The often complex lifecycle of a new development can present many pitfalls for developers and may result in costly changes or, at worst, stop a development in its tracks.
Developers would do well to bear in mind the following top tips to avoid the traps:
- Consider before an acquisition if there are any title defects, such as a restriction requiring consent of a third party to transfer the land. Title defects may not always be obvious.
- Get heads of terms correct from the outset to prevent the deal becoming protracted, contentious and possibly even abortive.
- Check whether the vendor is looking to impose an overage clause on the land and, if so, how reasonable their terms are.
- Ignore legal impediments at your peril. There may be rights or covenants imposed on the land and restricting the use of the land. Neighbouring properties may benefit from established rights of light. Rights and reservations can have a potentially devastating impact on the success or profitability of a development, regardless of their age. Legal impediments are not always obvious, so careful investigation may be required.
- Prevailing planning attitudes are another factor to consider. Will you be battling the local planning authority all the way, or does the development fit in with local plans?
- Carefully consider and identify any physical site restrictions or constraints that may affect the ability to develop, or develop profitably. This will include site- specific matters such as Japanese knotweed, contamination and telecoms equipment. There may be other less obvious matters, such as the ability to access the site for development purposes.
- Once the development is proceeding, good management is essential to prevent future impediments arising. Consider site security to prevent trespassers, have processes and procedures in place to manage occupiers’ liability and prevent third-party rights being acquired over your site.
Karron Foot and Alix Lee are associate solicitors in the property dispute resolution team at law firm Cripps