"Clare Bellis is excellent. She is very competent, but also easy to deal with. Clare’s attention to detail and technical legal knowledge are second to none. I would highly recommend!"
(The Legal 500. 2024)
Clare heads up the property litigation team in our Oxford office. She acts for developers, public sector, retail, tenants, property investors, landed estates and charities in helping to resolve the full range of disputes relating to commercial, residential and agricultural property – all with the aim of maximising the value and enjoyment of the property.
She specialises in working with the rural and development sectors, acting as a property lawyer on option/promotion and development disputes and agricultural tenancy disputes. Clare also has wide experience in professional negligence claims, particularly those involving property.
Clare’s approach is to work alongside clients to fully understand their business and objectives, with an aim to resolve disputes as swiftly and cost effectively as possible. This may involve court proceedings, Land Registry adjudication or some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (such as mediation, arbitration or PACT).
Clare is Recognised as a Recommended Lawyer and listed as a Leading Individual in The Legal 500 (2024 edition) in Property Litigation. She’s also recognised as a Leading Individual by Chambers & Partners (2024 edition).
Clare works for a wide variety of clients on obtaining site clearance to enable development to occur. This can involve disputes as to option and promotion agreements, advising on rights of way, restrictive covenant and adverse possession claims where these are preventing development, and terminating commercial and agricultural tenancies where development of land is required.
- Acting for a global aggregates company in service of various notices under the Agricultural Holdings Act legislation seeking to obtain possession of land following death of farm tenants (where no succession tenancies arise) (Case G) and under Case B where land is required for development. Related advice on compensation payable.
- Advising a landowner on the terms of a heavily contested option agreement, terminating the same and successfully defending proceedings seeking to force a transfer on incredibly unfavourable terms for our client – resulting in a saving of over £3 million for our clients when they entered a new more favourable promotion agreement.
- Advising a landowner (in conjunction with their development partners) in defending claims for rights of way over development land.
- Advising in relation to a substantial commercial site subject to numerous business and other occupational tenancies that is undergoing wholesale redevelopment within the next 5 years. Clare is working on obtaining site clearance, including Section 25 LTA 1954 Act notices (contested on development grounds), tenant negotiation and tactics, dilapidations issues and compensation.
Claims against Professionals
Clare has over 15 years experience in acting on professional negligence claims (both for claimants and defendants). These are against a wide variety of professionals, but she specialises in claims against solicitors and surveyors in relation to alleged negligence on property transactions, including in particular property fraud.
- Acting for a firm of solicitors and their professional indemnity insurers in defending allegations of property fraud. The case involved high value Mayfair properties that were being consistently sold on at ever increasing values, with alleged negligent valuations and fake leases/tenants. The claim also involved difficult policy coverage issues.
- Advising a firm of solicitors and their professional indemnity insurers in relation to alleged negligence on a complex collective enfranchisement claim. Flats had been on-sold and a large number of relevant disposals potentially required unravelling.
- Acting for the owners of a substantial London property against a firm of surveyors whose alleged negligent management of the property resulted in substantial property damage and loss to our clients.
Real Estate Litigation
Clare’s work includes landlord and tenant disputes, dilapidations claims, restrictive covenant, boundary and rights of way disputes, party wall issues, tenant insolvency, forfeiture and possession.
- Acting for a large Oxfordshire Landed Estate on a wide variety of property disputes. These included defending a claim to dedicate public rights of way over estate land through long public use, a claim to dedicate estate land as a village green, defending an adverse possession claim and advising in relation to removal of 1954 Act protected tenants to allow site development.
- Obtaining an emergency injunction preventing the disposal of a London property in support of ongoing US proceedings.
- Acting for a College in successfully evicting squatters from a mixed use commercial/residential premises. The case required careful handling of sensitive media and reputational issues alongside the legal issues.
- Acting on a heavily contested right of way dispute before the Land Registry Adjudicator, involving over 40 witnesses whose evidence spanned 50 years.
Farms & Estates
Clare acts for farmers, local authorities, aggregates companies and developers on a wide variety of disputes affecting agricultural land. These include advice in relation to the termination of both Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies and Farm Business tenancies. Issues of the right to succession and compensation payable on the termination of AHA tenancies.
- Acting for a local farming family challenging a Notice to quit served in relation to their AHA tenancy where land was required for a large scale “self build” housing development. The dispute settled favourably during the course of an arbitration hearing on terms which paid our clients compensation and allowed them to continue to farm far longer than would have been the case had the notice not been contested.
- Advising a local authority following the death of an AHA tenant, where there has been substantial diversification to non agricultural activities, on the potential right to terminate for breach of the tenancy and on contested succession applications.
- Acting for a global aggregates company in serving a notice to pay on their AHA tenant and successfully recovering over 6 years of rent arrears.
- Advising land owners in successfully defending assertions of AHA tenancies made by long standing occupiers with grazing licences.
- Advising a landed estate on compensation payable for the interference with fishing rights on a road building scheme.
Clare has wide experience in acting for both landlord and tenants in both contested and uncontested lease renewals of retail units and a wide variety of other issues, including contested applications for consent to assign/sub-let, and breach of covenant disputes.
- Repeat instructions for a pension fund in relation to contested and uncontested lease renewals of their commercial retail portfolio.
Clare acts on all property disputes for an International logistics company.
- Contested dilapidation claim arising on the relocation of the UK Headquarters.
- Various other uncontested lease renewals and service of break notices – Clare has experience of reviewing and dealing with the commercial contracts that run in tandem with the leases.
To contact Clare or for more information…
- Property Litigation Association
- Agricultural Law Association
- Professional Negligence Lawyers Association
“Clare…we really appreciate the responsive, clearly explained and fully joined up support that Freeths provided. It was a surprisingly complex and multi-faceted issue, involving not only our building and court proceedings, but also negotiation and communication with multiple parties and stakeholders, and several other legal issues that needed to be resolved in parallel. Really professional – well done and thank you.”(Oxford College)
“We appreciate Clare’s assertive and proactive approach.”(Rural Estate Client)
“Thank you for dealing with a very difficult situation in a very professional manner, without your tenacity and advice I am sure the outcome would have been very different. It is with great relief that I am finally able to get closure.”(Charity)
“Clare, please accept my immense thanks for all your help, and belief that it was possible to succeed against a difficult opponent. You did so well to keep me motivated.”(Private Client)
“Clare Bellis brings an unusual mix of both property litigation and professional negligence experience and expertise, but at a level that enables the firm to complete with bigger players in those areas.”(The Legal 500, 2024)
“Clare Bellis is very dedicated and client focused. She gives clear practical advice(The Legal 500, 2024)
“Clare is excellent – she is very knowledgeable on the law and commercially astute.”(Chambers & Partners, 2024)
“She is very experienced, very committed to the case and cuts through complex issues quickly.”(Chambers & Partners, 2024)
“Clare Bellis – a bright lawyer; well-attuned to client needs and pressures; very sensible and pragmatic; depth of real estate knowledge, also informed by professional negligence expertise.”(The Legal 500, 2023)
“The team I have worked with at Freeths in the last year are Rosalyn Shephard and Clare Bellis. To me they stand out because they are both good with the factual and legal details, and also seeing the bigger picture, and understanding the tactics of litigation. They have an excellent knowledge of Agricultural Tenancies law, and how it applies in practice.”(The Legal 500, 2023)
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