|The answer from Councillor
"The level of rents payable by tenants is determined in the
All shop lettings fall within the
security of tenure provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954
and rents are calculated in accordance with codes of practice
used by members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
and the terms set out in the lease agreed by the parties.
Should a property become vacant
and revert to the council (this rarely occurs as tenants normally
assign their interest for a premium to another occupier), the
property is advertised for letting in the market and is let to
the trader who is willing to pay the best rent). The council has
a fiduciary duty to its ratepayers to maximise the benefits it
obtains from its assets.
All leases contain provisions as
to how the new rental level is determined when rents are due for
review. Generally both parties are obliged to have regard both
to the terms of the lease (e.g. who is responsible for repairs
insurance etc.) and rents prevailing in the local area. Should
the parties be unable to agree the new rent, all council leases
provide for either party to refer the matter to a third party
for determination. When a tenancy expires the new rent in the
case of a dispute is set by the county court.
The lease terms do not allow the
council to set rents without consulting individual tenants, these
are determined following negotiation either directly with the
tenant or their appointed surveyor/solicitor.
With regard to the cleaners and
restaurant which have closed, I have no knowledge of the latter
as the property was not in the council's ownership. The cleaner's
shop was let to an organisation that owned a chain of outlets.
My understanding is that they closed a number of shops including
the premises in Blythe Road. To my knowledge the rent paid to
the council had no bearing on this decision.
For the reasons outlined above
I do not accept your premise that the council is setting rents
above those prevailing in the local area. It would be counterproductive
to do so and result in vacant premises and loss of income to the
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The feature published on 09 March:
Small businesses in Blythe Road are under risk of closure because
of the proposed rent increase by Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
Business owners say that the increases are between 30% and 50%.
The local butcher is likely to shut down in June, a hairdresser
salon cannot afford the rent rise and a restaurant and a cleaner
agency already closed their doors.
The increase is not affecting only Council tenants. Private landlords
are also taking advantage of the sudden valuation of the area
for putting up their rents. Judy Standard, from Boomerang shop
of second hand clothes and children articles, is paying £6,500
a year, but she says that her landlord is now asking £13,000
She says: "I am one of a number of small businesses who will
have to close as this
policy is setting precedent for all the rents in the area. The
village as it
is known used to be a thriving little community, but is now becoming
of estate and rental agencies. I am a single mother whose only
income is being threatened."
Sid Kassabian, owner of the Olympia Butchers, claims that the
closures have negative effects for the local community. Most the
small businesses in Blythe Road have an active role in the community
life. Olympia Butchers, for example, donates meat to local schools
and church every year. Last Christmas, he provided free meat for
a party of 400 people.
The Brook Green Association has prepared a petition against the
rent increase that says: "Hammersmith and Fulham Council's
proposed rent increase threaten Olympia Butchers with closure.
We deplore this possibility and we urge the Council to do all
it can to preserve our local shopping". So far the petition
has 500 local residents signatures.
Kassabian were paying £8,500 a year in 2001. Now, the Council
is increasing his rent to £13,500. This is a 58% increase
in two years. A similar increase is been set to the local hairdresser
next door to the butcher. Mr Kassabian also claims that just some
yards away, in Olympia, the Council's rents are of only £7,500.
Local businesses call it a "policy of charging exorbitant
rents" and they also complain because they were not called
for negotiations as it used to be done in the past.
Kassabian says: "I was always called to negotiate the rent
review, but this time I have just being notified".
Judy Standard says: "I have spoken to the Mayor of Hammersmith
Cllr Ghassan Kariam at a meeting of the Hammersmith Chamber Of
commerce one month ago, He promised an audience and to take up
our case with the director of the council, but has been unavailable
HammersmithToday.co.uk has contacted the Council and their answer
will be online as soon as the reply is received.