So, a little update for you all. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have already seen me post about the fact that 2015 has not gotten off to the best start for me unfortunately. I ended 2014 on such a high - moving in to my new studio, planning exciting new ventures to run from this amazing space... and then on New Year's Eve it all went wrong. I'm sharing this here because I want to keep everyone who has been so kind and supportive in the loop, and to share my experiences so that hopefully they may help someone else to not end up in the same situation.
Whilst decorating and moving in to my studio last week I bumped into another tenant from the same floor, who was in the process of moving out. We got chatting and I casually asked why they were moving out (just making conversation really.) They seemed extremely shocked that I would ask such a question, and asked if I knew what was happening to the building. They then went on to explain that the whole industrial estate, including our building, was being demolished to make way for redevelopment. My heart dropped into my stomach. At no point did my landlord ever mention this to me. I moved in with the intention of building my business, using the space to run workshops and classes hopefully for years to come, and to really carve a space out for myself. Suddenly, none of this was going to be possible.
Not only had I already paid a month's rent, plus another month as a security deposit, I'd also paid to decorate the space, and bought furniture. Myself and my family and boyfriend had given up our time off over Christmas to move in and get everything ready, and now we were being told the building was being knocked down. I immediately tried to contact my landlord to find out more information, and to ask why he hadn't told me any of this when I moved in, but he refused to answer my calls, text messages or emails, and still hasn't (it has been six days now!) My New Year's Eve should have been spent celebrating, getting excited for the year ahead, and instead it was spent crying on the sofa, eating a giant toblerone. (okay, the toblerone part probably would have happened either way but, y'know.)
When I moved in to the property, I was sent a 'licence to occupy' agreement which I never actually signed (because I was only sent it via email, and was never actually asked to sign it by anyone!) The agreement committed me to twelve months, but states that the landlord can ask me to leave at any point, by serving me with one month;s notice, without giving any reason. I thought that perhaps the fact that I hadn't signed the agreement would make it void, and I'd simply be able to move out after a month. Unfortunately, after looking into it, this doesn't seem to be the case. By paying him and moving in to the premises, my actions have in effect agreed to the terms, so it seems as though I am legally bound to occupy the space and pay rent each month.
From speaking to current tenants and former tenants in my building (as my landlord is still refusing to give me any information whatsoever) it seems as though we will all have to be moved off the site by end of March this year. However it could be later than this, and there have been mentions of not needing to leave until as late as July or August. This means I will be paying £900 a month rent for a space I cannot use. While I could go there each day and work (although this would cost me more money and time in travel expenses as I currently live on the other side of London, so I'd rather continue to work from home) I would still be unable to organise workshops and classes as planned, as I have no idea when the building will be demolished. It does not seem sensible, or financially viable, to invest more money in a venture that I may only be able to run for a month or two.
I am currently seeking legal advice on the matter, but due to the nature and the terms of the agreement, it seems that I am (to put it politely) up the creek without a paddle. Most agreements of this nature (particularly when they are a 'license' rather than a 'lease') are very, very heavily weighted in the favour of the landlord, to the point where you as a tenant have almost no legal rights. It feels so unfair that someone can let you commit to a twelve month agreement knowing full well that he cannot provide you with a premises for the full twelve months.
It would seem that my landlord, by all accounts, is a complete douchebag. He is keeping a lot of people in the dark about the whole situation, but sadly is well within his rights legally to do so. So currently I am in limbo - the majority of my belongings are still in the new studio. I've brought back home the bare essentials needed for running the business day to day, so that at least we can still process orders. I'm unable to plan anything for the future right now, as I have literally no idea what my situation will be. The hardest part for me has been the realisation that the dream which I thought was going to become a reality in 2015, may actually now have to be put on hold indefinitely. I feel crushed. My heart is not in this right now. I'm supposed to be working on plans for workshops and classes, designing new products, finalising my Valentine's Day collection. Instead I am calling lawyers and solicitors.
My advice to anyone looking at moving their business into a property owned by someone else - get a solicitor or someone with a legal background to read through your agreement before you give the landlord a single penny. Ask questions, as many questions as possible. Don't be afraid to ask for the agreement to be amended if it doesn't suit your needs and, if they refuse, walk away. Talk to other tenants and get an idea of what your landlord is like and how he treats them. There are some awful people out there, who do not care what they do to you, or how their actions affect you. Don't be a victim, be proactive, and know your legal rights. I wish I had known this before I gave them my money, but now I just want to make sure no-one else gets stung like I have.