LACORS (the Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services) has confirmed its earlier advice that, where office floorspace is let per unit of floorspace, that unit must be metric. In doing so, it implicitly says that previous Government advice on this matter is wrong and/or misleading.
MetricViews has previously reported that LACORS originally gave this advice to an individual local authority as long ago as 2004. However, some trading standards officers in other local authorities were reluctant to follow this advice without full authentication from LACORS. [LACORS is funded and supported by all the local authority associations in the UK].
UKMA has now received a letter from LACORS on headed notepaper confirming the previous advice. Using this letter it will now be possible to challenge estate agents who advertise office rents “per sq ft” rather than per m2. The full text of this letter can be read here.
Previous Government advice (dating from 1995 but still available at this link) has been that “the majority of commercial transactions in goods, land and services are not regulated by the Weights and Measures Act 1985. These transactions are therefore not subject to any express sanction under provisions in UK legislation that regulate the use of units of measurement”. While this statement is literally true, it is misleading since it omits the important fact that where a transaction in goods, land and services is by reference to quantity, the measurement units used must be metric. This is explained more fully by LACORS.
The key passage of the LACORS letter reads as follows:
“If a transaction relating to land or floor space is a transaction by reference to quantity, such that the units of measurement are in use for trade (as opposed to a transaction by specification) it is LACORS view that the transaction is regulated by the Weights and Measures Act 1985.
As stated in our Guidance issued in August 2004:-
‘The relevant section of the Weights & Measures Act 1985 reads as follows:
“Section 8. Units of measurement, weights and measures lawful for use for trade.
(1) No person shall-
(a) use for trade any unit of measurement which is not included in Parts I to V of Schedule 1 to this Act…”
It can be clearly seen from Schedule 1 that imperial units including the foot, square foot etc may NOT be used for trade, since they do not appear in Parts I to V of that Schedule.
The definition of ‘use for trade’ is found in Section 7:
“7. Meaning of ‘use for trade’.
(1) In this Act ‘use for trade’ means, subject to subsection (3) below, use in Great Britain in connection with, or with a view to, a transaction falling within subsection (2) below where-
(a) the transaction is by reference to quantity or is a transaction for the purposes of which there is made or implied a statement of the quantity of goods to which the transaction relates, and
(b) the use is for the purpose of the determination or statement of that quantity.
(2) A transaction falls within this subsection if it is a transaction for-
(a) the transferring or rendering of money or money’s worth in consideration of money or money’s worth, or
(b) the making of a payment in respect of any toll or duty.
A unit of measurement may, therefore, be deemed to be in ‘use for trade’ if it is used in connection with a transaction involving the rendering of money, where the transaction is by reference to quantity.
Since 7(1)(a) can be split into two separate clauses (that is to say ‘the transaction is by reference to quantity’ or ‘is a transaction for the purposes of which there is made or implied a statement of the quantity of goods to which the transaction relates’). In the former case, there is no requirement for the transaction to involve a quantity of ‘goods’.
LACORS interpretation of the legislation is that transactions where units of measurement are used for trade, including the sale, rental and leasing of property, floor space, land, ete. are covered by this legislation. Therefore, any reference to quantity whether voluntary or otherwise, must be made in metric units.’
In summary of the above, LACORS considers that any ‘transaction by reference to quantity’ , as opposed to a transaction by reference to a description, falls within the scope of the Weights & Measures Act 1985 Part 7(1)(a), and there is no requirement for the transaction to be for ‘goods’.
It is LACORS view that a transaction for the provision of a service could be a transaction by reference to quantity and therefore could fall within the scope of the Weights & Measures Act 1985 Part 7(1)(a). Your example of carpet fitting by ‘price per square metre’ would appear to be an example of this type of transaction.”
This advice seems definitive and authoritative, and effectively settles the argument over whether letting office space per sq ft is legal. Local authorities should therefore be enforcing these rules, and where TSOs are reluctant to act, they should be referred to the LACORS advice in this article and at the above link.