Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
As a landlord, do you know when you have the right to enter a leaseholder's flat? Most residential leases include a clause that allows a landlord access to a flat, if it is for a specified reason listed 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 lease in question allowed the landlord access for a number of reasons as long as the flat owner had at least 48 hours notice. But when the landlord gave a time and date to inspect the leaseholder's 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, no reply. The landlord took the case to the First Tier Tribunal, arguing that the leaseholder's failure to respond to his letters was a breach of covenant. However, the FTT ruled against the landlord, saying that the lease did not specify that access was only possible after hearing that the time and date given was acceptable.
The landlord appealed but lost. Again, 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 learn here. First, when landlords want to access a property, they must think hard about the way they word the notice to the leaseholder. And second, this ruling suggests that landlords should go ahead and try to gain entry on the time and date specified in any notice, whether or not the leaseholder has replied. This could be both time consuming and costly - but any other approach may end up being even more so, as this landlord found out. If you are unsure about serving notices on leaseholders, or have a query about any other legal aspect of residential leasehold, contact our property law specialists at Ringley Law. Our experienced team can help.
Mary-Anne Bowring FIRPM FRICS FARLA FCABE Founder/Head of Asset Management
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