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John de Waal QC
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"QC clout without the QC attitude"

Legal 500

John de Waal QC specialises in chancery and commercial work with a particular focus on property law and property-related professional negligence.

He is regularly instructed in complex property-related litigation in the Chancery Division and the Court of Appeal. In 2015 John appeared in the Supreme Court in Cavendish v Makdessi [2016] AC 1172, the decision that is now the leading case on the law of penalties. The directories say that he has a “Razor-sharp legal mind which is alive to the practical application of legal analysis.”

John has a very busy professional negligence practice acting for both claimants and defendants. His advocacy has been described as “…effective and persuasive, even under extreme fire.”

John is the editor of the title “Risk and Negligence in Property Transactions” published by the Law Society in October 2018.

John was Real Estate, Environment and Planning Silk of the Year in the 2017 Legal 500 Awards.

Mediation

John particularly enjoys working as a mediator and has acted as lead mediator in over 100 cases. For more information about John’s mediation experience please view his mediation profile.

Commercial Landlord & Tenant

John’s practice is principally concerned with commercial property. He advises and acts for landlord and tenants in cases involving break clauses, dilapidations, contested assignments, lease renewals and forfeiture. John also advises and acts on agricultural tenancies.

Relevant Work:

  • NYK Logistics (UK) Ltd v Ibrend Estates BV [2011] 4 All ER 339, CA: break clause, vacant possession
  • Acting for major retailer in relation to allegations of breach of covenant in lease of retail premises
  • Acting for tenant of commercial premises in connection with break clause/dilapidations claim where the issues is material compliance with covenants in the lease
  • Acting for landlord in major dilapidations claim in dispute about novation of tenancy agreement
  • Advising in relation to rent reduction clauses and the law of penalties
  • Acting in professional negligence claim arising out of disputed succession to tenancy of an agricultural holding

Development

John acts for developers in relation to issues that arise on site assembly, the exercise of options and pre-emption agreements, overage and land promotion agreements. He has a particular expertise in rights to light and party wall disputes.

John has contributed the Chapter on ‘Conditional Contracts, Options and Overage’ to the book he has edited for the Law Society “Risk and Negligence in Property Transactions”.

Relevant Work:

Real Property & Mortgages

Property law is at the heart of John’s practice. His clients are principally developers and owners of commercial property. John also works extensively for defective title insurers and professional indemnity insurers.

His cases tend to concern options, covenants, easements (in particular rights to light) as well as rentcharges and cases concerning the beneficial ownership of land.

Relevant Work:

Leasehold & Leasehold Management

John is experienced in dealing with long lease issues such as enfranchisement, service charge disputes, forfeiture, breach of covenant and right to manage. He is presently advising a number of clients about issues arising from unsafe cladding on tower blocks.

Relevant Work:

Property Professionals

John’s property expertise means that he is a natural choice for professional negligence disputes where the defendants are surveyors or other property professionals.

His expertise in relation to claims against legal professionals can be found at the Professional Liability – Legal Professionals section of his profile.

Relevant Work:

  • Acting for claimant in £6m claim against surveyor in relation to negligence in claim for compensation for land compulsorily purchased for London Olympics
  • Acting for defendant managing agents sued for failing to organise repairs to new-build block of flats in Battersea
  • Acting for insurers of surveyor in relation to claim for negligence arising out of a rent review
  • Acting for farm business agents in claim arising out of disputed succession to tenancy of an agricultural holding
  • Acting for claimant in claim against building inspector for negligence in connection with survey of a development site
  • Acting in claim against architect for negligence in connection with planning application for redevelopment of an 18th century pavilion at Hampton Court Palace

Professional Indemnity Insurance

John regularly advises and acts for insurers in relation to policy and coverage issues, particularly in the field of professional indemnity insurance. He also advises and acts on liability issues where he is a specialist in defending claims against solicitors, surveyors and other professionals arising out of property and planning related matters.

Relevant Work:

  • Collins v Thanet D.C. [2016] EWHC 1008 (QB): local planning authority; misfeasance in public office
  • Appointed by agreement between two PI insurers to advise in relation to coverage and which policy year the claim was notified
  • Advising and acting for solicitor in arbitration with insurer in relation to allegation of dishonesty
  • Acting for PI insurers in 40 linked cases arising out of loss of deposit paid to UK agents for apartments in development in Spain
  • Acting for PI insurers in £2m claim where the allegation is negligence in connection with the drafting and negotiation of an option agreement
  • Acting for PI insurers for managing agents sued for failing to organise repairs to new build block of flats in Battersea

Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing

Following his involvement up to the House of Lords in the leading case on economic torts OBG v Allan, John has developed a particular expertise in claims arising out of civil fraud – in particular cases involving the misappropriation of trust funds, diversion of business opportunities, misuse of confidential information and breach of fiduciary duty.

Relevant Work:

Directory recommendations

John is recommended in Chambers UK and Legal 500 both for property litigation and professional negligence.  He is described as:

  • “He is effective and persuasive, even under extreme fire.” (Chambers UK)
  • “Razor-sharp legal mind which is alive to the practical application of the legal analysis.” (Chambers UK)
  • “Very approachable and always willing to sit down with a client.” (Chambers UK)
  • User friendly and sensible.’ (Legal 500)
  • “Puts a lot of thought into strategy and is very easy to work with.” (Legal 500)
  • “…provides good clear advice at the outset. He can deal with difficult clients and understands the drivers behind the decisions made by insurers.” (Legal 500)
  • “Ruthlessly commercial, client-focused and supportive.” (Chambers UK)
  • “His calm, self-assured manner instils confidence in clients.” (Legal 500)
  • “He is very approachable and very responsive.” (Chambers UK)

Professional associations

  • British Insurance Law Association
  • Property Bar Association
  • Professional Negligence Bar Association

Publications

  • Contributor to Paul Reed QC’s Construction All Risks Insurance, Sweet & Maxwell, 2014.
  • Risk & Negligence in Property Transactions (The Law Society) – publication late 2018.

Qualifications

MA (Cantab)

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