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Birketts LLP is ‘excellent on all fronts’, and clients praise its ability to ‘provide a very balanced view of property law and commercial dictates’. The firm has one of the largest property litigation teams in East Anglia., giving it the scope to handle every aspect of real estate litigation, although it has particular expertise in Town and Village Green matters, Telecoms Code property matters, rights to light cases and commercial landlord and tenant work. The ‘careful and meticulousRichard Eaton is noted for his combination of ‘outstanding knowledge with practical advice’. John Scannellhas vast experience and knows how to put clients in the strongest position’; he ‘combines great tenacity with a keen appreciation of how points will play out in court’. James Robinson is ‘a star performer, technically excellent, practical and commercial’. ‘Dogged, persuasive and thoughtful’ senior associate and barrister Simon Woodhead ‘can go toe-to-toe with any QC’. Clients also recommend senior associate Charlotte Wormstone, who is ‘very calm when things get pressured’. The firm recently acted for a major landowner in a complex case that included a professional negligence claim and rectification proceedings arising from a multimillion-pound transaction.

Head and shoulders above other firms’, say clients of Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP, which has ‘a good range of resource, is always responsive and is willing to share knowledge and good practice’. The team in Cambridge acts for an extensive roster of national and international clients and is an integral part of the large national real estate litigation practice. Richard New has 13 years’ experience and ‘provides very accessible advice for non-lawyers’. He handles heavyweight contentious matters and has been involved in some of the largest disputes concerning business rates in recent years. Clients of ‘excellent, responsive’ associate Natalie Minott rate her ‘first-rate client service and ability to think of every detail’. She has more than 10 years’ experience and regularly advises on residential property disputes. ‘Professional, knowledgeable’ senior associate Samuel Maw, who moved to Cambridge from the firm’s Birmingham office, focuses on residential development disputes, in which he acts for some of the UK’s largest housebuilders. The firm counts National Grid, Taylor Wimpey and Land Securities among its clients. Recent highlights include acting for a leading financial institution in a rating appeal concerning its headquarters, which currently has a £3m rateable value, and representing Group First in several valuation tribunals concerning self-storage warehouses across the UK.

Clients of Hewitsons are ‘very satisfied with the overall level of service’ provided by the team, which is rated as ‘extremely friendly and pleasant to deal with; the lawyers know the law very well’. The firm’s property litigators work closely with its real estate, planning, agricultural and private client teams to cover the full spectrum of contentious matters. It is highly regarded for its work on development land and restrictive covenant matters, as well as leasehold enfranchisement cases for both freeholders and leaseholders. Clients recommend Lucinda Brown, ‘a real star’ who has ‘a very sharp and analytical mind with good tactical awareness’. Senior solicitor Kate Church specialises in property litigation and solicitor Kate Harris combines this area of law with her contentious private trusts and probate practice. Highlights included acting in a complex option notice served on its client by a major supermarket operator that was seeking to reacquire a development site the client had purchased in 2014. The matter included proceedings issued in the Chancery Division seeking a declaration that the option notice was invalid. The firm also acted for residential owners in a claim brought against a builder for defects to a newly built house. Robert McLellan joined Keystone Law.

Howes Percival LLP is ‘a good firm that gives sure and confident advice’. The ‘thoroughJamie Kidd in Norwich is ‘extremely calm and able to manage clients well in stressful situations, guiding them through litigation firmly but kindly’. His team focuses largely on land and development issues, but also has growing expertise in leasehold and freehold enfranchisement matters. In Cambridge Simon Murphy’s team has significant expertise in landlord and tenant matters and manages property portfolios for clients such as Cambridge University and Greene King. The firm also counts the Ministry of Defence, The Holkham Estate, Ford Retail, Pinguin Foods and Norwich Cathedral among its clients. Among the firm’s recent highlights was its work for a nationwide retail business as landlord in a complex service charge dispute with four commercial tenants that involved poorly drafted leases. The team also acted for a large private landowner in an action to obtain possession of a property because of unauthorised underletting, and acted in a high-value dispute between trustees over a large plot of land held in trust.

A market leader in East Anglia’, Mills & Reeve LLP has extended its reach nationally, enabling it to ‘hold its own against any regional or national firm’. The firm has a specialist property litigation practice that is best known for landlord and tenant disputes, title disputes, land-related remedies, and contentious residential and agricultural work. Leading light and ‘class act’, Richard Hansonhas a wealth of experience and sound judgement, which he combines with commercial experience and an understanding of the risks’. ‘Commercial, practical and knowledgeable’ principal associate Julian Steed is ‘a real expert and one of the nicest people to have on your side’. ‘Extremely thorough, quick and approachable’ principal associate James Hordern exhibits ‘old-school rigour with a modern, commercial approach’. Clients also recommend associate Rowena Leary, who ‘handles complex matters competently and diplomatically’. The firm successfully acted for the defendants in a £250,000 dispute between neighbouring owners in respect of alleged loss and damages caused to the claimant’s fishery by the excavation of lakes on the client’s land and the consequent abstraction of underground water. The team also acted in a £2.2m case for liquidated company Denouement in pursuing a long-running claim for possession of residential property in Kensington.

Ashtons Legal has a large team of litigators across its office network, many of whom devote part of their practice to contentious real estate matters. Michael Frape leads the team in Cambridge, which includes associate Nigel Maguire, who is highly regarded for property litigation. Last year, Maguire acted for a company tenant in a dispute with its landlord regarding a dilapidations claim on a site operated by the client and subsequently sublet to a third party purchaser of the tenant’s business. He successfully challenged the legal basis to the majority of the landlord’s £550,000 claim and negotiated a final settlement of £35,000. Frape’s highlights included a contested lease matter that was settled before trial. Also recommended are Annabel Mayer, who handled a dispute for a client who had mistakenly built an extension on land outside their title, and Rob Adam, who dealt with a claim against a developer to enforce a contract to purchase a development site.

Buckles Solicitors LLP in Peterborough has a team that provides ‘very efficient, seamless service and support’. The firm handles a wide range of disputes, from boundary and right of way matters to dilapidations and lease renewals for private clients, SMEs and larger businesses, with a growing emphasis on the retail sector. Paul Branch utilises his skills in contentious trusts and probate matters to act in property disputes involving assets held in trusts. Branch acted for East Bridgford Parish Council in its application for first registration as a result of a historical enclosure award. The application was contested and referred to the Land Registry First-Tier Tribunal, which decided in favour of the client. The team also acted for tenant Logex Services Limited in the exercise of a break clause in its lease, which resulted in a dispute when the landlord varied the break terms.

Clapham & Collinge Solicitors has a growing property litigation caseload. Head of litigation Mark Kermez leads the team, which includes experienced consultant Philip Lumb. Both have broad litigation practices that include property and trust matters. Commercial property consultant Michael Olmer also plays a key role in the practice. The firm’s highlights include a number of disputes for residential property owners. One such highlight concerned failure to complete a house purchase in which the team defended a vendor’s claim for damages. The team also acted for a landlord whose letting agent had failed to evict troublesome tenants. Lumb pursued a claim against a major housebuilder for negligence in the construction of a property that suffered from severe drainage problems.

Fosters acts on commercial landlord and tenant, dilapidation and service charge litigation for a wide variety of clients. It also acts in residential landlord and tenant matters and is legal partner to the Eastern Landlords Association, advising its members through branches across East Anglia. The team, led by litigation partner Adrian Newborough (who is ‘excellent on all counts’) is known for its expertise in easement and boundary disputes, restrictive covenant matters, pre-emption and overage cases, TLATA claims and matters under the Mobile Homes Act. In 2016, Newborough advised on house in multiple occupation and property conversion disputes, secured the possession of a mobile home for regulatory breaches, and assisted a landlord with a contested service charges case at First-Tier Tribunal. Also recommended is Chris Fielding, whose highlights included advising a business on a complex adverse possession claim regarding a tidal waterway in a busy commercial Suffolk port.

Greene & Greene has ‘a good, efficient practice that is responsive to the needs of the client as well as the purchaser or vendor, and which provides specialist advice at a reasonable cost’. Michael Batty leads the firm’s disputes resolution team and Andrea Nicholls is a highly experienced commercial, agricultural and property litigator. Both are members of the Property Litigation Association. Solicitor Kate Struthers advises on a wide range of property litigation matters on behalf of property owners, landlords and tenants. Her work includes residential possession claims, disputes over easements, breach of leasehold and freehold covenant matters, dilapidations and service charge recovery for residential and commercial properties. The team recently acted in a complex boundary dispute involving rectification of title, adverse possession and entitlements to easements. It also handled a matter that concerned the nature and extent of rights of access to a village playing field for a parish council.

At Greenwoods Solicitors LLPthe service, advice and professionalism is second to none’, according to one client who also rates the firm’s ‘first-class advice and exceptional response times’. Its work covers advice on all aspects of land law including trespass, boundaries, easements, covenants and planning matters, together with landlord and tenant issues such as lease renewals, breach of covenant, dilapidations, insolvency and forfeiture. Associate Caroline Gumbrell is ‘amazing – highly qualified and professional, she always treats clients with care and compassion during a difficult and stressful time’. She acts for many corporate clients with large property portfolios and specialises in commercial and agricultural landlord and tenant work. Senior solicitor Michelle Cox’s practice includes contentious commercial lease renewals, dilapidations claims, leases under the Telecommunications Act and breaches of covenant. Gumbrell’s highlights from 2016 included advising Astor and Windsor International on the exercise of a forfeiture clause on commercial property following the tenant’s breach of covenant of obligation to repair. She also acted for Bucks and Herts Property Co in contentious lease matters arising from its plan to redevelop a parade of shops.

At Hunt & Coombs LLP, lead lawyer Lesley Milne is the only member of the Property Litigation Association in Peterborough and has more than 30 years’ experience. She provides ‘very professional service that is reliable and clear to clients in all aspects’. Milne’s broad commercial litigation practice includes advising landlords and tenants of commercial and residential properties on a range of disputes including those relating to possession, dilapidation and lease renewals. She also handles the enforcement and variation of restrictive covenant claims, rights of way disputes for dominant and servient lands, and boundary disputes. Milne’s recent highlights include acting for Olive Properties Consultants in a landlord and tenant dispute concerning properties let out to a company that provides accommodation to vulnerable young adults. The claims related to rent and dilapidation issues after the tenants vacated the properties before the end of the lease. She also settled a dispute at mediation concerning a £600,000 property that suffered problems with water penetration.

The team at Kerseys Solicitors is ‘efficient, approachable, professional and knowledgeable’, according to clients who also note the firm’s ‘excellent support’. Managing partner and team head Anthony Wooding is ‘a calm voice of reason in a storm; always precise, helpful and ready to listen’. Associate Ross Burkitt is also recommended, as is solicitor Adrian Green. The firm recently assisted a client in settling a complex boundary dispute following the referral of a case to the First-Tier Tribunal. It also acted for a commercial landlord in cases arising from serious breaches of covenants by its tenants. Other highlights saw Burkitt successfully act for several residential landlords in connection with the termination of tenancies and possession proceedings, while Wooding acted in a dispute over monies owed following an investment in a property portfolio.

Leathes Prior advises on a wide range of contentious property issues, including trusts of land, boundary disputes, easements, covenants, and landlord and tenant matters. Its caseload comprises disputes concerning commercial, residential and agricultural tenancies and applications involving proceedings before the Property Chamber First-Tier Tribunal and the Planning Inspectorate. In Darren Bowen the firm has a highly skilled property litigator who is respected by surveyors, land agents, landed estates and counsel, and whose expertise covers agricultural property disputes, particularly those involving probate matters. Solicitor Sabina Haag specialises in landlord and tenant disputes involving dilapidations claims, forfeiture proceedings and commercial rent arrears. She also handles matters concerning timeshare properties. Key matters from 2016 included advising St. Olave’s Marina as the freehold owner of land alongside the New Cut canal on a dispute concerning the ownership of and obligations to maintain piling situated alongside the canal. Brown and Calum Paterson also advised Dereham Town Council on regaining possession of land near Dereham Memorial Town Hall that had been occupied by trespassers.

Taylor Vinters has strong commercial litigation and property practices in which key partners also handle contentious real estate matters for technology, not-for-profit and agricultural enterprises as well as high-net-worth individuals. Property partner Helen Mutucumarana handled a £1m dispute for a prestigious multinational technology business concerning a delayed building project. Luke Hibbert advised another multinational business in the technology sector on a £600,000 dispute that arose from its landlord’s refusal to provide consent for the client to sublet its tenancy. The team negotiated consent for the subletting and thereby secured the client’s income rent from the premises for five years. Another highlight saw Hibbert and associate Victoria Mason advise a biotechnology company on a dilapidations claim brought by its landlord for a site that had been used for the design, engineering and manufacture of products for the medical industry.


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Legal Developments in East Anglia for Property litigation

  • Parking rights: here to stay? Consent might be the surprising answer 


    In the field of the acquisition of easements by prescription, little has caused more consternation over the last decade or so than the question of whether a right to park cars can be acquired by twenty years user as of right. The types of property capable of being adversely affected range from individual residential units all the way up to major development sites. The establishment of such a right can have a devastating impact on the value of the burdened land.

    - Falcon Chambers

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