Are property agents to blame for upward only rent reviews?
Crosby, N., Hughes, C. and Murdoch, S., (2005) Are property agents to blame for upward only rent reviews? Working Papers in Real Estate & Planning. 25/05. Working Paper. University of Reading, Reading. pp18.
In negotiating commercial leases, many landlords and tenants employ property agents (brokers) to act on their behalf; typically these people are chartered surveyors. The aim of this paper is to explore the role that these brokers play in the shaping of commercial leases in the context of the current debate in the UK on upward only rent reviews. This role can be described using agency theory and the theories of professionalism. These provide expectations of behaviour which show inherent tensions between the role of agent and professional, particularly regarding the use of knowledge, autonomy and the obligation to the public interest. The parties to eleven recent lease transactions were interviewed to see if the brokers conformed to the expectations of agency theory or professionalism. Brokers that acted for industrial and office tenants behaved as professionals in using their expertise to determine lease structures. However, those acting for landlords and retail tenants simply followed instructions and behaved as conduits for their clients, a role more usually associated with that of an agent within the principal-agent relationship. None of the landlords’ brokers saw themselves as having responsibilities beyond their clients and so they were not promoting the discussion of alternatives to the UORR. The evidence from these case studies suggests that agents are not professionals; to behave entirely as an agent is to contradict the essential characteristics of a professional. While brokers cannot be held entirely responsible for the lack of movement on the UORR, by adopting predominantly agent roles then they must take some of the blame. However, behind this may be a much larger issue that needs to be explored; the institutional pressures that lead to professionals behaving in this way.