Can you change the use of a commercial property?

Contrary to popular belief, not all commercial properties have to be used for commercial purposes. Buildings that see both residential and commercial use, known as mixed use properties, are relatively common. However, these properties have an already established use that doesn’t change after the transaction has been completed. This post examines whether it is possible to change the use of a commercial property after purchase.


What is meant by property ‘use’?

In law, all properties used for commercial purposes are subject to planning controls. These permissions don’t just influence the physical changes that can be made to the property, but how it can be used also. Property usage can be defined by the type of commercial activity that can be legally conducted on the premises. In most cases, the contents of the commercial property lease will set out how tenants can use the property (usage terms).

However, the intended use of a property may also be defined by the building category it falls into. These are:

  • A1 – shops.
  • A2 – professional services (treatments etc).
  • A3 – for the sale of food and drink.
  • A4 – public houses.
  • B1 – offices.
  • B2 – general industry.
  • B4 – specific industrial use.


Can the use of a commercial property be changed?

Yes. The landlord or tenant may wish to alter the usage terms of a commercial property lease. However, there may need to be discussions between both parties to reach an agreement. Landlords are often more receptive to changing the use of a commercial property when a prospective new tenant wants to carry out different business activities. That being said, current commercial tenants are still free to make a request when they want the nature of their activities. A common example of when this becomes necessary is when the business enters a new market or switches to producing a new product.

Although if the use class of the property needs to be changed, or the property falls under listed status, additional permissions may be required. As an experienced commercial property conveyancer, Toomey Legal provide services to help guide tenants and landlords alike through the process.

How to apply to change a property’s use class

If it’s deemed necessary by the local authority, they must be contacted by any landlord who wishes to change the use of a commercial property. This involves sending an official application for a change of use to the local authority. The application should contain details of what the change of use will involve and the impact this could have. For instance, the use of the building could restrict vehicle access to the premises or cause damage the environment through increased waste material.

The use change may also result in changes to the structure of the property, such as extra doors or additional ventilation. If this is the case, the use change could have legal implications that require planning permission be acquired. Although this will depend on the class of building and what is included in the property lease.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you need planning permission? – Yes, unless it is deemed a ‘permitted development’, it is considered to be the same use class, or the change doesn’t constitute a ‘development’.
  • What happens if I don’t get permission for a change of use? – it is recommended to first seek legal advice from experts and review why the application was refused. This will then allow you to submit a revised application or pursue an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.
  • How long does it take to change the use of a commercial property? – the timeframe associated with this change will depend on how long it takes for the landlord and tenant to come to an agreement. Although, if there are legal implications that require permission from the local authority, it can take as long as 3 months to receive a response.


Commercial property legal support

The team at Toomey Legal are experts in commercial property law. As such, we are aware of the challenges and pitfalls that can come with changing the use of a commercial property. Our property lawyers take the time to understand your business, how it operates, and how it uses property. The result is that our commercial property services are bespoke to every client we work with. Contact us if you have any questions.