Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Getting into Office; It's Becoming Easier for Small Businesses to Find Stylish Workspaces in the City, Says David Spittles

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Getting into Office; It's Becoming Easier for Small Businesses to Find Stylish Workspaces in the City, Says David Spittles

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID SPITTLES

IT IS not easy for a novice to set up a business office for a new venture,but things are looking up with a choice of office space at a fair price,even in central London.You want to set up a business,but cannot do so from home.

What are your options?

Renting an office,workspace or shop,or even buying short-lease premises with accommodation upstairs,is not always the straightforward solution it seems.

Finding suitable space can be exasperating for people unfamiliar with the commercial property market, especially those with no business track record or references to show doubting landlords.

Commercial leases are normally for a minimum of three years and subject to upward-only rent reviews.The quoted rent is usually exclusive of business rates and outgoings such as service charges.You may even have to pay the landlord 's legal fees.Most landlords require a minimum of a quarter 's rent in advance,plus at least another quarter in the form of a deposit.This means an occupier will have to fork out at least [pound]10,000 from day one.In addition,your bank may charge you for status references.

Landlords prefer tenants who have a trading history and who can show they are making a profit.Tenants who can 't tend to be forced into less-desirable secondary locations,where business prospects are poorer.

The annual rent for a small shop in a rundown part of inner London can cost about [pound]10,000.The cost is much higher in more fashionable parts of London,such as Camden or Marylebone,where the annual rent can be more than [pound]50,000.

Because the market favours landlords, they are able to call the shots.Start-up businesses which enter into onerous rental agreements risk going under.

Conditions remain quite tough for tenants,but there are signs that the market is weakening,says Stephen Page of property consultant Richard Susskind.

"There isn 't the same demand from dotcoms,which were full of promise but had no pedigree and had to pay more than a year upfront."

And with things getting tougher,some landlords could be forced to offer better terms,including more flexible short-term leases.Others may focus on tenants with a healthy business record and the means to pay the rent in a downturn.

Page says surprisingly cheap office space is available now,even in central London.

He quotes a two-person suite (143sq ft)in Hatton Garden on offer for [pound]3,500 a year.

"Even with business rates and extras,it works out at less than [pound]100 a week."

Basement premises tend to be cheaper, but they are not all dismal and depressing.On behalf of Verve Properties, Richard Susskind (020 7831 8311)is selling what it calls "quirky,individualistic spaces steeped in character "at a former Victorian school in Clerkenwell. …

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