: Jonathan Stokes

Our Home Sales team works for major housebuilders and RPs on open market sales and shared ownership, part exchange transactions, shared equity, staircasing assignments, and new build development, including responding to enquiries raised by housebuilder clients and plot purchasers’ solicitors. We are able to provide a seamless service encompassing site set up and sales.

We also act as a Right to Buy/Right to Acquire and have the experience to handle mortgage repossession cases, in addition to managing other related property transactions for shared ownership leases and property management, such as consents to assign, licences and Deeds of Variation.

We use technology to increase the efficiency of the service that it provides. Visualfiles, a system developed by our Charging team and provided by Lexisnexis, provides instant visibility of all cases and associated history activities, and reports setting out key dates and milestones which have been met to date.

Unlike in the majority of law firms, because our Plot Sales team is in-house, we are able to provide a completely joined up service encompassing site acquisition, site set-up and sales.

Tax

Within our Social Housing team we have a number of experts specialising in issues relating to property tax. These include Andrew Campbell who specialises in advising on SDLT and Community Infrastructure Levy. He is a Council Member of the Stamp Taxes Practitioners Group and attends meetings of one of HMRC’s SDLT “Working Together” groups. For the last four years Andrew has chaired IBC’s annual one-day SDLT conference in London and last year chaired the Stamp Taxes Practitioners’ Group Annual SDLT conference.

Procurement: Bill Bullivant

Our Procurement team advises on all aspects of public procurement law and has a first class reputation for guiding Registered Providers and local authorities through the minefield of public procurement regulations. We help our clients to find the best balance between the achievement of their commercial and social objectives and compliance with statutory obligations.

We provide “state of the art” advice on the latest procurement initiatives, such as the sharing of services between Registered Providers, the formation and use of Local Asset Backed Vehicles and Local Housing Companies, in addition to the now more conventional PPP and PFI approaches.

We also regularly advise on terms and conditions and on both contentious and non-contentious issues relating to large scale IT contracts.

Our team is led by a leading procurement specialist, acknowledged as an expert in the legal powers of local authorities, which is helpful when advising social housing providers on contracts and partnerships with local authorities.

Housing Management: Lindsay Felstead

Our Housing Management team is one of the largest of its kind in the country and is recommended by the legal directories, Chambers and The Legal 500.

Our in-house barrister enables the seamless progression of matters to the County Court or Leasehold Valuation Tribunal without the need for costly external counsel.

Our work includes advising on tenancy issues (the Affordable Rent product, flexible tenure including drafting fixed term tenancy agreements, licences, Section 209 HA 1996 agreements, and furnished tenancy agreements); housing management policy and procedure; all aspects of anti-social behaviour (including engaging with witnesses, preparing statements, and progressing possession proceedings).

We offer a free housing management helpline and market leading legal surgeries and tenant workshops.

Commercial Contracts: Susan Hall

Our national Commercial team advises on commercial contracts and projects, including outsourcing, the drafting and negotiation of terms and conditions, and agreements relating to supply and purchase, confidentiality, sponsorship, consultancy and event management.

The team also provides advice on cutting-edge internet, software and technology-related matters and IT dispute resolution.

Data protection law has become an increasingly important consideration for businesses and our team has advised on a wide range of issues arising out of the Data Protection Act 1998 and related laws.

Our Commercial team includes one of the largest full-service Intellectual Property practices in the UK, which undertakes enforcement work, trade mark and design prosecution work and drafting of commercial IP agreements.

Asset Management: Kary Withers

Our Property Litigation team provides proactive, strategic advice to a range of property owners, occupiers and funders nationally, working in close partnership with other professional advisers.

The team is consistently ranked in the top tier by legal directories, Chambers and The Legal 500, and is one of the largest dedicated property dispute teams in the country.

Our expertise is wide-ranging and includes advising on service charge disputes, applications for dispensation, all Leasehold Valuation Tribunal proceedings, right to manage claims, applications to appoint a manager, leasehold enfranchisement (lease extensions and freehold acquisitions), possession claims, development disputes, squatters and trespass claims, rights of way, boundary, telecoms and other management issues.

We recognise the commercial necessity of keeping legal spend proportionate and within budget. Where litigation cannot be avoided we offer a range of imaginative fee proposals aimed at sharing the risk with our clients.

We work closely with our in-house barrister who provides affordable representation on service charge disputes and associated issues in the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and Lands Chamber.

We are also experienced in stock rationalisation and disposals of both vacant and tenanted stock, providing seamless advice in collaboration with our employment team (on TUPE), housing management team (on consultation) and charging team (on discharging sale units and bought units). The team includes several individuals who previously worked together on the largest social housing stock rationalisation ever undertaken.

Other work areas include negotiations of framework agreements for maintenance contracts, health and safety, and all forms of stock rationalisation, commercial leases and related advice including dilapidations and break clauses.

Commercial Litigation: Owen Williams

Our Commercial Litigation team advises on contractual disputes, shareholder disputes, tortious disputes, financial services disputes, insurance-related disputes, commercial agency disputes, IT disputes and public law issues.

We manage every aspect of our clients’ disputes, from advice on how to avoid or mitigate a dispute through to resolution on the best possible terms at trial or through negotiation.

We aim to resolve disputes through agreement where possible. Within our team we have mediators, adjudicators and members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators who are trained and experienced in the settlement of disputes by negotiation.

When negotiation fails, we take firm and confident action to resolve a dispute in a more combative environment.

Our team includes a leading commercial litigator and fraud specialist, and an Assistant Deputy Coroner with expertise in environmental offences, health and safety issues and Care Standards.

We also have one of the largest professional negligence practices outside London.

Finance and Securitisation: Fraser MacRae and Vicky Kells

Our Social Housing Finance team is recommended nationally for its work by the legal directories, Chambers and The Legal 500.

We advise Registered Providers on project finance and lending matters, including all types of loan and funding structures, loan agreements, security documents and inter-creditor arrangements.

In addition, we advise RPs on new lending arrangements with Banks, including refinancing and LMA-style loan documentation, in addition to working with lenders and borrowers on a variety of banking transactions, MBOs and MBIs.

Our charging work includes the preparation of certificates of title addressed to funders and ancillary issues arising from them; charges of property and charges of part of property; drafting Reliance Letters; conditions precedent issues and checks; Security Trustee; vires issues, board minutes and opinions, and deeds of priority and postponement.