Heap of Rubble Triggered Commercial Tenancy Dispute

25th February 2014

Heap of Rubble Triggered Commercial Tenancy Dispute

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If you are unsure of the duties that commercial landlords have in maintaining the appearance of their premises, this article might give you some guidance.  

A self-storage company which complained to its landlord that its customers were being put off by the presence of an unsightly heap of rubble, has failed in a bid for damages of more than £30,000.

The company argued that it had repeatedly asked its landlord to remove the rubble from a retained part of the industrial estate on which it operated and had ultimately been constrained to resort to suing the landlord. It claimed, amongst other things, that a covenant within its lease imposed a general obligation on the landlord to maintain the appearance and amenity of the estate.

The company’s claim was dismissed at the County Court, primarily on the basis that the rubble heap – which the landlord had intended to use in the foundations of a proposed building – was already present on the retained land when the company signed the lease on its premises from a previous tenant.

The Court of Appeal accepted that that was a mistaken basis on which to dismiss the claim but nevertheless dismissed the company’s appeal. The Court found that the wording of the relevant covenant – by which the landlord agreed to ‘administer and manage’ the estate – was not broad enough to impose a generalised and wholly unspecific duty to maintain the estate’s appearance.

Applying well-established principles of construction, the Court concluded, “In the absence of any definition of a sufficiently certain standard, or set of criteria, whether objective or subjective, by reference to which the appearance of the estate could be judged, it is impossible to construe the words ‘administering and managing’ as implying an obligation of the type for which the company contends.
The lawyers at Gotelee are able to advise on a range of property disputes, including disputes between Landlord and Tenant. For more information on the service we can offer you, or for an initial discussion about your case, please contact Holly Sadler on 01473 298193 or email holly.sadler@gotelee.co.uk

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