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I hold a licence but can’t trade. Can I terminate it?

A licence to occupy premises is not an interest land and operates as a commercial contract between the parties that enter into it. Licences tend to be put in place to cover short periods and consequently they are generally a lot more flexible than commercial leasing arrangements. To that extent occupants under licences should review the contract to establish whether or not there are any provision allowing them to terminate on notice to the Licensor.

Occupants under licences that are granted for longer periods without the option to terminate may try to argue that the contract has frustrated because they are effectively unable to occupy.

Related FAQs

Is the current pandemic an event which will allow me to argue that the lease has been ‘frustrated’?

This is unlikely. Frustration is a doctrine rarely used as a way of getting out of leases. It operates to bring a lease to an early end because of the effect of a supervening event. It is then not a concept readily applicable to a situation where one party is looking to get out of a lease. To be able to argue the doctrine of frustration, you must be able to demonstrate that something unforeseeable has happened that makes it impossible to fulfil the lease and unjust to hold a party to its obligations.

This is not something that can be demonstrated easily.

There was a case in the High Court last year when the doctrine of frustration was looked at in a case involving the European Medical Agency.

The court found that Brexit did not frustrate EMA’s lease. EMA was granted leave to appeal that decision to the Court of Appeal, but unfortunately, the parties settled out of court so the arguments were not tested in the higher court.

Another reason why frustration is likely to fail is an argument that, whilst the current lockdown may force closures to businesses and whilst such closures maybe for a lengthy period, such closures will only be temporary.

What is the Flexible Furlough Scheme?

The Flexible Furlough Scheme, ‘FFS’ an unfortunate acronym, allows employees to work for some of the week and be furloughed for the rest.

I am dealing with an estate where the bank has sent me an indemnity to obtain the funds. Will the bank accept my signature without it being witnessed by my solicitor?

If you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration there should be no need to complete an indemnity, merely an account closure form. If however you have not yet obtained a Grant but the bank is willing to release funds then they will generally require an indemnity to be executed. Several banks and building societies including Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and Santander have signed up to the British Banking Association’s voluntary Bereavement Principles, one of which is to support the bereaved according to their personal needs and work with you to resolve everything as quickly as possible.

If the indemnity requires a solicitor to act as a witness, you should contact the bank to see what they are willing to do to get around the problem, given the current situation.

What should an employer do when an employee has been told to self-isolate under the coronavirus Test and Trace scheme?
  • Do not require them to work
  • Continue to communicate with and support them
  • Allow them to work from home, is there alternative work for them to do if they can’t do their work from home
  • Offer SSP or allow them to take holiday if they want to.
I am finding life at home very difficult and I want to separate from my spouse. Is this possible under the current pandemic?

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) issued guidance mid-April confirming that you can move to a friend’s address for several days to “cool off” following an argument at home. You should strongly consider either yourself or your spouse moving elsewhere where children are involved as it prevents the children from witnessing conflict within the home, at what is already an emotionally charged time for them. Nevertheless, you should also consider and take legal advice on the financial implications of either of you or your partner moving out and how contact with the children is going to be promoted with both parents, if suitable. The Government Guidance has confirmed that children can be moved between households if they have separated parents.

It is still possible to issue Divorce proceedings and much of the process has now been taken online. The main divorce suit is dealt with separately to the separation of financial assets and children arrangements, which can often take much longer to review and discuss. While staff shortages may mean slower turn-around times there is no reason to suspect that a divorce will not otherwise go ahead as anticipated. Once coronavirus has passed, it is likely that divorce rates will spike and there will be an increased demand on the Court system, so your divorce process may take longer if you delay filing your divorce.

It is also still possible to issue Court Applications regarding any financial settlements or children arrangements, however, the Court system was already under significant pressure before coronavirus, so the pandemic will only add to that and we expect Court processes to significantly be slower in those areas.

Court Applications should in any event be used as a last resort and there are alternative dispute resolution processes available which you should consider, including Arbitration and Mediation. Family lawyers are continuing to advise and assist individuals, manage their separations and can provide information about the options available, using alternative methods of communication such as Teams, Skype or Zoom for clients. Understandably, speaking aloud may be difficult in circumstances where you are not able to get any private time away from your spouse due to you being in lockdown and so email correspondence may be the most appropriate method of communication.