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Breaches of Lease and Proportionate Response

Many Landlords and Management Companies are not aware that, in addition to our core services we provide a comprehensive service in respect of breaches of Lease by Leaseholders and their sub-tenants.

Wherever there is an obligation under the Lease which has been breached, this is potentially actionable and, where the breach is causing problems for the management company or for other leaseholders, there is often an obligation to take action in order to maintain the quiet enjoyment of property for the other leaseholders.

If you have received complaints about the actions or behaviour of a leaseholder then this will, in most cases, constitute a breach of Lease. The most common types of breach with which we are asked to deal with are:

  • Replacing carpets with hard flooring causing noise nuisance
  • Keeping pets in an apartment where this is forbidden
  • Placing belongings or rubbish in the common parts
  • Parking commercial vehicles
  • Loud music
  • Prostitution
  • Damage to Common Parts
  • Failure to repair
  • Sub-letting without consent
  • Alteration to the internal areas

Any of these matters will constitute a breach of Lease. It may be that the breach causes a nuisance for other Leaseholders or disturbs the use of their premises or it may be that the breach causes damage which devalues the property.

In any case of breach there are various remedies. These can be rectifying the breach yourself and seeking damages, seeking an injunction to prevent the breach or, in the most extreme cases, seeking to forfeit the Lease. Where action is required against the tenant it is almost always the case that the costs of any action taken will be recoverable from the tenant, making such action much more attractive to the other leaseholders where the cost of legal action is a consideration.

What should be noted and is often forgotten by aggrieved Leaseholders is that whilst it may be very tempting to threaten forfeiture and take proceedings to remove the offending Leaseholder this will not find favour with the Courts of the First-tier Tribunal save in the most extreme circumstances. By way of example, if you want to forfeit a Lease where a resident is keeping a very small caged animal which causes no bother to other residents then the Court will not permit this to occur. Even if you are right in law the Court would penalise you in costs and find any possible reason not to deprive someone of their property for a small breach. If, however, an owner is keeping a large vicious dog, which terrorises other residents and fouls the common areas then a far more robust approach can be taken.

What the Courts and the tribunal seek to discourage, is actions which are brought out of pettiness arising and where no party has suffered any real loss or hardship. It is important to remind leaseholders that in such cases, whilst we can seek the ultimate sanction of forfeiture, it is unlikely to be granted and it would be far more sensible to adopt a proportionate approach. The last thing that any Managing Agent wants is a situation where residents are at loggerheads with each other and harbour resentment for years; seeking action for every tiny misdemeanour.

Bringing an action for breach is a relatively quick and straightforward procedure and can do much to alleviate an intolerable situation. Very often an initial letter is sufficient to bring the parties to the table to reach a solution. If this is not the case then we will be happy to advise on any circumstances which arise. Contact Charlotte Collins on 0333 0 300 200 or email her on cc@slcsolicitors.com, don’t let your leaseholders suffer in silence!

 

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