When people look at the possibility of moving they tend to base ideas on their current set-up – the number of people they have, desk set-up, breakout areas, meeting rooms and so on. But technology and ways of working are changing. Office layouts have more informal collaboration space for interaction and include lifestyle features such as cycle storage and changing facilities.
A good starting point is to do a space audit to see if you need more space or could be more efficient with less space. If, for example, you are moving from two storeys to a single floor it won’t be a case of simply totalling your current footage, you’ll probably find you need less space on a single level.
Repair and maintenance issues are another important factor. It’s likely you will have a full repairing and insuring lease which means you’ll be taking on repair obligations. If you move into part of a larger building there could be common area repairs planned and you will be liable to pay your share. Make sure you get a proper inspection done that identifies if you have anything to worry about.
A ‘schedule of condition’ is a record showing the condition of the premises when you first took over. The schedule can help identify your precise responsibilities and so you avoid unexpected dilapidation costs when you move on. The aim is to establish a level of comfort where you know your repair obligations and potential costs.
Similarly, if your surveys discover that the landlord has a series of repairs scheduled or a planned maintenance regime that will involve significant expenditure, you may want to seek a service charge cap to limit your exposure. By asking for a cap you’re saying that you’re happy to pay some of the increased cost, but not all of it.
One way to reduce your outlay when you move is the potential for government or local authority rates relief, such as the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Fresh Start Scheme in Scotland. Check if rates relief applies before you take a property. It’s simple to see what the current thresholds are with a simple online search.
If your business is likely to expand you build in flexibility for growth by taking extra space at the start, or look for a lease break option. A break option is more commonly a tenant only provision, usually with nine or 12-months notice to the landlord. Should you exercise that choice make sure your rent, service charge and other payments are up to date and that you serve the notice correctly. If you are in default of lease obligations you could find the break option is invalidated.
Alternatively, if you decide you want to move at year four of a 10-year lease you can offer the space back to the market and try to find a sub tenant or someone to take over the lease. You must check that the lease allows you to assign or sub-lease.
There’s a growing number of firms, large and small, making use of serviced office space. Although costs are higher, this route gives much more flexibility. You can have space for a short period of time and leave whenever you like, on relatively short notice. You get a desk space, the chance to use collaboration spaces and there are meeting rooms you can rent if need be.
Making a move is, in the vast majority of cases, a positive sign; it’s usually something you do when your business is ready for its next stage of development. In the excitement you could be tempted to overlook some essentials. A property consultant can help you take a considered approach.