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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme – Will it Do More Harm than Good for Research?

Well here’s a bit of irony.

The government brings in a tax designed to boost energy efficiency and drive down carbon emissions and who does it end up harming?

The very scientists trying to conduct research into renewable green energy!

That’s according to this report in the Guardian which says that the CRC bill for some research facilities is likely to amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds, putting jobs and the research itself at risk.

One of the examples given in the report is the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, a facility for research into almost limitless carbon-free energy. They have to use electricity to run their machines, but are expected to be hit with a £400,000 CRC bill next year.

This does all seem a bit bonkers.

The Prospect union is urging the government to exempt energy use where the focus of research contributes directly to public good and government policy, which seems a sensible suggestion.

Britain's main funding body for research centres, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, is trying to persuade ministers to rethink how the scheme applies to scientific laboratories.

All representations have been dismissed by the government (good grief), but the chief scientist, Sir John Beddington, has, according to the report, passed on researchers' concerns to DECC for an ongoing review.

DECC has said:

"We are working on simplifying the CRC scheme to make it more straightforward and reduce burden on participants. Further details of how we plan to do this will be published in the coming months."

There’s a lot about CRC that currently doesn’t make sense – see my previous posts on the subject here.

The sooner the review is concluded the better – both to help businesses know where they stand and also to deal with the absurdity of a tax potentially damaging the very thing it is supposed to be helping.

Assignment Conditions – What Should You Agree In A New Lease?

What should you look for if you are a tenant negotiating assignment conditions in a new commercial lease?

In my recent post on How to Assign a Lease etc I looked at what conditions typically have to be satisfied when seeking your landlord’s consent to assign your lease.

When negotiating the terms of a new lease – if you are a tenant – you should try to end up with as few conditions as realistically possible in order to make things easier for you if you ever decide you want to assign your lease to someone else later on.

However, ending up with a lease which allows you to assign at will is unlikely to happen, even in today’s market.

So what is realistic?

2007 Lease Code

However, the Code is not mandatory. Not all landlords will choose to offer Code-compliant leases, but the Code aims to promote fairness and ensure that small business especially are aware of the issues and have the information necessary to negotiate the best deal available to them.

The Code says that leases should:-

·         Allow tenants to assign the whole of the premises with the landlord’s consent not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed; and

·         Not refer to any specific circumstances for refusal –although the Code accepts that any group company of the tenant taking an assignment, when assessed together with any proposed guarantor, must be of at least equivalent financial standing to the assignor (together with any guarantor of the assignor).

“Financial standing” is not defined however, so if that term is used in a lease it might result in confusion or argument.

Assignments within a corporate group

Notwithstanding what the Code says about assignments to group companies, the position on assignments within a corporate group has been made more difficult since 2007 following the decision in the Good Harvest case and a subsequent decision at the end of 2010, currently awaiting appeal.

Landlords are now more likely to try and set strict financial conditions to be met before group company assignments are permitted, or even to ban those assignments altogether.

Here is a link to my previous posts on Good Harvest if you want to read more.

Authorised Guarantee Agreements (AGAs)

An AGA is a guarantee of your assignee’s obligations. My previous post on assignments explains this further.

It’s something your landlord may insist that you give on any assignment.

It’s potentially onerous because it means your supposedly ex-landlord can come back to haunt you by requiring you to pay the rent again if the new tenant fails to do so, and could even require you to take the lease back in place of the errant new tenant. Not a nice surprise when you’ve assumed your involvement with those premises was history.

The Code makes various suggestions that an AGA should only be required where the assignee is of lower “financial standing” than the assignor, or where it is “financially weaker”, and suggests that for “smaller tenants” a rent deposit might be more suitable. However, none of those terms is defined.

If the landlord wants to have some ability to require an AGA, it is simpler just to say that an AGA will be provided where “reasonably required” by the landlord – which avoids using terms that on the face of it might appear more precise, but actually aren’t.

You might also be able to include provisions in the AGA that will allow you to cancel it if defined conditions are met or after an agreed period.

Other conditions

The Code suggests that you try to make sure that the only precondition for assignment is the landlord’s consent in writing (which will be given in a licence to assign) and that the landlord may not unreasonably withhold or delay giving its consent (although that is implied by law anyway).

Whether it is realistic to expect to end up with no other conditions will depend on your bargaining position – how keen (desperate) is the landlord to have you as a tenant? The landlord may be looking to strike a hard bargain and choose to ignore the Code altogether.

I mentioned in my previous post on this subject some of the other kinds of conditions you might meet.

For example, it is common to have a condition that your assignee provides a contractual guarantee to the landlord. If you have to agree to this, try and say the landlord can only ask for one of those guarantees where it is “reasonable” to do so.

The Code specifically says that the landlord should not impose any condition which requires you to be in compliance with the lease at the time of the assignment.

That is very good advice and the rationale is the same as for break clause conditions – you don’t want your landlord to be able to refuse consent to assign just because you have committed some minor breach of a repairing obligation, for example.

Depending on the deal, the landlord may insist on assignees providing a rent deposit, bank guarantee or some other form of security. If that has to be agreed, then try and qualify it by reference to “reasonableness”.

Will you have to pay anything?

You should only be obliged to pay the landlord’s reasonable legal costs incurred in connection with granting its consent to the assignment.

You should resist any obligation to pay a price or premium to the landlord for being allowed to assign.

Watch out too for any attempt to exclude section 144 of the Law of Property Act 1925 – a sneaky way to try to hoodwink the unsuspecting tenant, or its advisor! It is rare these days for leases to try and do this, but I have seen some which do. Provided section 144 applies, the law doesn’t allow the landlord to charge a premium for its consent.

I wonder what would happen if section 144 were excluded and the landlord tried to insist on the payment of a massive premium in return for its consent? The tenant might be able to argue that the amount of the premium was unreasonable – but you don’t even want to go there.

It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway! – that you need to take professional advice when negotiating assignment conditions and if you can, it’s a good idea to try and address as many of these issues as possible at heads of terms stage.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Will Landlords be Shafted by the Green Deal?

Why is the BPF not getting more agitated about the Green Deal?

It promises to be good news for tenants – they get to enjoy the benefits of energy efficiency and might only bear some of the cost during the term of their lease.

But what about landlords?

One of the innovations promised by the Green Deal is that the repayments plan will be attached to the property rather than the individual – although technically the cost of the upgrade will be a charge on the meter rather than a charge on the property in the “mortgage” sense.

So if improvements are made under the Green Deal when the lease only has a short time left to run, and then the landlord struggles to find a new tenant, who gets to pick up the tab when the tenant has left?

Presumably the landlord – as there’s no one else to pay.

Of course if no one is using the building, then the energy bill will be low – but what will happen to the “Green Deal” element of the bill – does that carry on at a fixed rate, whether anyone is occupying the building or not?

Details of the Green Deal are to be ironed out in the autumn, but there is clearly a risk to landlords that the cost of void periods will be increased.

And how will landlords be incentivised to carry out improvements which will mainly benefit the tenant?

Easy – the government is just going to make it illegal to let properties that are not energy efficient - by setting minimum energy efficiency standards to be achieved with the help of Green Deal financing.

As I mentioned in this earlier post, from April 2018 the government is proposing to make it unlawful for landlords of both domestic and commercial premises to rent out “F” and “G” rated buildings (based on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive rating).

Landlords with poor performing properties would have to complete a Green Deal assessment and then implement  the improvements identified to bring the energy performance of the property up to the required threshold (there are likely to be some exceptions, such as listed buildings to mitigate the effects of this a bit).

It is easy to see how the value of old buildings could be severely hit by this new regulation unless upgrades are begun, soonest.

The sights are on “F” and G” properties now – but at some point the target might go up the alphabet.

Prudent investors need to get to grips with sustainability pronto.

Will the Green Investment Bank Shine its Light on Solar?

Will the Green Investment Bank (GIB) be good news for developers and investors in large scale solar farms ?

The solar industry was rocked this year by the urgent review of Feed in Tariffs (FITs) ordered by the government – on which more can be found here.

So will the GIB help restore lost confidence?

On the face of it, you might think so. It is, after all, being described as the first public bank dedicated to the green economy.

I reported in this post on the announcement by Nick Clegg on Monday of the plans to set up the GIB – which needs approval from the European Commission before it can be established.

More flesh was added to the bones of these proposals by Vince Cable this week.

The GIB could provide an extra £15 billion of private investment in green infrastructure projects by 2015.

As this report in Business Green shows, the remit of the bank will ultimately be much broader than initially thought – starting with the wind, energy efficiency and waste sectors, but beyond 2015 potentially investing in a host of climate-related technologies, including new rolling stock for trains, nuclear power plants, or even flood defences.

But there’s something missing from the list in all these pronouncements – solar.

BIS officials have said the list is “non exhaustive”, which implies that solar is not excluded. But why is it not mentioned specifically, I wonder?

Solar undoubtedly has a role to play in the green economy – so is there an agenda here?

The initial capitalisation of GIB will be £3 million, and the bank is to step in to help tackle risks which the private sector cannot adequately finance.

How much risk the GIB will be willing to take however, is anybody’s guess at the moment.

To get things moving as soon as possible the government is expected to make direct, state-aid compliant investments in green infrastructure projects from April 2012, until a point when these investments can be transferred to the GIB.

The solar industry will want more specific assurances that the GIB will be there for them too.

Meanwhile, big solar projects are nevertheless under way, as you can see from a report in this is somerset.

[UPDATE 27/5/11 or not...even a blog can soon be overtaken by events as it seems at least one of these schemes has been scrapped according to this report from the BBC.

Wessex Solar Energy received planning permission for a 5-mega watt farm near the M5 in Bridgwater on Tuesday by Sedgemoor District Council. It now looks unlikely that development will go ahead.

Owner Johnny Wearmouth said: "It's not looking promising. It's looking more unlikely than likely.
"If it's not operating by 1 August then it's essentially worthless." 

The report refers to 6 other schemes in the region that have also been scrapped.]

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is against these developments and wants to see solar restricted to brown field sites alone.

Location is always going to be an issue with solar farms, but if we are going to be serious about renewable energy (which I know is a moot point for many) then banning them from the countryside altogether is not the way forward – it’s a question of finding the right places and developing them in a way that tries to take account of local concerns, whilst at the same time not surrendering to NIMBYism.

 On the other hand, for a spirited defence of NIMBYism - see this polemic from Simon Jenkins.

He's clearly got it in for wind...and pylons...but seems fairly relaxed about solar:

"To wreck the fragile landscape – and seascape – of Britain when the future more probably lies in gas, sun and waves seems idiotic."
So maybe the solar industry has a friend after all!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Trouble at Till – Tesco’s Wild West Frontier

The controversy surrounding the Tesco Express in Stokes Croft, Bristol continues.

This report from the BBC says the store reopened yesterday after it had been closed following the rioting last month.

Another report, in Planning, says local protest group No Tesco in Stokes Croft (NTSC) is seeking a judicial review into a planning application that was approved by the council last December, claiming the local authority failed to follow proper procedures.

The report says the planning application being contested relates to the store’s exterior, including installation of plant and equipment, rather than the original application to open a store.

I suspect the finer points of which particular application should be examined are of little interest to many of the protesters, who simply don’t want the store there at all.

An initial request for judicial review was turned down by the High Court earlier this month but NTSC has won the right to a hearing into whether the judicial review procedure can be invoked, and that hearing will take place in Cardiff on 15 June.

Tesco are trying to keep a distance from the planning dispute, saying it is between the protesters and the council.

Meanwhile, the website of the elusive Bristol graffiti artist, Banksy, has been displaying an image he’s created of a “Tesco Value Petrol Bomb”! The BBC says fans have been queuing for hours at a book fair in Bristol to get their hands on a limited edition of the poster – proceeds of the sale going to the more radically-named People’s Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC) and other groups.

The bigger picture is what impact the big out of town supermarkets are having on high streets, especially in suburban areas and small towns, and how we are going to deal with all the empty shops. You can see my previous posts on one initiative, “meanwhile use”, here.

This report from the BBC last week, also on the Stokes Croft dispute, said campaigners are calling for greater transparency in UK planning law so communities are made more aware of new businesses opening in their area – much of the anger in Stokes Croft appears to have arisen because locals did not know in advance that Tesco was coming.

Bristol City Council and the London Assembly are calling for a new “supermarket” classification in planning law. Express supermarkets are currently Class A1 retail, like other retail outlets. But campaigners say the impact a new supermarket can have on an area, such as frequent deliveries from heavy goods vehicles, should put it in a class of its own.

In the Stokes Croft case, planning permission for retail appears to have been granted before the council knew of Tesco’s interest – this BBC story reports how this happened.

I don’t see this proposal for a change of use classification getting very far. The Department for Communities & Local Government has already said it is not the role of the planning system to restrict competition or give preference to one retailer over another. In fairness to the reformers though, that does not deal with their deliveries point.

The irony is that councils want to see empty units filled, so in many cases they are likely to be quite receptive to the expansionist plans of big food. It is ironic because the closure of independent shops is made more likely by the big retail giants, who then step in to fill the empty units with mini versions of themselves.

Of course the strong feelings and violence at Stokes Croft have arisen from particular local concerns.

The threat to high street retail in general is universal.

But you can't throw rocks at the internet.

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Death of Blogging? Not for #Lawblogs

And so for some (more) shameless self publicity - here is an excellent piece in the Guardian about the current state of legal blogging in which I am very chuffed indeed to see Digging the Dirt mentioned!

A big thank you to Siobhain Butterworth (@SiobhainB) for the mention.

Green Investment Bank – Government Grasps the Nettle

Nick Clegg.

There – I thought I’d get the controversial bit of this post out the way first.

Moving swiftly on...

The Deputy Prime Minister has today made his eagerly awaited announcement on plans to set up the Green Investment Bank (GIB).

You can access the full text of his speech here. As well as giving a run-down of green initiatives so far undertaken by the government (the predictable pat on the back, “greenest government ever” etc), he sets out how the GIB will go from an idea to a flow of investment in under two years, with the aim for it to grow quickly into an independent investing, and then borrowing, institution.

The role of the GIB will be to close the gap between capital funds that want to invest in the green economy, and firms wanting to grow but desperate for funds.

Clegg addressed the following key questions about the GIB (this is a summary of his words).

How will it be set up?

The government is to bring forward legislation to ensure both the operational independence and enduring nature of the Bank.

How much money will it have?

The government has guaranteed £3 billion for the initial capitalisation of the Bank. It hopes to generate these funds through asset sales, but Clegg wants to make it clear that the money does not depend on those sales. “It has been underwritten by the Treasury, and it will be made available.”

When will the money start to flow?

Investments are to be made from April 2012. Possible early priorities for the Bank are offshore wind, waste, and non-domestic energy efficiency. The government is also looking at the potential for using the Bank to help deliver the first stages of the Green Deal. In the initial period, investment decisions will be made under interim governance arrangements, which Vince Cable is to set out in more detail.

When will it be independent?

The GIB will have full operational independence under the leadership of a new board as soon as state aid clearance has been approved, which will take place as soon as possible. The bank will then be able to undertake a wide range of transactions, including equity, debt and risk mitigation products. The initial £3 billion capital by 2014/15 should enable the bank to catalyse an additional £15 billion of investment in green infrastructure.

When will it start to borrow itself?

The GIB will have borrowing powers from April 2015, on the basis – as set out in the Budget – that the government target for debt to be falling as a percentage of GDP has been met.

Whatever you might think about the government in general – and Clegg in particular – I think these proposals should be welcomed. The GIB could offer great opportunities to organisations that want to invest in this sector.

Particularly important is that the initial £3m capitalisation of the GIB will be underwritten by the Treasury and not dependent on asset sales (there were previously doubts about that). This should enable companies to start making plans to apply for funding for green projects, including offshore wind farms, waste and industrial energy efficiency.

There will be some campaigners who will say the proposals do not go far enough, that the GIB will have insufficient funds, and that the basis for it being able to borrow itself rests on a moot point – whether the target for debt will indeed have fallen as a percentage of GDP by 2015.

But given the dismal circumstances of the economy as a whole and the rows there have been within government about the size of the bank and who should control it, I think the fact that the government is setting up the GIB at all should be welcomed.

After all, they had every excuse just to kick it into the long grass.

Generation Flex – Your Country Needs You: To Design A Pylon!

The DECC, National Grid and RIBA have today jointly announced a competition for architects, engineers, designers and students of those disciplines, challenging them to rethink one of the most crucial but controversial features of the British landscape: the electricity pylon.

Here is the RIBA Pylon Design Competition website, which includes a live countdown to the competition deadline on Tuesday 12th July 2011 : 14:00pm – keep an eye on that if you leave your scribbling to the last minute.

DECC says there are more than 88,000 pylons in the UK, including 22,000 on National Grid’s main transmission network in England and Wales.  These stand approximately 50 metres high, weigh around 30 tonnes and carry up to 400,000 volts of electricity over thousands of kilometres of some of the most exposed, weather-beaten parts of Britain.  But the familiar steel lattice tower has barely changed since the 1920s. 

The challenge, says DECC, is to design a pylon that has the potential to deliver for future generations, whilst balancing the needs of local communities and preserving the beauty of the countryside.

They will also need to be able to cope with the demands of the equivalent of 20 new power stations, which the energy secretary, Chris Huhne, says will be needed by 2020 and much more beyond that.

National Grid’s Executive Director UK, Nick Winser says:

“The pylon as we know it has served the nation well, but new technologies and materials mean there may now be opportunities for new designs.”

This is going to be a tall order (feeble pun intended).

The current pylon design was chosen way back in 1927, and the familiar steel lattice tower design has barely changed since then.

The competition’s own website sets out the many advantages of the existing design – it is sturdy and the lattice construction means the wind can blow through it and people can see the background and the sky; it is durable and able to withstand the extremes of weather; flexible, allowing for variations in height, width and bulk depending on the landscape and adaptable to different kinds of cable; and the lattice design is well suited to maintenance – allowing engineers to climb up them and balance on the flat bases of the cross arms.

I think also people have just got used to seeing them. They may not be objects of great beauty, but, rather like TV aerials, they are just there and kind of blend in. Satellite dishes have always, to me anyway, looked more obtrusive than tv aerials.

Indeed, the National Grid has tried to rethink the pylon several times before and has already developed a single pole design, but it received little public support. The Grid says:

“When asked to choose, most people have continued to prefer the traditional lattice tower design.”

But different designs are starting to appear around the world – so someone might come up with a revolutionary departure in pylon-chic.

And of course many people loathe pylons altogether, fear for the increase in numbers inevitable with expansion in generation and call for greater use of underground cables, as this piece in the Guardian reports.

After the competition closes, a shortlist will be drawn up, and the designers of the shortlisted entries will then work on them further with the National Grid before submitting final designs at the beginning of September.

The designs will be on display at the V&A as part of the London Design Festival (17-25 September) and a winner will be chosen in October.

Will the winner get to change the face of Britain?

DECC says  National Grid will “give consideration” to developing the winning design for use in future projects. So we may still be some way off revolutionising the landscape.

Still, here’s my entry!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sustainability Now – Notes from a Virtual Conference

I attended parts of this “virtual conference” over the past few days – a surreal experience tuning in from the bunker!

There were some very good sessions. Here are some bits and pieces I picked up:

·         Government hopes to see the Energy Bill receive Royal Assent in early summer. Consultation will begin in the autumn on the detail of the Green Deal and the secondary legislation needed to bring it about. The aim is for the Green Deal to be in place next Easter.

·         Work will be done to improve Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). Some see them as a credible gateway to the Green Deal.

·         Government advisors believe that by defining what “zero carbon” buildings mean, there will be greater certainty as to what will be required on new builds by 2016. It is hoped this will stimulate innovation in design and the use of building materials and the subsequent behaviour of occupiers.

·         Although the Green Deal generally will not be reliant on a lot of government money, because it is meant to be financed ultimately through energy savings, support will be needed for “hard to treat” homes. This is one of the many things that will need to be addressed in secondary legislation.

·         More modernisation of Building Regulations will be on the way, with further reform likely in 2013.

·         Government will be exploring the application of Display Energy Certificates to commercial buildings, as they are considered more likely to improve energy efficiency than the current regime of EPCs. When the Department of Communities & Local Government was first assessed it was only given a G rating! It has since improved to E.

·         The government nevertheless remains committed to reducing the regulatory burdens on businesses.

A theme repeated by many at the conference was that it is not just about buildings. We need to change the behaviour of those who use the buildings as well. Buildings are, after all, passive until you put people in them.

There were many other topics discussed of course. I thought the virtual conference was a very useful way to get people involved at minimum expense and without unnecessary travel – which after all is what sustainability is all about.

Thanks to Sustainability Now for the conference.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Nuclear Power : UK Interim Report – A Safe Bet?

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has today presented to Parliament the findings of the Chief Nuclear Inspector’s interim report into the events at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in March this year.

This is the interim report I mentioned in this earlier post. The final report is due in September this year.

The DECC website has a summary and the full report can be accessed here.

The interim report finds that current safety measures are “adequate” and that is not necessary to make immediate safety improvements to operating nuclear reactors in the UK.

Huhne said:

“The Chief Nuclear Inspector has made clear the differences between Japan and the UK. We do not use the same reactor types, and do not plan to in future. We also do not expect to experience the extreme natural events seen in Japan. Dr Weightman’s interim report...provides us with the basis to continue to remove the barriers to nuclear new build in the UK. We want to see new nuclear as part of a low carbon energy mix going forward, provided there is no public subsidy. The Chief Nuclear Inspector’s interim report reassures me that it can.”

After consideration of the interim report the Government is to bring forward the Energy National Policy Statements for ratification as soon as possible. The NPSs provide a framework for decisions on planning applications for major energy infrastructure projects.

Yesterday the government announced it pledged to half UK carbon emissions by 2025 – the most ambitious target on greenhouse gasses of any developed country.

To achieve this, the government faces difficult decisions on energy, especially nuclear.

But how long will it take for memories to fade and for public trust in the nuclear industry to return?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lease Break Clauses – Get Your Own Name Right!

Yes it’s time to refuel your collective paranoia on the subject of break clauses again!

I’ve posted a number of times on this topic, and you can view those earlier posts here.

I looked at things that can go wrong when, as a tenant, you serve a break notice in my post Lease Break Clauses – What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

However I was recently reminded of another mistake it is possible for a tenant to make when serving a break notice – which is to serve it in the wrong name.

So this time, rather than getting the landlord’s name wrong, or sending it to the wrong address, I’m looking at what happens when the notice is served in the name of someone other than the tenant (and that person is not the tenant’s agent).

This happened in a case last year - Hexstone Holdings v AHC Westlink Ltd [2010] EWHC 1280 (Ch). The tenant had gone through a merger and announced it would be taking the same name as its parent company. The landlord subsequently sent out rent demands in the name of the parent company, but the change of name was never formalised. The tenant served a break notice in a letter on its parent company’s headed notepaper “for and on behalf of” the parent company.

The lease required notice to be given by the tenant. The fact that the landlord had demanded and received rent from the parent company was not sufficient to imply the parent company had authority to act on behalf of the tenant. The letter showed a different company number from that of the tenant, so the earlier announcement of a name change was irrelevant.

The court decided the notice had been given by the wrong person and was therefore invalid – which meant that the lease had to continue for the rest of the term.

Another expensive mistake.

The test the courts use is whether a reasonable recipient of a notice would be likely to be misled by the error.

Crucial in this context will be whether or not the break right is personal to the tenant (that is whether only the named tenant can operate the break clause, not its assignees).

Recent commentary by Sandi Murdoch in the Estates Gazette [7 May 2011] (which I cannot link to as it is behind a paywall) says that where the break right is personal, an error in the name is a mistake that could not mislead the landlord - the party named cannot end the lease and so the landlord must know that a mistake has been made and will not be confused by the notice – so the notice is valid. Kind of makes your brain hurt that, but I see what he means (I think).

But where the break right is not personal, getting the name wrong is likely to be fatal to the notice (as in Hextone) because the party named might be an assignee (albeit one who became one without the landlord’s consent) that can legally exercise the break, or it might not. The landlord will therefore be unsure who is trying to end the lease, so the notice will be usually be invalid.

You know what? Easier just to get it right in the first place!

By the way, none of this prevents someone who is genuinely an agent of the tenant from validly serving a break notice – but you do have to be able to prove that the agency exists.

Be careful out there people!