What To Do When The Law Is An Ass

Ovation has moved offices, which means I’ve had to sign a lease.

As I understand it, The Landlord And Tenants Act 1954 is designed to provide a sensible framework for landlords and tenants and provide a certain amount of protection for tenants from unscrupulous landlords.

Unfortunately, landlords of commercial property don’t want to be tied to the provisions of the act.

Which means any lease you get offered by a landlord for commercial premises is outside the act. If you don’t want to sign it as a tenant, you won’t get a lease.

Nice one, law.

But this nonsense doesn’t stop here. Because I’m signing a lease which is outside of the act I have to swear, in front of a solicitor, that I understand the implications what I’m doing (even though I have no choice). So I had to go into a solicitor’s office, sign a Statutory Declaration, put my hand on my heart, give scouts honour, then read out some words from a card and pay him a fiver.

Ok, so I might be exaggerating, but the cash was true. He was embarrassed at the utter waste of both of our time. Not to mention a fiver!

Then, because the lease changed a week later, I had to do it again.

(Incidentally, if you want a full history of rent controls in the UK, someone has written it all on Wikipedia for you. Isn’t it extraordinary what people choose to do in their spare time.)

What intrigues me about this rigmarole is why it is allowed to carry on. Everyone knows it is a farcical situation, and yet it continues. The law is clearly an ass in this particular area, so why not change it?

This is not unlike certain aspects of financial services. As Nick Lincoln recently tweeted, it takes huge amounts of regulation, paperwork, time and effort (and therefore cost) to take money out of a pension fund, but not out of an ISA. Why? Who does this help? This is but one example. I’ll bet you can give me more.

I guess the answer here comes in the divergence between those who are in a position to change the law, and those affected by it. I presume it suits the property owners to keep things as they are, so they won’t press for change. There is no body representing tenants of commercial premises. The legal profession have far bigger fish to fry. And so the wrinkle remains.

Nobody died, nobody lost any money (but hey, those fivers add up!!). It’s an irritation. But there are a lot of these irritations out there (don’t get me started on having to put AdBlue in my car) and they could be cleaned up and sorted out without a great deal of effort.

It just needs someone to actually do it. Any volunteers?