Chambers in Lincoln's Inn are prepared to take their landlord to the county court if it goes ahead with its proposed 40 per cent increase in rent.
Tenants say that in increasing the rent the landlord is setting the level above the neighbouring market value, and well above chambers in the three other Inns. Chambers not subject to the rent hike in Lincoln's Inn pay around £40 per square foot per year. Most London chambers pay on average £30-£40 per square foot. A 40 per cent rise will leave chambers paying approximately £56 per square foot. The change is significant as at an above average-sized chambers of around 45 tenants, each tenant pays about £8,355 in rent. With the new increase, this will rise to almost £11,700. This is added to rates totalling around £2,100 a year per barrister, plus bills. Lincoln's Inn surveyors FPD Savills and surveyors for Lincoln's Inn Tenants Association Kinney Green, chaired by Stephen Hunt of 4 Stone Buildings, are currently in negotiation. The Inn also has a committee negotiating with tenants. The secretary of Lincoln's Inn Tenants Association Andrew Cosedge said that unless agreement can be reached then it will be a matter for the county court. David Hills, under-treasurer of Lincoln's Inn -who would not confirm the proposed rent increase is 40 per cent, describing it as "commercially sensitive" - said the Inn tried to set a new rent rate in July but was unable to reach agreement with tenants. Around 27 chambers will be subject to the rent hike. About six chambers, although they are tenants of Lincoln's Inn, will not be subject to the rise. These are recently refurbished chambers which have signed different lease agreements. Morgan Lear, deputy under-treasurer of the Inn, said: "The Inns are looking for a fair market rate. The increases are substantial, they vary from chambers to chambers, but there is no proposal for a blanket increase. The increase reflects the change in the market." Despite chambers paying commercial-rent rates, tenants have beneficial terms of lease. Whereas tenants in other commercial premises are subject to 15 to 25-year leases without the right to give notice, barristers can issue a three-month notice without being subject to full repair. In a sample of 12 chambers in Lincoln's Inn, the lowest rent per square foot is £30, for a basement, and the highest is £45.75. This places the Inn on a par with neighbouring rents. However, tenants say that buildings outside Lincoln's Inn are in significantly better condition and are more suited for running a modern business. Lincoln's Inn is currently on a par with neighbouring rates. Norwich Union pays £45 per square foot at 51-55 Strand and a property in Waterhouse Square charges £44.73 per square foot. The proposed rate will mean the largest set in Lincoln's Inn, Nicholas Stewart QC's Hardwicke Building, paying around an extra £910,000 during the next five years.