When operating a business, whether it be a shop, restaurant or an office, you must ensure that you are not breaching either your obligations under your lease or planning laws in using the property in a particular way.
For example, if there is planning permission for the use of the property as a shop, you may be contravening planning laws if you instead use it as a café. Some people do not know what planning permission their property has, and in many cases an issue may only come to light when selling or changing a business. In some circumstances, the same business may have been run from the property many years. This could establish an implied permission through long use of the property.
If you are considering running a business from a property, purchasing a business or changing it, you should make enquiries as to the permitted use. Does it suit your intended use of the property? What might you be required to do to change the use? There are two aspects to consider:

Planning permission

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 puts uses of buildings and land into categories. These are known as ‘use classes’. Common use classes include shops (A1), financial and professional services (A2), restaurants and cafes (A3) and hot food takeaway (A5). However, there are many more categories to include the particular use of your business.
As a general rule, you will need permission to change from one use class to another (there are some exceptions). This will involve making an application to the Local Authority to change the permitted use class. This works similar to an application for planning permission and allows the Local Authority control over the quantity and the types of businesses in the area. You can make some changes without requiring planning permission, such as from a café to a shop. However if you require a change of use, it is advisable to speak with the Local Authority before doing so. We have previously looked at how this affects licensed premises in particular.
If you run the business without the required permitted use, the Local Authority may take enforcement action which could result in the closure of your business.

Permitted use under the lease

If you are the tenant of a property, you will need to consider the terms of your lease as well as the planning permission requirements. Your landlord may have specific requirements for changing the use. This will depend on what your lease states. The lease normally defines a ‘permitted use’, which restricts a tenant from using the property beyond what was agreed with the landlord.
Some definitions can be wide and include ‘any use within class __ of the Town and Country Planning Act’. This would allow you to operate any business providing it falls within a certain class. However, other definitions may restrict permitted use to a particular type of shop, selling a certain type of item. Your landlord may well have his own reasons for restricting a type of use. For example, if you run a business from a shopping centre which the landlord owns, he may wish to restrict the competition of particular shops within that centre. In any event, if the lease requires, you must make an application to your landlord to change the permitted use in order to operate your intended business. Your landlord is likely to ask you to pay his costs for considering the application.
If you are taking over an existing lease or entering into a new lease, you should always check the ‘permitted use’ definition to ensure that it meets your requirements.
Our specialist commercial property team can advise you on changes of use. Call us today on 0800 988 7756 to speak to an expert.
changes of use