The Artists Rifles clubhouse was built in 1926 by the Artists Rifles Regiment, who transferred it in 1967 to a new tenant. Since then the lease of the land and clubhouse was assigned to three consecutive tenants. These tenants all had considerable problems in making it pay, and some of the activities they embarked upon caused the NRA considerable embarrassment and headaches. These included running a brothel from the clubhouse and the selling of automatic firearm to an undercover policeman which made the national press.
In 2003 Moss Mustafa took an assignment of the lease and found that the clubhouse needed complete refurbishment to make it fit for any purpose. The building was literally rat-infested and full of rubbish when he took it over. The refurbishment works included building a new armoury, forming a home office approved shooting club and obtaining a bar licence. These all took a year to achieve and at some considerable expense. The clubhouse had also not been trading for two years having effectively being closed down by the Fire Brigade for failing to meet fire regulations in 2001. It, therefore, took a further significant investment to build, up the membership and trade from scratch and overcome the terrible reputation the clubhouse had acquired from the activities of the previous tenants.
Moss’s investment in the clubhouse has been documented and costed both by a RICS member and a Chartered Accountant. It considerably exceeds the construction cost in today’s money of the building in its original format. At the time Moss got a verbal undertaking from the then NRA CEO that a new lease would be granted to him on substantially the same terms, I.E. a ground rent based cost. That CEO, Jeremy Staples, has confirmed these facts in an affidavit, in which he also confirms he had the trustee’s authority to give such an undertaking. This undertaking was necessary as in 2003 there were only 8 years remaining on the lease and the NRA did not want to delay the sale or incur the expense of granting a new lease. At that time the NRA had never reneged on promises they had made to tenants and Moss had no reason to question their assurances, He accepted them in good faith and proceeded to make and investment, which to date has amounted to £1.2m.
The lease came up for renewal in 2011 and negotiations were opened initially with Jeremy staples and then with Derek Mabbott, and a new ground rent of £3,350 pa was recommended by the NRA’s appointed surveyors, Strutt and Parker. This was accepted by both sides, but this was not finalised before Derek Mabbott was replaced by Andrew Mercer. After a period Moss chased Andrew Mercer, who suddenly emailed him with a demand of a new rental figure of £14,700 pa but with no professional valuation to support that figure demanded. A legal dispute has continued since then, and huge legal costs have been incurred by both sides. Eventually, two RICS members were appointed to negotiate the rental figures. Nothing has been agreed, principally as the NRA have been unable to provide as required relevant comparable rents figures. Everyone they have so far submitted have been fatally flawed. The matter is supposed to be going to mediation by an RICS appointed arbitrator. Under Section 34 of the Landlord & Tenants Act, the improvements made by the tenant (other than those required by the lease) are to be disregarded when setting the rent. This means that if a tenant takes on a ‘dump’ and turns it into a ‘palace’ then by law the landlord can’t charge rent on the ‘palace’ the tenant has created, which is what the NRA is attempting to do. Despite the evidence provided to the NRA that the clubhouse was in a derelict condition when Moss Artists Rifles Clubhouse Story took it on and the expenditure incurred the NRA are still disputing this and thereby racking up costs for both sides and delaying proceedings.