Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

With commercial property rent review and lease renewal when practical help from a surveyor is sought, as distinct from seeking advice, there are two types of client: those that are only interested in the end-result, and those that want to have the process explained at every step of the way.

I used to think the types were age-related, but I have come to realise it is more about the degree of faith and level of trust that the client has in the surveyor’s overall ability. A youngster surveyor with only a few years’ experience under their belt may have the technical competence that comes from text-book thinking, but is less likely to have anything like the amount of wisdom that stems from dealing with situations over many economic cycles. Any lack of experience is normally reflected in demeanour and conversational style.

To be required to provide explanation at every step of the way can be very tiring and frustrating for the surveyor. It is one thing keeping an experienced knowledgeable client informed because the terminology and subtleties won’t need spelling out, but you try telling someone whose knowledge of the subject is obviously lacking, even if they don’t think it is, and immediately you’re into having to manage the client’s expectations.

When you trust a surveyor that knows what they are doing, amongst the benefits you get is the one thing that micro-managing a surveyor will stifle: creativity. A surveyor left to their own devices without being influenced by the client does not necessarily mean that the surveyor will automatically think of everything, but it should at least avoid the pressure that can be imposed by limitation. In my opinion, there is no point in wanting a surveyor to provide practical help only to insist upon how that help is performed.

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Surveyors do not make the market, we merely interpret it for the benefit of our clients. The market is indifferent, it does not care about what happens to participants, but surveyors are concerned (a cynic might say for their own livelihoods if nothing else) so have developed a methodology that may be summed up as a combination of opinion and evidence.

Even though valuation is an art just as much as a science, the evidential approach tends to be preferred because that enables surveyors to be able to justify opinions. To be able to satisfy the assertion to prove it. Our ways of interpretation presuppose sufficient experience to cover every eventuality, but whether there is no difference between theory and practice depends upon remembering that people have feelings, as I keep being reminded, when I venture into sensitive territory, because our ways of interpreting can be stuck in the past or subject to ideology.

Interpretation of the market as a whole comes from a combination of practical experience, industry comment and informed anecdotes. The market as a whole is diverse with a myriad of interests and whether surveyors get a look in to the entire gamut depends upon how much of the market a surveyor is exposed to. Anything unusual or out of line with orthodox ways of interpreting can tend to be dismissed as an aberration.

It is not compulsory for a tenant to take advice from a surveyor, but that doesn’t prevent surveyors from rejecting evidence involving an unrepresented tenant as unrepresentative of the market. In my opinion, it is surveyor-snobbery to think that unrepresented tenants cannot possibly know what they are doing even though it is the tenant that commits to the lease, not the surveyor. A lease of commercial property is a commercial contract which means the parties are deemed to know what they are doing. For a surveyor to override that built-in assumption is tantamount to asserting that only surveyors have the right to decide what is and what is not evidence.

Even so, there is some truth in that, to be precise in deciding the weight that should be attached to the evidence. Evidence is proof but the evidence should also be able to show on the balance of probabilities that the source is au fait with the technicalities. Weight is not the same as admissible: weight is how much notice ought be taken of the evidence for purpose of being influenced by that evidence.

Nor is it compulsory for a landlord to take advice from a surveyor and many landlords do not. Many landlords see no point in incurring the extra expense when as the decision-makers themselves they are perfectly capable of making up their own mind whether to accept the tenant’s offer. Hence, the evidence unrepresented landlords create is as far as such landlords are concerned beyond reproach. It can come as a surprise therefore to be told by a surveyor that evidence provided by an unrepresented landlord is just as likely to be questionable as that of an unrepresented tenant.

The sector of the market involving surveyors tends to be more sophisticated and in the upper reaches where rent level are at least £15,000 pa, but there are pockets amongst the lower echelons where surveyors are involved because what starts as an unrepresented scenario can becomes so frustrating for the parties concerned that surveyors are brought in to sort things out.

A sizeable sector of the market is unrepresented and in a world of its own. In this sector, it is common for rents either to be significantly less or substantially more than if surveyors were involved. Less is when the landlord’s investment policy is to want full occupancy regardless. More is when the business philosophy of the landlord and tenant is contrary to the surveyor-system.

Client-expectations are sentiment-oriented, never mind the small print of business tenancy law and valuation; instead, the landlord believes a right to expect a proper return on the investment, the tenant is doing well so should pay more; while the tenant may not be able to afford so much but doesn’t want to upset the landlord. Surveyor-thinking is technicalities regardless of affordability. Different sectors of the market have their own ways of reaching agreement. It is only when the lines of communication cross between the unrepresented and surveyor-methodology that the attitudinal fireworks begin.

Michael Lever
The Rent Review Specialist
Established 1975

Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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