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James Brenan

Real Estate, Residential Property, Property Disputes

James is a senior lawyer in the Real Estate department at Cubism Law.

He has over 30 years’ experience in property litigation and residential and commercial property transactions.

James is a senior lawyer in the Real Estate department at Cubism Law and has over 30 years’ experience in property litigation and residential and commercial property transactions.

James has been with Cubism Law as a Consultant since 2008. His practice crosses over between the worlds of agreements and conflicts over land and related contractual and neighbours’ issues.

Frequently James acts on one side between parties who share a clear agenda of what is to happen, as is typical of ‘conveyancing’ work where an existing title has to be transferred or new rights are to be created subject to disclosures and due diligence first. But often parties either have a disagreement from their past dealings or from some incident or they have to follow a legal pathway that contains possibilities of disagreement appearing over their land rights – such as ‘commercial lease renewal’, ‘operation of a right to break’ and ‘residential enfranchisement’ – and James is equally at home in these cases.

Other solicitors within Cubism and beyond call on James’ help for documenting compromises of disputes which result in some new land distribution and for implementing the terms of a compromise. James is an expert in acting in these situations to secure the client’s objective without the matter having to be brought back before a court and so without the parties falling back into another serious dispute. Clients appreciate James’ meticulous attention to detail.

One specialism which James has is in re-structuring existing property schemes to realise locked-in value – such as converting office premises to residential, enlarging flats into retained parts and the merger of premises – advising on both commercial structure of the deal and the legal drafting.

James is fascinated by building services – pipes, drains and electrical wiring – and legal rights and duties affecting these and he deals with issues over the quality of their construction and installation. He advises management companies and managing agents over service charges and statutory rights, including RTM. He frequently advises on the Party Wall, etc Act 1996 and works closely with surveyors. 

Another area of special interest for James is the granting of consents under existing rights such as by landlords and owners of restrictive covenants.

Also, ‘development control’ under planning law, in particular the need for planning permission, the obtaining of it and responding to enforcement action, is an area of James’ expertise.

Many of his transactions involve schemes of flats and mixed-use buildings. He has extensive experience in advising on enforcing developers’ duties to complete a scheme, site access and auxiliary rights issues for property developers and service charge issues.

He also undertakes applications for consents under deeds’ restrictions, leasehold enfranchisement and complex property disputes, sometimes with a company law element.

James’ clients range from property developers, associations, residential companies, landlords and tenants as well as owners and investors buying and selling property.  

He focuses on coordinating the process of a dispute and advises on the evaluations of risk and reward from pursuing a client’s preferred outcome and implementing the terms of a compromise. He also regularly advises on insolvency issues and corporate structure of a scheme, the set-up of an owners’ company or association alongside a set of leases. 

James finds it useful to keep his hand in conveyancing.  From his work in this area his clients gain valuable insights into what parties in transactions seek and the thinking which property lawyers bring to common problems, such as antiquated or vague wording and plans which are inconsistent with the position of structures on the ground.

James enjoys keeping his mind and body fit through Pilates, chess, building work, discussion and listening to a wide variety of music.

Services:

  • 2017, Currently advising a trespass claim party in drafting their defence.
  • 2017, Advised on a long-running disagreement for a RTM company and the freeholder of a mixed-use block against a commercial lessee in regard to contested service charges, the meaning of the ‘reasonableness’ test under Finchbourne Ltd v Rodrigues, and any duty to provide running disclosure and consultation to a commercial lessee over decisions on the spending on service charges items and the allocation of sums between different categories of lessee.
  • 2017, Submitted a successful application before the County Court seeking third party costs under section 51 of the Senior Courts Act against directors of an insolvent company who had funded its unsuccessful litigation against my clients for their own personal benefit rather than for any benefit to their company.
  • 2017, Advised on several re-structuring of titles of flats and a flat scheme to enable the enlargement of a flat and the scheme to be run more effectively and at less risk to the flats’ owners vis-à-vis service charges shortfalls and to facilitate cooperative problem-solving management over issues that could otherwise cause protracted disagreements.
  • 2017, Advised on the scope of the additional 3% charge to SDLT on purchase of an additional residential property and whether this applies if that property is a bare freehold and if the tax payer owns an equitable interest in an additional property.
  • 2017, Advocated a Small Claims trial of long-running conflict between a residential landlord and her former tenants over the consequences of her breach of Tenancy Deposit Scheme rules, arrears of rent and terminal disrepair, resulting in an orderly resolution of all aspects n best terms that the circumstances would enable for my client.
  • 2017, Advised a long lessee over her freeholder’s spurious threat to sell rights over her parking area to an adjacent landowner and writing for her to freeholder’s solicitors.
  • 2017, Advised on the commercial conveyancing of a new corporate headquarters of corporate group. This included certifying as much prior disclosure as possible about communal infrastructure operation and reliability.
  • 2017, Advised client who owns and manages a block of flats and seeing that her standard style of demands for rents and service charges are in compliance with legislation and using the request from a lessee for answers to form LPE1 as the opportunity to collect arrears owed.
  • 2017, Advised on a re-structuring of building comprising flats where parties wished to swap over who owns the freehold and who has a long lease and drafting the appropriate documents for such transaction tailored to specific configuration aspects of the flats involved.
  • 2016, Concluded the sales of two newly-converted flats in a scheme where they were formerly commercial premises, after I had acted for their owners in all stages of the conversion process, including advice as to negotiation of premium and overage, documenting an over-arching agreement for works to be carried out, surrender of lease and re-grant of new leases, all legal teething problems with the freeholder party through stages of completion of works and issue of documents and agreement of overage amounts.
  • 2016, Concluded a collective enfranchisement which included the coordination of all legal aspects, involving new set of leases, a trust deed between all owners of the freehold which include the former freeholder who has taken a leaseback of retained flat and a licence for substantial alterations to top flat and the erection of scaffolding.
  • 2016, Concluded with a London Borough council a long-running negotiation of an access licence for construction traffic over route where until this point my client only owned a right of way on foot along certain pathways.
  • 2016, Corresponded for a single flat’s owner to the lawyer acting for the leaseholders’ freehold owning company, helping that other solicitor to see best ways to design the restructuring of leases for the building, thereby helping my client and transforming her relationship with neighbouring owners and their management team from one of mutual unsureness and wariness to mutually beneficial collaboration. 
  • 2016, Acted for a freeholder company in the concluding litigation to enforce the transfer of freehold to two out of three long lease owners in response to the fact the third one was making their lives a misery with raising of arguments over multitudinous issues for the sake of being difficult (sadly the gentleman has a personality disorder that makes it impossible for him to trust his neighbours and drives him to acting as obstructively as possible).
  • 2016, Acted for defendants to a claim for injunctive relief and a declaration over whether the fact that they had obtained planning permission to carry out development in breach of a private land covenant involved them in a threat of wrongdoing, successfully forcing the claimant party to discontinue and in 2017 dealing with the detailed assessment of the costs of that High Court litigation.
  • All years: Advised on a regular flow of lease extension claims under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 and ensuring that each matter reaches its optimal outcome so far as the legal processes are concerned – when acting for the lessee this involves ensuring that any defects or anachronisms in the lease and especially its plan are corrected in the notice of claim and resulting lease deed.
  • All years: Advised on a regular flow of conveyancing work in residential and commercial deals where I thoroughly cover all the necessary aspects of the sale, lease or purchase and its post-completion formal requirements vis-à-vis Stamp Duty and the Land Registry.
  • 2015, concluded a long-running enforcement of terms of settlement of a shareholder’s claim under Section 994 of the Companies Act 2006 (seeking redress for conduct of an unfairly prejudicial nature) whereby the freehold of a mixed-use building subject to leases and containing valuable bill-board space and airspace with development potential is transferred to the successful claimant after disposing of arguments that there was any impediment to the disposal from Part One of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (the right of first refusal), and avoiding incurring costs and risks by bringing an application before the Court.
  • 2008 – Present -  Lawyer, Cubism Law
  • 1999-2008 – Partner, Stockler Brunton
  • 1988-1999 – Partner, Parfitt Cresswell
  • 1986-1988 – Solicitor, William Stockler & Co
  • 1983-1985 – London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) - Master of Laws
  • 1981-1983 – Norton Rose, trainee solicitor
  • 1980-1981 – College of Law, Solicitors Finals
  • 1977-1980 – University College London (UCL) – Bachelor of Laws