Canberra’s property market continues to grow, with a significant number of dynamic new buildings underway and, with the increase of interstate and foreign investment, doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Commercial property investors rely on us to provide sound advice relevant to the local market, including the unique ACT Crown leasehold and planning system.

We can help you to consider issues related to your commercial property matter, including your corporate structure, mortgages and securities, tax implications, and financial documentation. We can also assist you with property disputes should they arise.

Property development

Our property development team has strong relationships with property developers, investors and landlords for large and small residential and commercial property developments.

We have guided many clients through successful property developments using a collaborative, efficient and communicative approach. We provide a comprehensive, efficient and transparent legal service, including collaboration with your accountant and access to a client portal to track the real-time progress of your development.

Our areas of expertise include:

  • commercial land acquisitions
  • commercial property purchases and sales, including stand-alone properties and small- and large-scale multi-unit developments
  • property development strategy advice, including unit title, community title and staging advice
  • structuring advice
  • joint venture contracts and advice
  • compliance with regulatory requirements
  • sub-divisions
  • licensing.

Buying & selling commercial property

Commercial property transactions can be highly complex. There are many nuances and pitfalls to navigate, such as:

  • due diligence
  • contract review
  • dealing with financiers
  • dealing with commercial tenants
  • negotiations between the parties
  • stamp duty and other taxes
  • exchange and settlement.

We will provide clear advice on how to navigate the process, ensuring the transaction occurs smoothly.

Commercial leasing

Most businesses lease their premises, rather than own them. Most commercial and retail leases are regulated.

Our many years of experience acting for both landlords and tenants, and dealing with regulated and unregulated leases, has given us the ability to anticipate the needs of both sides of the transaction, enabling us to provide efficient and timely advice.

Some of the important issues include:

  • suites of leases
  • customised leases
  • capacity of landlord and tenant
  • disclosure statements
  • obligations under the leases (Commercial and Retail) Act 2001  (if a regulated lease)
  • guarantee (personal and bank)
  • concessional or market value leases
  • permitted use in Crown lease (zoning)
  • rent review mechanisms
  • outgoings
  • options for renewal or purchase
  • right of first refusal
  • repair and make good obligations
  • registration requirements for lease
  • leasing dispute representation and resolution.

Direct grants

Under the ACT Crown leasehold system, if you are eligible to meet certain statutory criteria, it’s possible to seek a direct grant of land from the government. This is generally for charitable or other public purposes but does include market value lease land.

Planning law

As the ACT is bound by a Crown lease system, there are a variety of statutory documents and directions that affect what you can do with your land, not just for acquisition, but also for ongoing use. The Territory Plan underpins the ACT government’s zoning and regulation of the use of land. Zones include industrial, commercial and residential.

In addition to the rules set down in the Territory Plan, each property is subject to an individual Crown lease, which also imposes restrictions on the use of the land. Great care is required to identify these before an acquisition, during development and for subsequent subleasing.

Depending on the intended use, it may be necessary to apply to the ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate for approval. This is because some uses are permitted without government approval, while others (such as some home businesses and various construction projects) require a development application. There is also a range of activities requiring public consultation and all objectors to be heard.

We can guide you through the planning process so that you understand your rights and limitations pertaining to the land.

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Dennis Martin has provided legal advice for me in both a personal and business capacity on a number of matters over many years.

What I have found to be particularly beneficial is that he lays out the legal arguments and the possible outcomes clearly.

On a commercial lease negotiation, he was able to provide a strategy of how the matter might play out. He was instrumental in getting the other party to negotiate and he helped us, as clients who were not experienced in this aspect of law, to see how events may occur. And he was right.

I’ve never forgotten that and it’s more than 16 years ago now. Dennis’ ability to translate complex legal matters and spell out a strategic plan is why we have developed a long-term relationship with Dennis and Snedden Hall & Gallop.

G Diamand (Property)

29 June 2017

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