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Landmark Supreme Court judgment on renovation works in blocks of flats

Posted on 01 June 2020

Landmark Supreme Court judgment on renovation works in blocks of flats

The Supreme Court has handed down a landmark judgment that will impact on many landlords and tenants of long residential leases in blocks of flats.

The decision in Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent Ltd [2020] UKSC 18 considered the scenario of Tenant 1 in a block of flats who has applied for landlord's consent to carry out work which would otherwise breach a covenant in Tenant 1's lease. The Supreme Court decided that, where the other tenants' leases say they can require the landlord to enforce Tenant 1's covenants (if they pay the landlord's costs), the landlord will be in breach of his obligations if he grants Tenant 1's application for consent.

The case concerned long residential leases of flats in Maida Vale. Mrs Winfield, the tenant of flat 13C, sought to carry out structural alterations to her flat, which were prohibited by her lease. The planned works included removing a substantial part of a load-bearing wall at basement level. The landlord was minded to grant a licence to carry out the works. However, Dr Duval, the tenant of flats 11G and 11H, objected to the works and argued that the landlord was obliged to enforce the absolute covenant against structural works in Mrs Winfield's lease.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal that if the landlord granted Mrs Winfield a licence, he would be incapable of performing his obligation to other tenants in the block to enforce the absolute covenant against structural works.

It is common for a landlord of a block of flats to covenant with his tenants to enforce other tenant covenants at the request and expense of the tenant requesting enforcement. Since tenants have no contractual right to enforce other tenants' covenants, this kind of landlord covenant provides the tenants with the comfort that there is a mechanism by which the landlord can be required to take action on their behalf.

If you are a landlord, management company or tenant of a block of flats and would like to find out more about how this case impacts on you, please contact one of our team.

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