Acquisition & Disposal
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The amount of space you need depends on how you want to use the space, your agile working strategy and the size of your desks - are they 1400mm, 1600mm, 1800mm? The best new buildings are currently designed to be occupied on the basis of one person to every 8 sq.m.
For offices, the old rule of thumb was 1:10 sq m per person to allow for kitchen areas, meeting rooms, circulation space, etc. However, when planning and designing your fit-out, you need to ensure it reflects your culture, what you do, the number of people you want to accommodate in any one day with working from home (WFH) and agile working policies, your social distancing collaboration protocols and a whole host of other factors.
But of course, every building is different and the ‘new normal’ is giving rise to new organisation specific occupancy strategies.
Monthly costs will be determined by location, quality of accommodation and various other factors. You should be absolutely clear from the outset what you can afford in terms of:
- Rent – payable to landlords
- Rates – effectively a property tax
- Service Charge – determined by the cost of running a property
- Building & Content Insurance
- Estate Charges – cost of running the estate (if applicable)
The minimum term for a traditional lease is usually three years (in a weak, tenant bias market) and 12 months plus for a Serviced Office lease. In a stronger market, landlords can opt for clear terms for five years and above, but these usually contain a rent review clause. The serviced office market is putting downward pressure on lease lengths.
This really depends on your personal preferences - for example, if you opt for fancy Italian marble everywhere, it won’t be cheap - but most people allow £40-£80 per sq.ft, excluding VAT and professional fees.
Don’t forget to budget for dilapidation and reinstatement liability, come expiry.
This is a critical question. Traditionally, landlords provided a limited capability so do ascertain from the outset if there is fibre connectivity in the building and what the typical connection speeds are. Increasingly landlords are providing a degree of internet connectivity and communal Wi-Fi but check with your current provider.
There is often a frame room comms termination point in the basement. If fibre does not go to the floor, most landlords will require a wayleave agreement and if so, it can take some time to secure one - which can delay occupation . Also this additional document is one of a number of documents required that includes the lease and any licence to alter (to allow for a fit-out) and that can cause additional delays.
For new lines, it can take up to 60 days to order new lines; however, this does not include time for legal work in connection with any wayleave agreements that need agreeing and signing – allow 90 days. This is a critical issue if a (lease) deadline is looming.
The sooner the better to be able to maximise your options. You should allow a minimum of nine months when looking for your new premises. Below is an indicative timeline:
- Search - four to six weeks
- Agree the terms - two weeks
- ‘Legals’ - eight to twelve weeks
- Fit-out - six to 24 weeks, depending on the size of the unit and how long it takes to obtain permission to carry out works in the building. Don’t forget to allow time to agree a ‘licence to alter’ – an agreement is necessary before your fit-out can commence.
A good place to start is to conduct an internal audit and find out where your colleagues live and how they get to work. Whether it is by public transport, car or bike, ascertain which destinations best meet this criteria. When you have gathered this data, plot it on a map; this will help you choose the best ‘collective’ location.
However, every organisation is unique, so there is no definitive answer. Some business owners/managers like to be close to their clients, partners or suppliers, or alternatively they choose a location which makes a ‘statement’ about their brand and/or organisation.
If you decide not to relocate the business - ie stay put - it is still worth reviewing your space utilisation (ie how do you use your existing business space: is it optimised for collaboration and productivity: does it still reflect your brand and your values: is it fit for purpose in a post Covid-19 world?) Will the space, fabric of the building and the services (mechanical and electrical) be fit for purpose for the length of the new lease being entered into?
If your lease is up, you don’t have to move. You could always try to negotiate better terms for either the space you occupy or a larger or smaller space within the same premises owned by your landlord, depending on your requirements.
Most leases these days are not, so how you approach your landlord requires smart planning.
If your knowledge of the current rental market is limited, or you are unsure what the pros and cons of a location are, or even what the full implications of the lease you have been provided are, then talk to an expert – someone whose job it is to know the market, identify appropriate on and off-market opportunities and negotiate the most favourable deal for you.