vintage phote grocery store

Business space rental: Deviating terms for retail and catering premises

Tenants of medium-sized business premises (7:290 BW) enjoy more rent protection than tenants of other business premises such as offices (7:230a BW). The idea behind this is that a shop or food establishment usually attaches more value to the specific location, for example for public familiarity. In principle, the tenancy agreement cannot deviate from this rent protection either, unless a judge agrees with the deviating clause. This blog provides an overview of the legal framework surrounding the deviating clause and its durability in court.

Legal framework

The statutory provisions relating to 290 business premises (7:290 to 7:310 Dutch Civil Code) are of so-called semi-prescriptive law. This means that it is not allowed to deviate to the detriment of the tenant. In case it does happen, the deviating clause is in principle voidable. Nevertheless, there may be situations in which not only the lessor but also the lessee has an interest in deviating from what is permitted under the statutory provisions, for example to make a more flexible lease contract possible. Examples of possible deviations:

– Deviation from the statutory lease terms (usually 5+5 years).

– Deviation by agreeing that termination of the lease can take place without notice or judicial review.

– Deviation from the possibility to request a rent review (7:303 BW) after the end of the lease period.

In these cases it is permitted to deviate from the statutory provisions, but the clause will have to be approved by a judge (7:291 paragraph 2 of the Dutch Civil Code). Therefore, a tenant’s consent to deviate is not sufficient. This is to prevent that a tenant can be put under pressure by the landlord to agree to the clause.

The judge uses the following criteria for approval:

– The tenant’s rights are not materially affected by the deviating clause.

– The tenant’s social position is so strong compared to the landlord that he has no need for reasonable protection.

Exception

With regard to substitution (Section 7:307 of the Dutch Civil Code) no approval can be requested for a deviating clause. The possibility for a tenant to sell his business including the rental rights is considered so important that a deviating clause is not allowed. Therefore, the court cannot give its approval to a clause that excludes substitution.

Subsequent approval

In practice, it regularly happens that the parties agree on a deviating clause and do not ask the court for approval. The question is, of course, what happens when the parties later disagree on the derogating clause.  A judgment of the Supreme Court has shown that judicial approval can also be given retrospectively. The question is whether, in such a situation, the court would still be inclined to rule that the tenant’s rights have not been substantially affected now that the tenant sees reason at that moment to want to waive the deviating clause. After all, approval of the deviating clause usually takes place with the tenant’s consent. It seems that the risk for the lack of prior approval lies mainly with the landlord.

Limitation period for reliance on voidability

In spite of the above, there is still an advantage for the landlord if he enters into a deviating clause with his tenant without the approval of the court. Pursuant to Section 3:52 of the Dutch Civil Code, the right of the lessee to invoke the voidability of the stipulation lapses after a period of 3 years after the lessee has invoked this ground for nullification. Usually this will be 3 years after the rental agreement has been entered into with the deviating clause, but under certain circumstances this can also be another time (see this previous blog of M2 Advocaten).

Conclusion

Legal practice shows that court approval depends on many different factors. In a judicial assessment of the deviating clause, the most important thing is that the tenant’s interests are not too much harmed. The tenant’s position is also important. A deviating clause will be less likely to be approved if the lessee is an independent entrepreneur, while in case of an internationally operating chain there will be considerably more room for the lessor to include a deviating clause.

Are you looking for advice in drawing up a deviating clause or a petition for approval of the deviating clause?  Please feel free to contact M2 Advocaten.

Lawyer Ginio Beij (beij@m2advocaten.nl)

 

Building with store - Herenstraat

Landlord misses out on rent review after renovation of property

An owner of a retail property has his property rebuilt, which increases its surface area. He agrees with the tenant that the rent nevertheless remains the same. If the owner subsequently finds out that his property can now yield much more rent, he wants to have the rent revised (increased). However, the court ruled that he had in fact agreed a rent reduction with the tenant by asking the same rent for a larger space and that at least five years must elapse before the rent can be revised again. The lessor then misses out on many euros in rent. What is the exact situation?

As early as 1974, a retailer enters into a lease agreement for the rent of a retail property with accompanying storage space. In 2014, the property will be renovated, increasing the surface area of the retail space by 26 square meters. It is agreed that the rent will remain the same. In 2015, however, the owner finds out out through a real estate agent that, given the booming property market, his property could now yield tens of thousands of euros more in rent per year. This is also not strange now that the retailer has been paying only steadily more rent since 1974. The owner then asks for a rent review.

On the basis of Section 7:303 of the Dutch Civil Code, it is possible for a landlord (or tenant) to request a rent review. This means that every five years, since the last rent determined by the parties has started or has been claimed in court (or after the end of the first rental period), the current rent can be checked against the average rent of comparable business premises in the area and, if necessary, the rent can be adjusted accordingly.  The owner states that the rent was last adjusted in 2005. More than five years have elapsed since then, so the owner states that a rent review can now be carried out at a more market-based price.

The court ruled differently. Now that the refurbishment in 2014 has increased the retail space by 26 square meters, and the parties have agreed to leave the rent unchanged, a rent reduction has effectively been agreed, according to the court. After all, as a result of the expansion of the retail space, the retailer has paid no less than 15.5% less per square metre. Now that there has recently been a rent change introduced by the parties, the owner can only invoke the rent review from Section 7:303 of the Dutch Civil Code again after five years. Whether the rent has been increased or decreased in the past five years is irrelevant. In short, in this case the owner could not request a rent review again until 2019.

It is somewhat understandable that the owner made a mistake here. After all, the total rent was the same and did not seem to have changed. How could the owner have prevented this? The answer is quite simple. The owner should not have explicitly agreed with the retailer that the rent would not be increased. This concrete agreement is in fact the basis for the opinion that the parties have agreed on a reduction of the rent. The owner should therefore have requested a rent review immediately after the renovation without first agreeing with the retailer that the rent would remain unchanged.

As a landlord, do you want to request a rent review or are you, as a tenant, dealing with a rent review and do you have any questions about this? Please feel free to contact M2 Advocaten.

Lawyer Marius Rijntjes (rijntjes@m2advocaten.nl)

 

Suspension of rent due to defects? Tenant watch out!

In practice it happens regularly. A tenant who is fed up with it. Whether it is residential or business accommodation, there are defects that cannot be solved. There are leaks, there is draught, the rented property is far too hot or too cold. Despite several reminders, the landlord does nothing about it. And then what?

The solution that many tenants choose if they think it takes too long? Just not paying the rent for a while. If the landlord repairs the defect, the rent will be paid in retrospect. The means a temporary suspension of the rent payment.

In itself that sounds logical. What better way to persuade the landlord to take action than by hitting them in the wallet?

Nevertheless, a tenant should handle this carefully. According to established case law, rent can only be suspended if the defect is serious enough. In addition, it is important that the suspension must be proportional to the loss of rental enjoyment. If, despite a defect, it is still possible to use the rented property, it is not permitted to suspend the rent altogether. In practice, however, it often happens that the tenant completely suspends the rent.

A judgment of the District Court of North Holland, published at the beginning of this year, shows an example of how things can go wrong for the tenant. The ruling concerned business premises that were rented to a car rental company. At a certain point, a fire started in the rented premises, after which the business premises were damaged. A few months after the fire, the smoke and soot damage was repaired. However, the renter had suspended the entire rental payment, even after the repair, due to the cause of the defect. It had been established that the damage had occurred because the lessor had installed fire-resistant doors that did not close sufficiently.

The court, however, found this entire suspension to go too far. In general, the fact that the fire-resistant doors did not close properly was no reason to suspend the rent in full. It came down to the fact that the tenant had to pay the full rent with interest and fines. Read the entire judgment here.

Are you in doubt whether you can suspend the rent or do you want to know what other possibilities there are for remedying defects? Feel free to contact us.

Lawyer Ginio Beij (beij@m2advocaten.nl)