Top 12 Property Litigation Cases for Landlords and Tenants 2009
10 March 2010
Disputes on break notices, outsourcing, business tenancies, rights to light, service charges, negligent surveyors…we've been spoilt for choice
Here are our top 12 property litigation cases for 2009 (one for each month of the year, although not necessarily published in that month). (For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you'll spot there is one from the end of 2008 but we liked it so much we've included it.)
In Orchard (Developments) Holdings Plc v Reuters Ltd the lease provided that a break notice sent by fax was only valid if acknowledged by the landlord. The Court of Appeal decided that a break notice did not become retrospectively effective if the landlord acknowledged receipt after the break date had passed.
The case of Watson v Croft Promo-Sport Ltd considered a nuisance caused by an excessively noisy motor racing circuit next door. The court granted an injunction to restrain the activities on the circuit. The court will normally grant an injunction rather than award damages if the nuisance is actionable.
In Clarence House Ltd v National Westminster Bank plc the court considered for the first time whether a tenant’s "virtual assignment" to a third party of rights and obligations in respect of the premises amounted to a breach of the alienation covenant. On appeal, the court decided that the virtual assignment was not a breach, because the legal rights between the landlord and tenant were unaffected.
In Shaw v Doleman the court considered the impact of a disclaimer of a lease by a tenant’s liquidator on a former tenant’s liability under an authorised guarantee agreement. The court found that the disclaimer terminated the current tenant’s liability under the lease but that this did not affect the former tenant’s liability under the guarantee.
In Inclusive Technology v Williamson the court gave judgment in a claim for compensation under s37A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. The landlord opposed renewal on the basis of redevelopment but failed to inform the tenant of a change in its plans. The tenant was awarded compensation for misrepresentation.
The court in Somerfield Stores Ltd v Spring (Sutton Coldfield) Ltd considered whether a landlord can rely on its own insolvency to delay lease renewal proceedings to suit its own purposes. The court held that it could not and in this case the tenant was permitted to continue proceedings for its application to be granted a new lease.
In Chartbrook Ltd v Persimmon Homes Ltd, the House of Lords decided that there were no grounds to depart from the long-standing rule that pre-contract negotiations cannot be used to help interpret a contract. Where the ordinary meaning of the words used produce an uncommercial result, the court should infer what the contracting parties really meant.
In Gregory Projects (Halifax) Ltd v Tenpin (Halifax) Ltd, the court refused to let a tenant rescind an Agreement for Lease because it had not been sent a copy of a planning permission before a longstop date. The court held that, on a proper interpretation of the contract, there was no deadline for sending a copy of the planning permission.
In Littlewood v Radford the court found that a surveyor who had written to a client saying that unless a bill was paid he would terminate the retainer was negligent for not subsequently reminding the client of an impending time limit. On the facts, the retainer had not been terminated.
In Salvage Wharf Limited v G&S Brough Limited the court considered a contract where a party gave up their rights to light in relation to a specific development. The claimant submitted that this did not relate to a total abandonment and the court agreed. The claimant was therefore allowed to object to a subsequent redevelopment.
The court in Heslop v Bishton considered an interference with a right of way. The court decided that the existence of an alternative right of way may affect the ability of a party to obtain an injunction from the court when trying to enforce.
In Boots UK Limited v Trafford Centre Limited the court had to interpret a service charge clause in a lease of a unit in a shopping centre. The dispute centred on whether certain activities (including decorations and a Santa's Grotto) constituted a “promotion”. The court held that they did not and the tenant was therefore liable to pay for them.