This briefing note is only intended as a general statement of the law and no action should be taken in reliance on it without specific legal advice.

REAL INSIGHT - Property Update - July 2014
31 July 2014

REAL INSIGHT - Property Update - July 2014


The recent Supreme Court decision in Coventry v Lawrence (2014) looks to have altered the landscape of rights to light disputes, a topic we covered in depth at our recent rights to light seminar.

Before Coventry v Lawrence, the courts' approach was fairly consistent: where a claimant's property rights had been breached, an injunction would normally be awarded.  It was only in exceptional circumstances that a court would award damages instead.

HKRUK II (CHC) Limited v Heaney (2010) is now seen as the high point for aggrieved neighbours in rights of light disputes.  The judge ordered the developer to demolish part of his building, even though the claimant had not brought court proceedings to halt the project's construction.

But Coventry v Lawrence has shifted the balance of negotiating power back towards developers. The Supreme Court has now said that injunctions are no longer automatic. Courts should take into account all the surrounding circumstances, such as the effect any injunction would have on the defendant's business.

The public interest is now a key factor – and this includes planning consent. So if the offending activity was authorised by planning permission, this is evidence of public benefit which may lead the court to award damages instead of an injunction.

Coventry was a noise nuisance case and did not involve rights to light.  We will need more court decisions to gauge quite how things have changed, but in the meantime the parties’ behaviour will be crucial.  For a developer, open consultation with neighbours will minimise the chances of an injunction, while the neighbours will need to show they have made their grievances known to the developer at an early stage.

Chhavie Kapoor is a Legal Director specialising in real estate disputes, including rights to light matters.


When buying a commercial property, buyers should be mindful of the non-property rights that they should be getting. So, what are the things to consider?

The building might have acquired a distinctive name. High-profile buildings are often known by more than just an address and trademark registrations for the name and even 'nicknames' (the Gherkin for example) are increasingly common. As well as a name, logos can, and should, be registered. If naming rights have been granted, make sure that the contract governing that is reviewed so that disputes don’t arise.

The building might have an associated website too. Find out who owns it and how is it updated, hosted, and further developed etc.

There could also be a property management system in place for the building. Managing a large number of tenancies, licences and contracts will generally be helped with a good PMS so having continued use of it will be extremely important.

My advice: if you wish to avoid acquiring rights that infringe third parties, run good clearance checks for trademarks, and obtain strong warranties and indemnities from the seller against third party claims.

Adam Rose is a Commercial partner, specialising in advising clients on IT and commercial contracts (including franchising, agency and terms of business).


In Friends Life Management Services Ltd v A&A Express Building Ltd (2014), an office tenant received a painful reminder that tenants can still be liable for the cost of works carried out after the lease term expires.

Friends Life had contributed nearly £800,000 into a sinking fund set aside for future works.  When they exercised a break clause on 24 March 2010, they expected to get a big chunk of this money back.

The landlord, however, decided to undertake maintenance works to the tune of £1,046,691, with some of the work carried out later that year and the rest in 2011. Taking money from the sinking fund, the landlord billed Friends Life for these works – arguing that they could all be attributed to the financial year for the service charge (1 January to 31 December).

The dispute ended up in court, and the result was a score-draw.  The judge said the landlord could not charge Friends Life for costs incurred after 31 December 2010.  However, the judge did allow the landlord to use the sinking fund money to pay for works done between the break date (24 March 2010) and the end of calendar year 2010.

Even if there had been no sinking fund, the judge said Friends Life would be liable for approximately a quarter of all service charge costs incurred during 2010, including works carried out after the break date.  This was because Friends Life had occupied the building for roughly one quarter of the financial year (1 January to 24 March).  The lease was silent on how to apportion part-years, but the judge said that apportionment on a straight-line daily basis was the simplest and most practical method.

Stefania Lobina is a Trainee Solicitor within our Real Estate department.