Legal: Common questions about parking and access

Legal: Common questions about parking and access

While the expansion of home delivery continues apace, requiring space for drivers to come and go quickly, having customer parking spaces close to a food offering can still make the difference between a successful and a struggling quick-service restaurant or food-to-go business. Simon Schipper, legal director at Cripps Pemberton Greenish, urges you to give serious consideration to issues of parking and access

Lease vs licence
Should you accept a licence for car parking spaces or insist on a lease? A licence is usually a brief document allowing the specified licensee to use a parking space or spaces for a set period of time. A licence is personal, so you will not usually have the right to assign (transfer/sale). By contrast, a lease gives a legal interest in land. It is common for leases to be assignable – so as it may be quite valuable, particularly if you have security of tenure giving protection to your rights.

If you are only able to secure a licence not a lease for parking spaces, make sure the length and other terms of the licence ties in with your lease. Termination of a licence prior to the lease ending can cause real headaches. If you have used particular parking spaces for your business for some time and your rights are not contained in any document, the legal position may be uncertain, so tenants should be looking to formalise rights if possible.

Communal car parks
Commonly, a lease of commercial premises, or units in retail park or a shopping centre, will grant rights to park in the communal car park serving the building. These are rarely ‘exclusive’ rights (allocated parking), so look to have rights in common with other tenants. You may be able to get a guaranteed minimum number of spaces (for general use) in the communal car park and sometimes we see exclusion zones in leases, restricting a landlord’s ability to alter the use of parking in front or near the tenant’s unit – both of which help ensure your customers have a place to park. Consider your requirements for staff parking as well.

Access
Among your key considerations here should be the ability to manage deliveries: room for and timings for loading and unloading. Take time to investigate height and turning circles. All this will inevitably be more restricted in town centres and shopping centres.

Continuity and ease of access will be critical to drive-throughs – you will want to control when and how the landlord carries out maintenance to roads that lead to your unit so that you can maintain continuity of trade. Whether access is purely through land owned by your landlord – or crosses public land or land owned by a third party – will need consideration.

Different businesses and locations will have their own specific requirements, but parking and access should be high priority for all lease negotiations.