When bringing in an additional academy and growing your Multi Academy Trust (MAT), minimising the risks of finding costly unexpected legal or practical issues after the academy has joined your MAT is a key aim. Therefore carrying out property due diligence is of utmost importance and can help to reduce or manage any uncovered issues.
Property due diligence will involve reviewing the title to the property to check how the school site is held (i.e. freehold or leasehold) and checking any restrictive covenants which could, for example, prevent or restrict the MAT from carrying out certain types of development (an important point to consider if the MAT has plans for the property that could breach a covenant) or using the property for certain uses. It would also involve checking the title to the property to ensure it could be transferred to the MAT without any third party consent and that the property benefits from all the rights it needs, to allow it to be operated as a school site.
Property due diligence can also include reviewing any property documentation with resident employees and reviewing any shared use agreements (for example with an adjacent school or leisure centre), to ensure that the MAT can continue to use the facilities and is comfortable with the obligations that the MAT will be subject to following completion of the transfer.
Requesting replies to preliminary enquiries from the owner of the property will also confirm whether there have been any recent construction projects, third party funding arrangements, third party use (such as after school clubs) and whether there have been any disputes.
It is also possible to undertake a number of property searches to find out further information which may affect the MAT's further plans for the site and which could be resolved within the legal documentation. Such searches could typically include:
There also may be further optional searches (e.g. utilities to locate cabling within the site) that would be useful to undertake depending on the locality and any development plans for the property.