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.
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.
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.
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).
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)