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How to move offices without the hassle

Moving premises can be a stressful and expensive process but with a little bit of forethought you can avoid many common pitfalls. It’s also an ideal time to consider new ways of working that could boost your effectiveness and productivity.

1

Find the right premises

Your organisation will be easier to run – and more profitable – if you find the right premises. A chartered surveyor will be able to help you search for the right premises as well as advise you on the eventual sale or lease of your existing property. But what should you take into consideration?

Location, location, location

Get this wrong and there is no way of correcting the mistake without moving again! Think about your staff, your beneficiaries, supporters and your suppliers.

Space

How much do you need? Space is expensive, it’s not just the rent but also business rates, service charges, energy consumption etc. Do you need space to expand? Typically for an office you should estimate 10sqm for each employee, plus meeting rooms, kitchen and storage rooms.

Affordability

Set a budget and stick to it. As a rough guide, property rental and rates should be less than 15% of turnover.

Brand image

Expensive finishes are great but not if your supporters feel they are paying for them!

2

Choose the right lease terms or consider buying

Deciding whether to buy or lease your premises is not always easy as sometimes you will not have the choice. Read our how-to on buying property vs leasing property for more information. Leasing certainly offers a lot more flexible options.

Licence

These are often used by Business Centres. They usually last for 12 months and grant you the right to use specified rooms but not exclusive use of the property. The short flexible terms enable small business to expand when they need to and reduce in size when times are tough. However, the flexibility will come at a cost, with the overall rate per square metre above that for a conventional lease.

Lease

Taking a lease will be a major financial commitment for you and your organisation to make. It’s recommended that you seek professional advice before signing a lease.

Buy

Buying a property represents the greatest financial commitment but also grants you greater security. Again, it’s recommended that you seek professional advice.

Older style properties

If you are not taking new or newly refurbished space, press for capped/fixed service charges and a ‘schedule of condition’ to minimise exposure to dilapidations.

Flexibility

Explore the potential for including tenant only break options to maximise flexibility.

Surveys

Where the property is self-contained and there are full repairing obligations, always commission surveys of the building fabric and services and insist on the landlord either remedying any defects or excluding these from the repairing liability.

Environmental

Check the energy performance certificate (EPC) at an early stage. From April 2018, it will be illegal to let or sublet property with an F or G rating.

3

Avoid these common pitfalls when taking a lease

As mentioned earlier, taking a lease can be a major financial commitment. While all leases are different, make sure you’ve considered the following before you sign on the dotted line.

Rent

Have you checked the frequency of rent payments (weekly, monthly, quarterly, in advance or in arrears)? Always ask if you can pay in a way that supports your organisation.

Negotiate

Research other rents in the area, and find out if your office has any disadvantages compared with others in the area. Is this reflected in the price? Also, make sure you ask for a rent free period, especially if the property has been vacant for a while and you need to spend money to bring the premises into repair or you will be undertaking fit-out works.

Repair costs

If you agree to a full repairing lease then you’ll be responsible for all maintenance and repairs regardless of the state when you moved in. Make sure you agree a schedule of condition before you sign, so your liability is limited.

Uses

Make sure your lease specifies the use that you want to carry out on the premises. You also need to check that you have planning permission for this use.

4

Can I take my phone numbers with me?

Sometimes it’s difficult to retain the same phone numbers when you move, especially when moving outside the current exchange area. This is due to the way numbers are allocated to local exchanges: if you move from one exchange area to another, the chances are your number will have to change!

If you want to retain your office numbers, there are a couple of options to consider. You could use a hosted voice phone system which uses the internet to make calls rather than landlines. Alternatively, you could safe-guard your existing numbers by introducing a non-geographic number (NGN) range to your organisation before you actually move. These numbers - with prefixes including 0300, 0871, 0844, 0845 and 0800/080 - allow you to route calls to any landline or mobile number. 0300 numbers were introduced by Ofcom specifically for the public and voluntary sectors and cost the caller the same as dialling an 01 or 02 number (including from a mobile).

5

Consider the IT and phone setup before moving

Now is an ideal time to look at your IT and phone requirements. Is your current phone system up-to-date enough to bear the expense of relocation? Would it be more cost-effective, in the long run, to upgrade your system? If you decide to retain your current system, check that your new site is ready for it.

As a general rule of thumb, you should calculate your lines required as a third of the total number of staff operating from your building. Ethernet or leased line connections can take up to 65 days to be operational, while the lead-time for installing ISDN lines can be up to 31 working days. Think about these timings and when you need to notify your providers about your change of address.

What type and size of broadband connection will you require? Can the property support these requirements? Disaster recovery and business continuity are also key factors to consider. These are often business critical services that need time and expertise to be properly planned, specified, ordered and tested.

The building you are moving to may not have the telecoms capacity readily available and that new capacity could take many weeks and additional installation charges may apply. Consider how much down-time you’ll have between leaving your old premises and having your new premises fully operational.

6

Do you have multiple locations and remote workers?

Connectivity to other locations and remote workers also needs to be planned. These staff members will need to know how and when they can contact those who are moving offices. If you’re changing your IT and/or phone systems then you need to consider what it means for other staff who’re not based in the same office or who work from home. 

7

Make the most of business rates relief

Make sure you get any relief you are entitled to. As a charity, you could be entitled to a maximum of 80% off any business rates. At the discretion of your local council this could even be 100%! Business rates are calculated based on the value of the property, so it could also be worth having this valuation checked. For more advice, you can call the RICS Business Rate helpline on (0)24 7686 8555 for a free 30-minute consultation.

8

Use an RICS chartered surveyor

Chartered surveyors are qualified professionals who offer impartial, specialist advice on property issues. All members are regulated to ensure that they are working to the highest possible standards. 

Further information

The information in this how-to guide has been provided by Charity Property HelpClass Networks and Cluttons.

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Page last edited Oct 16, 2017 History

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