The practice was appointed by Argos to undertake a rent review of its 15,000 sq ft unit in Old Street, London, EC1. The property was part of a former department store unit, on ground and basement floors (2 floors trading), which had been subdivided, retaining many of the old features. The review proceeded to arbitration.
The valuation of the store was relatively complex due to:
- Frontage/depth issues.
- Only one quarter of the total floor area being used as sales.
- The unusual layout of the rear stock/staff area around a central void.
- Two-thirds of the accommodation being at basement level.
- Access to the basement via a goods lift, staircase and decommissioned escalators, just off the sales floor – to be assumed to be in full working order.
- The absence of contemporary Class A1 evidence in the thoroughfare – nil increase rent reviews and transactions effected during the peak of the recession etc.
- A restriction on use to non-food Class A1 uses only with a specific restriction also against the use as a supermarket.
- The absence of any contemporary large store non-food evidence in the locality.
- The need to address quantum.
- The only open market Class A1 evidence being a small City Road unit in a superior location.
- Significant office/residential developments being undertaken both opposite and adjacent, isolating the parade.
There were a significant number of points to be argued and many potential pitfalls if the case submitted was not persuasive and proven.
Whilst the frontage/depth adjustment was agreed between the parties prior to submissions, in order to win the case at arbitration, it was essential that we were successful on six key issues:
- Proving that the Argos location was inferior to that of the open market evidence.
- Proving that quantum was appropriate, notwithstanding that a frontage/depth adjustment had already been agreed.
- Convincing the arbitrator that the basement could not credibly be used for sales given the layout and the absence of tenant demand for the same, notwithstanding the assumed existence of escalator access.
- Persuading the arbitrator that the ancillary areas in the basement and at ground floor should be valued at rates psf consistent with our treatment of the comparable evidence.
- Further persuading the arbitrator that it was appropriate to apply quantum to the entire valuation, which would further depress the value attributed to the extensive basement area.
- Convincing the arbitrator to dismiss the arguments put forward by the landlord’s agents reference the head lease rent review increase and special purchaser demand (Co-op adjacent).
We presented a strong and credible argument, backed up by strong attention to detail and a consistent approach, persuading the arbitrator to ‘favour’ our valuation approach resulting in a rental award based on:
- A 15% discount for frontage/depth ratio relative to the ground floor area.
- A ground floor ancillary rate of A/14.
- A basement ancillary rate of A/20.
Finally, on checking the arbitrator’s award, an error was noted in the calculations. In accordance with section 57 (3) of the Arbitration Act 1996, we requested the arbitrator correct the issue, resulting in a £9,500 pa reduction in rent awarded. The amended figure brought the award in line with Gilbert Evans’ Calderbank proposal and costs successfully followed the event.