Most residential leases include a clause that allows landlords access to flats, if it is for one of the reasons laid down in the lease. Simple enough you might think. Well, not necessarily, as the recent case of New Crane Wharf Freehold Limited v Dovener shows. The question raised here is whether or not a leaseholder who does not give prior permission for the landlord to enter their flat for a legitimate reason, is in breach of their lease.
The terms of the lease in question allowed the landlord access as long as the flat owner was given at least 48 hours? notice. However, when the landlord gave a time and date to inspect the flat, he heard nothing apart from an email from the leaseholder stating that he wasn?t happy about the landlord entering his property. A second letter was sent, including a new date for entry to the property. Again, there was no reply.
The landlord took the case to the First Tier Tribunal, arguing that the leaseholder?s failure to answer his letters was a breach of covenant. However the FTT disagreed and ruled against the landlord. The reason given was that the lease did not specify that the landlord could only gain access after gaining confirmation that the time and date given was acceptable.
The landlord then appealed but the appeal failed too. Again, the reasoning was that there was no evidence that the leaseholder refused entry at the date and time specified by the landlord and so the leaseholder was not found to be in breach of the lease.
This is a technical point but an important one for landlords. There are two lessons to be learned here. First, when landlords want to access a property, they must think hard about the wording of the notice they issue.
And second, when access is required - and is acceptable under the lease terms - it seems that landlords should go ahead and try to gain entry on the time and date specified in the notice, regardless of whether or not they have received a response from the leaseholder. This is potentially time-consuming but any other approach may end up being even more so, as this landlord found out.
At Ringley we have our own in-house legal department. Our qualified specialists are always on hand to offer advice and help you navigate the complexities of leasehold law. So if you have any questions relating to your lease or any other legal matters, contact us at http://www.ringleylaw.co.uk
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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