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Q&A with new partner Dorian Henneron

Property & Development
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Newly appointed property & development partner Dorian Henneron describes ABL's all-stages approach to development deals and the growing interest in build-to-rent.

Is it unusual for a property lawyer to have the wherewithal to advise clients all the way through initial acquisition, structuring and development phase through to completion and sales? What equips you to do that and what are the benefits for the client and for you?

A lawyer specialising in development work needs to be able to advise on each phase of a deal – from structuring, acquisition and delivery, right through to the disposal phase. My experience as a lawyer in ABL’s construction team, alongside the transactional work I’ve done, often in close collaboration with ABL’s banking & finance team, has given me the skills and know-how that underpin the advice I provide to clients on development deals.

There are tax, finance and construction aspects interwoven in many, if not all, development transactions. This means that, as a development lawyer, I need to recognise all the key risk areas from start to finish, to deliver to my clients structures and legal documentation that are tax effective and appropriate for the full lifecycle of a development. To protect my clients’ interests, that kind of comprehensive, all-stages perspective, is imperative. 

How has the pandemic impacted your work, in terms of the type of developments and construction projects clients are looking at embarking on themselves, acquiring or selling?

The pandemic hasn’t had a significant impact on development related work, other than the restriction of foreign buyers into the Australian market, in particular in relation to traditional build-to-sell projects.

That said, we’re seeing real growth in build-to-rent projects, with new and established players taking a keen interest in this sector, including developers, investors and operators. Given its longer-term investment mandate, BTR is less sensitive to short-term foreign restrictions.

Rather than the pandemic itself, it’s been governmental policy changes that have most impacted development work. For example, economic entitlement duty, new stamp duty rates and the introduction of windfall tax.

As a development lawyer, I need to recognise all the key risk areas from start to finish, to deliver to my clients structures and legal documentation that are tax effective and appropriate for the full lifecycle of a development.

What's different about ABL's property and development practice to what you have experienced and observed at other firms?

The ability to run a highly efficient team with seamless transition between finance, development and construction is a key difference that I have observed. The firm is also committed to giving young lawyers experience and client contact from day one, as well as the opportunity to work alongside market leading partners who encourage you to develop your own practice and play to your individual strengths.

Housing affordability is an issue of real concern in Australia (and elsewhere). How do you see that impacting your work into the future?

My view is that housing affordability will continue to remain an issue for the foreseeable future, especially as interest rates remain low. This is particularly so for new entrants into the market. Developers will continue to look at ways to service this section of the market. It’s a great pleasure to work alongside developers who have a genuine interest in housing affordability and who look to new ownership and delivery structures which seek to encourage new buyers into the property market.

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