Commercial property disputes

According to the British Property Foundation’s statistics in 2016, over half of commercial property is let to tenants. When you compare this to a third of residential properties, it goes some way to showing the size of the commercial property market. With the size of the sector being what it is, it is inevitable disputes do occasionally arise.

Our dispute resolution department has a wealth of experience and contains a team of dedicated commercial property litigation experts, most of whom are members of the Property Litigation Association. This team works closely with our commercial real estate teams, business teams and insolvency teams and enables us to provide a full service to our clients.

What do I do if I have a commercial property dispute?

Becoming involved in a dispute involving commercial property is a stressful position to find yourself in. For many businesses, commercial property and leases are a business’ biggest asset and biggest investment. 

We aim to take the time-consuming nature of disputes out of your hands and help protect you and your investment. With our dedicated team of commercial property litigation lawyers, you will be in safe hands.

Whilst our team contains tenacious litigators, we also understand that formal legal action may not always be the best way to resolve a property dispute. On that basis, we will always make our clients aware of all of the options available to them and each member of the team are strong negotiators.

There are different disputes which can arise involving commercial property and we can assist you with the vast majority of them. For example, we can assist with the following:-

Adverse possession

We help people who do not have legal title to a property apply for, or acquire, the legal right to it. We can assist in the making of these adverse possession applications and the objection to them.

Breach of Covenants

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you are likely subject to covenants under your lease to which you are obliged to adhere. If there has been a breach of a covenant which requires remedy, or loss has been caused as a result of a breach, we would urge you to seek legal advice immediately to avoid the risk of waiving your right to do so.

Dilapidations claims

Dilapidations generally means items of disrepair, for which the landlord is entitled to recover the cost of remedy from the tenant under their repairing covenants. If there has been a breach of tenant covenants in respect of repair, then a landlord can prepare a Schedule of Dilapidations and Quantified Demand in respect of these works. Our specialist lawyers can help you with dilapidations claims.


Forfeiture is the right for a landlord to determine the lease upon certain events, or following breaches of any of the tenant covenants. Whether to take steps to forfeit requires careful consideration. Similarly, there may be steps that need to be taken before forfeiture which, if not followed, could jeopardise the right to do so.

Land registration

Our commercial property disputes team can explain the status of land and whether it is registered or not. In the case of errors in registered titles, we help make applications to rectify or alter Land Registry titles. 

Nuisance claims

Nuisance can take various forms, whether it is private, public or statutory: 

  • Private nuisance is the encroachment or interference of your land or use of land by another. 
  • Public nuisance is an act that endangers life, health etc of the public or obstructs their common rights. 
  • Statutory nuisance is something which affects health or causes a disturbance, as defined in the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Possession proceedings

Physical recovery of commercial premises can take various forms. Whether this is part of forfeiture action, following expiry of contractual terms or following exercising a break. In order to ascertain whether you or your tenant has a right to remain in occupation will require careful and fact-specific consideration.

Removal of squatters

If property or land you own has become occupied by either people known or unknown to you, we can provide advice on whether you are able to take back physical possession of the property. This is a finely balanced area, as the wrong decision on taking back physical possession could have criminal consequences, so it is always best practice to receive specialist legal advice.

Rent deposit disputes

A rent deposit defines monies given by the tenant to a landlord as security for any non-payment of rent or breaches of tenant covenants. The terms of the rent deposit are likely contained within a rent deposit deed. A rent deposit deed will outline what the monies can and cannot be used for. Inevitably, disputes arise over when monies should be released.

Rent recovery

If you have rent outstanding, or are being pursued for rent, we are able to assist.

Relief from Forfeiture

Forfeiture is the landlord’s right to take back possession of premises in certain events or tenant breaches. 

A tenant can apply for relief from forfeiture as soon as the landlord proceeds, that is, when a notice is served or when the landlord re-enters. Once forfeiture takes place, the lease has ended. It will not be reinstated again unless by order of the court. This means that immediate action should be taken to prevent business disruption. 

Of course, the above list is by no means limited. Our commercial property dispute team has over 100 years’ experience and the knowledge and capacity to take on all manner of property disputes. With such a large dispute resolution team we focus on providing a cost-effective and bespoke service to each of our clients.

If you wish to discuss any dispute you have, whether current, past or impending then we would recommend you seek legal advice. We have a large team of dedicated lawyers but, by way of introduction, we have three key contacts for property disputes, Keith Songhurst is a Partner based in our Chelmsford office. Emma Jenkins is a solicitor based in our Colchester office.


Birkett Long’s team of experts deals with disputes in the County Court, the High Court, the First-Tier Property Tribunal, the Lands Tribunal and before the Land Registry Adjudicator. The team also deals with complex arbitrations and mediations.

Keith Songhurst is a member of the Property Litigation Association.

Birkett Long has extensive experience dealing with disputes arising out of or involving rural issues, including flooding, agricultural and equestrian property, agricultural tenancies and agricultural commercial disputes.

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  • Emma Jenkins
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