Daniel Levy is a Partner and Head of the Property Litigation Group at Mishcon de Reya. He and the team advise leading UK property companies, developers, corporate occupiers, investment funds and high net worth individuals on complex property related disputes. Over the past decade he has worked closely with clients from Asia – particularly those from Mainland China, advising on their property investments in the UK.
Property is very people focussed business. I like the people involved, I like the business around it, and the law is fascinating. I can relate to buildings – you can touch them, you can feel them, you can work out what goes on – so I like the subject matter too.
I joined Mishcon about ten years ago when it looked very different but felt the same. I loved the buzz and energy about the place and entrepreneurial drive, but most of all the people.
Asia has really come alive in recent years in terms of its interest in the UK. Investors are looking for opportunities here in London and, as the market moves, our practice moves with it. For a long time, I’ve had connections with overseas investors, but increasingly so they are from Asia – particularly Hong Kong and Singapore.
For an overseas investor, our expertise is focused on enhancing and protecting their assets. Typically, if a client is making a property investment in London, they will want to do something with it… Whether that’s to develop it or change it, they will typically look to enhance their investment. Our role is to promote and enable our clients’ commercial objectives – we do that over and over again.
Our clients from Asia are entirely reflective of the Mishcon client base. It ranges from listed PLCs to private individuals, private property companies or the family offices of high net worth individuals. The common thread between our clients overseas and in the UK tends to be an entrepreneurial spirit and a focus on long-term trusted relationships.
Top quality properties are always in high demand, but in recent years we have seen overseas investors willing to look outside central London for potentially greater returns. Whether that’s in Greater London, particularly in areas which will have access to Crossrail, or outside of London in places like Manchester and Birmingham, clients seem more comfortable to spread their wings a little bit. They are also increasingly open to looking at alternatives to traditional assets, such as offices student accommodation, hotels and the private rented sector.
Building personal relationships with people is at the core of our business here in London and the same goes for our business relationships overseas. I get out to Hong Kong and Singapore a few times a year because there is no substitute for face to face time, particularly in Asia where personal relationships are extremely important.
Sometimes litigation is inevitable. It can come your way and it needs to be dealt with efficiently and assertively. That’s what we do.
Disputes can be about a million things – anything to do with the ownership or occupying of property or sometimes the deal around it. They can be about sorting out ‘Rights to Light’ – making sure you are not interfering with the rights of neighbours around you in developing a property, or disagreements over tenanted properties, for example. In these situations, it’s about helping our clients to navigate their way through the best commercial decisions.
I’ve always been fascinated by the buzz, the drive and the energy in Asia. We have, I think, so much to learn from everything they have achieved in that part of the world. I love the vibe and the business culture – it is like nowhere else.