Property Disputes

We asked Michael Watson, Head of Property Litigation, to tell us more about commercial property disputes and what resolving this type of dispute entails.

Are there any common themes in property disputes?

There are many different types of dispute that can arise in relation to the ownership and occupation of property – too many to list.

A common theme, though, is that they can potentially expose property owners to expensive risk. Often property owners are reluctant to take professional advice in relation to potential disputes, a strategy which ultimately can increase the risk rather than reduce it.

Whatever the dispute, early assessment of the risk and consideration of the options for mitigating it is likely to pay dividends.

Do I need a property dispute specialist, or can I go to any litigation lawyer?

Property-related disputes can be dealt with by a wide range of courts and tribunals which may operate under complex and detailed rules, in some cases relating to the specific court or tribunal. Similarly, there are specific requirements relating to the presentation of evidence.

Many litigators do not specialise in this type of work but may still be prepared to take on specialist property-related litigation. The property litigation team at Shulmans only undertake property-related instructions and are experienced in litigating before the full range of courts and tribunals throughout the country.

In addition, court rules lay down procedures for pre-action conduct, which should generally be followed so as to avoid the risk of adverse costs orders against a party. In order to mitigate the potential risk associated with disputes and the cost of court or tribunal action, early evaluation of any potential dispute is likely to assist in formulating a strategy which complies with the letter and spirit of the relevant procedure rules.

When appropriate, we will work with specialist counsel in the field of property litigation to plan and implement strategies to achieve our clients’ aims, but also to minimize the risk and costs associated with litigation.

Where does alternative dispute resolution fit in?

Parties to disputes can expect to be penalised in costs by the courts, even if they are successful in their claim, if they have unreasonably refused to explore the possibility of resolving their disputes by some means other than court action.

Because of this, it is important in any dispute that the options for alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, are considered at a very early stage and factored into the strategy for resolving the dispute. Even if there is little prospect of resolving the dispute, it may be that the early proposal of some method of alternative dispute resolution is recommended so as to ensure a party’s conduct is not criticised and avoid being penalised on costs later.

Our team

Michael Watson


Head of Property Litigation

Direct Line +44 (0)113 297 1850

Helen Hill


Property Litigation

Direct Line +44 (0)113 297 3770

Richard Robinson


Property Litigation

Direct Line +44 (0)113 297 3783