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When a business tenant is in arrears with their rent or is in serious breach of the terms of their lease, then the commercial landlord may have the right to end their tenancy or ‘forfeit’ as long as they comply with section 146(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925.

There is no automatic right to forfeit a lease unless the lease contains a specific clause setting out the grounds on which the landlord may forfeit. The landlord’s actions must indicate that he intends to end the lease, so actions such as accepting rent, will remove the right to forfeit.

There are two main methods of ending a lease: (1) by peaceable re-entry to the premises or (2) by issuing court proceedings for possession.

Peaceable Re-entry

Landlords are in danger of breaking the law if they use force or violence to possess the property. Although entering when the property is empty and changing the locks is still legal, it is advisable to ensure the local police are aware of your intentions.

Proceedings for Possession – Business Lease

From the landlord’s viewpoint, starting Possession Proceedings is a safer option than peaceable re-entry. Possession proceedings may be commenced by applying to the High Court or in the local County Court nearest to the premises. The Court will set a hearing date when it issues the claim.

Where the tenant wishes to defend the claim for possession a defence should be filed with the court within 14 days. If a possession order is granted the tenant will normally be allowed 28 days to vacate the premises. The tenant will however have the right to apply for relief from forfeiture subject to meeting conditions imposed by the court, which will involve remedying breaches of the lease and paying all arrears and the landlord’s costs.

If you’d like more advice on starting possession proceedings, please contact Richard Tomlinson at Lawson-west on 0116 212 1061.