Property Litigation

We specialise in Property Litigation. We deal with both residential and commercial issues and disputes, for both freehold and leasehold properties. We have particular expertise in dealing with complex central London leasehold disputes between landlords and tenants.

 

In addition, we deal with other and more specialised property litigation issues including relating to: hotels, hospitality and leisure; mixed use property; shopping centres; development and construction issues; properties providing serviced accommodation and short let accommodation; commercial lease disputes and breaches of lease; unlawful subletting for profit; disputes involving neighbours and adjacent properties; complicated evictions; unopposed and opposed commercial lease renewals; leasehold enfranchisement issues and applications to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for premium determinations; and more as outlined below.

 

Whether routine possession proceedings or complex and high value property litigation, we treat all matters promptly and commercially with professionalism, precision and a personal touch. Our main goal is to always try and resolve any issue without the need for the involvement of the Court. However, if Court action needs to be taken or defended, we will ensure that our client’s case is prepared and put forward properly and argued as strongly as possible, in an effort to achieve our client’s desired outcome.

 

Our team is experienced, knowledgeable, proactive and provides advice in a clear concise manner which is easy to digest. Certain fee earners are also members of the Property Litigation Association. Below we provide a non-exhaustive list of types of property litigation matters which we deal with:

 

  • Landlord and Tenant Disputes
  • Section 8 and Section 21 Notices to Terminate an Assured Shorthold Tenancy
  • Possession Proceedings
  • Accelerated Possession Proceedings
  • Forfeiture and Evictions
  • Enforcement
  • Relief From Forfeiture
  • Problems with Tenants
  • Problems Relating to Deposit Protection
  • Damages and Disrepair to Property
  • Dilapidations
  • Disputes With Estate Agents and Commission Claims
  • Rent Arrears
  • Breaches of Tenancies and Leases
  • Section 146 Notices and Court Proceedings
  • Breach of Covenants
  • Section 25 and Section 26 Notices
  • Commercial Lease Renewals and Court Proceedings
  • Party Wall Disputes
  • Boundary Disputes and Adverse Possession
  • Building / Construction Disputes
  • Problems With Neighbours
  • Trespass
  • Section 13 Notices and Collective Enfranchisement
  • Section 42 Notices and Residential Lease Extensions
  • Section 5 Notices and Rights of First Refusal
  • Injunctions
  • Rights of Light and Easements
  • Service Charge Disputes and Issues
  • Valuation Disputes and Valuers Negligence
  • Property Related Negligence
  • Unauthorised and Illegal Subletting
  • Beneficial Ownership and Trusts Disputes
Landlord and Tenant Act 1954

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 governs the commercial relationship between a landlord and tenant. It does this by setting out their rights and obligations. Most importantly, the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 is the relevant law which creates security of tenure for business tenants.

If a business tenant meets the criteria for security of tenure under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954, then this means that the business tenant will have the automatic right to remain in occupation of the premises and renew their lease at the end of their existing lease term. Their landlord will only be able to refuse to grant a new lease in certain limited circumstances.

It is also possible for a commercial lease to be ‘contracted out’ of the provisions of security of tenure under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954; however, this requires a strict process to be followed by the parties.  If a lease has been properly ‘contracted out’ then the business tenant will not have the right to remain in occupation or renew their lease at the end of their existing lease term.

It is important that you know your rights whether you are a landlord or a tenant. It is also imperative to know your obligations so that you do not find yourself in breach of them and/or in breach of the strict procedures which need to be followed. As such we will always advice clients to take specialist professional advice both from a solicitor and a suitable surveyor.

Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938

The Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938, as the name indicates, deals with repairs in relation to leasehold premises. Most notably, the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938 affords protection to tenants in respect of damages and dilapidations to leasehold premises. The Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938 helps prevent landlords from relying on repair covenants within a lease in order to forfeit a lease.

In respect of a breach of any lease covenant, other than a covenant to pay rent, a landlord must first serve on the tenant a notice under Section 146 of the Law of Property Act 1925 before the landlord can take any forfeiture action. This is known as a ‘Section 146 Notice’.

Provided the lease complies with the relevant provisions of the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938, if the landlord is complaining about a breach relating to the repair covenant in the lease, then the tenant will be able to serve a ‘counter-notice’ on the landlord claiming the benefit of protection the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938.

If this happens, then the Landlord must first apply for leave of the Court before the landlord is able to make an application to forfeit the lease for breach of repair covenant by the tenant. In order for leave to be granted, the landlord must demonstrate that the tenant has breached the terms of the lease and generally, that there is an immediate need and requirement for the breach to be remedied.

The Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act 1938 can be a useful tool in a tenant’s armoury which must be used correctly and within the prescribed timescales. If used properly, a landlord will have to go through a detailed process in order to determine whether or not a tenant has breached a repair covenant in their lease. This process can be time consuming and costly for all parties and therefore it is usually in the best interests of all involved to try and settle the matter without the need to follow the entire Court process. However and nevertheless, the procedure protects the tenant against their lease being forfeited unfairly and without due consideration of the landlord’s complaint.

Housing Acts

The Housing Acts establish the rights and obligations of tenants, estate agents and landlords in relation to residential rental properties. These Acts address a variety of issues and play a crucial role in the drafting and review of agreements between tenants and landlords. If you need to understand your rights and obligations under these laws, please get in contact with us.

Landlord and Tenant Disputes

Landlord and tenant disputes can arise in a variety of ways, often due to one party failing to meet their obligations or acting against the terms of their agreement. Depending on the circumstances, there may be several courses of action available.  Knowing your rights and obligations is essential for resolving disputes so that you act within your legal boundaries.

Section 8 and Section 21 Notices to Terminate an AST

An Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) is a type of tenancy agreement between a landlord and tenant for the letting of a residential property on a short-term basis. An AST will grant landlord the right to take possession of their property after the fixed term period ends.

 

A landlord may seek to remove a tenant and terminate the AST before the fixed-term period expires by serving a Section 8 notice on the tenant.

 

Section 8 Notices are issued when a tenant has breached the terms of their AST. A landlord must rely on specific grounds outlined in law, with some carrying carry greater weight and a higher chance of obtaining possession.

 

Section 21 Notices allow a landlord to regain possession without need to prove the tenant is at fault. There are no grounds required for issuing a Section 21 Notice but there are specific statutory obligations which must be complied with to ensure a valid Section 21 Notice is served.  To find out more, get in contact with us and one of our team will be able to assist you.

Possession Proceedings

Possession proceedings are typically initiated by a landlord due to the expiration of a tenancy agreement, a breach of its terms, or trespassing. It is a criminal offence to evict a tenant from a property without following the correct legal procedure. The safest approach is to obtain a possession order from the court.

Accelerated Possession Proceedings

If a tenant remains in the property beyond the date specified by their AST, the landlord should apply to the court for an eviction order using the accelerated possession proceedings. This streamlined process typically bypasses hearings, enabling the landlord to regain possession more quickly and accommodate a new tenant sooner.

Forfeiture and Evictions

A landlord may terminate a lease (whether commercial or residential) with a tenant under certain situations, enabling them to regain possession of the property. This is commonly known as ‘forfeiture’. However, depending on the tenant’s actions, there may be alternative remedies available, that do not involve forfeiture of eviction. These options can be particularly valuable during times where property leasing is challenging, allowing the landlord to address the breach while maintaining the rental agreement.  Before making a decision, landlords should always consider all available options.

Enforcement

Depending on the situation, there are various enforcement options available for both landlords and tenants in respect of both residential and commercial property. For more information, please get in contact and a member of the team will explain all options available.

Relief from Forfeiture

If a tenant breaches their lease or tenancy agreement, and a landlord seeks to end the lease – i.e. forfeit it – in certain circumstances, a tenant can apply to the court to keep the agreement in place. The court has discretion in making its decision, so it is essential for a tenant to take specific steps within a quick timescale to persuade the court that the lease should continue.

Problems with Tenants

Landlords may encounter issues with tenants, for example: non-payment of rent; or unauthorised alterations without the landlord’s consent. Seeking advice on potential remedies can help to maintain a good relationship with tenants.

Problems Relating to Deposit Protection

Residential landlord must securely hold onto the tenant’s deposit to protect both themselves and the tenant. There may a problem where a landlord refuses to provide a tenant with their full deposit. If you would like to know more or would like to know how the deposit should be looked after, please get in contact with us and one of our team will be happy to assist.

Damages and Disrepair to Property

As a landlord, you hope that no tenant damages or disrepairs your property. In reality, property damage is a very common issue and may occur for a variety of reasons. Damage and disrepair to a property is almost always a breach the lease or tenancy agreement. Whether you are a landlord or tenant, contact us for guidance and we will provide you with the most practical ways to resolve the issues.

Dilapidations

In a lease, tenants are almost always responsible for maintaining the property so that the condition of the property remains the same as it was when it was given to the tenant (usually, save for fair wear and tear) and so that the property remains marketable following their departure. Where this is not followed, landlords should act quickly to ensure that they are not left with a property which has lost value and should bring action so that these costs are paid. If you fear that this may be the case, please get in contact with us so that we can advise you on how best to proceed.

Disputes With Estate Agents and Commission Claims

Estate agents are regulated by industry bodies in addition to the law. These are in place to ensure that they act fairly to clients however disputes can still arise. The most common disputes we have encountered surround the payment of agents’ commissions and also disputes regarding an agent’s management of a property. If you have had a dispute with an estate agent or are disputing the commission they are claiming, or if you are an estate agent who has not been remunerated properly, please feel free to give us a call and we will look into your rights to ensure that matters are being dealt properly.

Rent Arrears

Where rent is owed to a landlord, this is known as rent arrears. It is always best to try to resolve the issue without resulting to expensive enforcement measures, however sometimes this may be a last resort for a landlord. If you are a landlord and would like to recover outstanding rent, please get in contact with us and we will advise you on how best to proceed as there are different routes for when the property is a commercial property as opposed to when it is residential.

Breaches of Tenancies and Leases

Breaches of tenancies and leases are common. Both landlords and tenants have obligations and either party may breach the terms of the agreement. Sometimes breaches they are so small that a landlord or even a tenant may choose to ignore the breach, particularly where it was a one-off. However, sometimes it may be such a large breach that the landlord or tenant ends the lease. If you fear you may breach a tenancy or lease, or that a tenant has breached the same in your property, please get in contact with us and we will explain your rights and obligations to ensure that you are able to resolve the issue.

Section 146 Notices and Court Proceedings

If a tenant breaches a lease and a landlord wishes for that breach to be remedied, or worse, to end the lease, in most cases (usually except for in respect of commercial rent arrears), the landlord must serve a Section 146 Notice before taking action and certainly before commencing court proceedings. If you would like to know your rights as a landlord or tenant, please get in contact with us on how best to proceed.

Breach of Covenants

A covenant is a promise by one person to another person to either do, or not do, something on a property. A covenant is written down and agreed between the parties, and often relates to the property itself, not just to the people that agreed to it. As covenants may continue to apply following the sale of a property or where there has been a change in occupation, some people may be unaware of the promise and subsequently breach it. To find out whether there are any covenants affecting your property, or believe there has been a breach of a covenant, please get in contact with us and we can look into this.

Section 25 Notice and Section 26 Notice

These notices relate to commercial leases in relation to which a tenant has gained statutory protection under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954. This essentially means that the tenant has a right to renew their lease once it has come to an end, except for in some limited circumstances.

A Section 25 Notice is served by a landlord of a commercial property near the end of the lease term. A landlord can either serve a Notice offering the tenant to renew their lease, or in limited circumstances, the Notice can terminate the lease. The timing of serving a Section 25 Notice is critical and therefore a landlord should contact a solicitor as soon as it is decided that they would like to propose new terms or object to a new lease.

A Section 26 Notice is served by a tenant upon a landlord where a tenant wishes to initiate the renewal of a lease with new proposed terms. As above, a tenant should approach a solicitor as soon as they decide they would like to do so as the timing of serving a Section 26 Notice is critical.

Commercial Lease Renewals and Court Proceedings

If a commercial landlord is happy to renew the tenant’s lease but the parties cannot agree the terms, either party may apply to the court to decide the terms. There is a specific procedure to follow. However, agreeing the terms without the need for Court involvement is in both the landlord’s and tenant’s favour.

If there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant as to the landlord’s Section 25 Notice terminating the lease, then either party (but usually the tenant) can apply to the court for a decision to be made as to whether or not the lease should be terminated or whether the tenant is entitled to a new lease.

Party Wall Disputes

Party wall disputes typically involve disagreements between neighbours over property boundaries or wall maintenance. This can be problematic for several reasons. For example, it can restrict what someone can do with a wall even where it is facing onto their premises, or it can create a dispute as to who is responsible for the costs of any repair or maintenance for the wall. If any work is going to be carried out on or near a boundary wall, then the party carrying out the work needs to serve a Party Wall Notice on its neighbours; and they then need to enter into a ‘Party Wall Award’ to agree the terms on which such work will be carried out. If a Party Wall Award is not entered into, then there can be serve consequences on the party which is carrying out the work.

If you would like to know your rights in relation to party walls then please get in contact with us so that we may assist you in resolving your dispute with your neighbour.

Boundary Disputes and Adverse Possession

Boundary disputes are usually difficult because not only is it costly to remedy an inaccurate boundary, such as walls or fences, but a boundary also affects the value of a property. These types of disputes are also very emotional as they often affect people’s homes.

Adverse possession is whereby a person who does not legally own a piece of land attempts to claim that they are the owners of it. A person who owns the property should act to correct this as soon as possible as the law recognises that after a set period of time, they may no longer no longer be the legal owners of that piece of land.

If you do not act quickly it may prove to be a very costly error. If you would like to discuss this with one of our solicitors, please feel free to get in contact with us.

Building / Construction Disputes

With building and construction, many issues do not come to light until once works are underway and the issues can be very complex, especially as various professionals are involved. The necessity for a properly prepared contract cannot be underestimated, especially as most contracts will enable the parties to Adjudicate any dispute between them, which is often a cost effective and quick procedure to settle a dispute. Alternatively, there is a specific procedure to follow under the Pre-Action Protocol for Construction and Engineering Disputes for disputes that are not capable of resolution by Adjudication. To know your rights, please get in contact with us and one of our team will be happy to assist you.

Problems With Neighbours

There are a variety of reasons why neighbours may have issues with each other. For example, a neighbour could be causing annoyance or nuisance through the smell they emit or through noise. Alternatively, there could be disputes over who is responsible for repairs to common areas where there is a shared benefit. If you are having issues with your neighbours, please feel free to get in contact with us and a member of our team will advise you on how to proceed.

Trespass

Where a person enters land that does not belong to them, it may have criminal and financial consequences as it may result in damage or, if continuously used and not objected to, create a right to use that piece of land for a certain reason. Trespassing is also apparent where a former tenant refuses to leave a property after their tenancy has come to an end. When dealing with trespassing the owner of the land should be careful to not take the law into their own hands as they risk breaking the law themselves. If you find yourself in this position and would like to know more, please give us a call.

Section 13 Notices and Collective Enfranchisement

A Section 13 Notice is a notice sent by the tenants of a property on their landlord to acquire the freehold of the premises, also known as ‘collective enfranchisement’. In addition to the notice to acquire the property, there are a number of other steps which must be considered, such as where there are multiple tenants, how the property will be owned and split etc. If you would like more information, please give us a call.

Section 42 Notices and Residential Lease Extensions

A tenant may request a lease extension for their residential premises. This may be done by a tenant serving a Section 42 Notice on their landlord. This is known as a lease extension. Disputes can often arise if there are disagreements about whether or not a tenant is entitled to extend their lease, but most commonly, disputes surround the premium payable by the tenant to the landlord for the lease extension. If you wish to extend your lease with your landlord, please give us a call and we can arrange this for you.

Section 5 Notices and Rights of First Refusal

Landlords must offer ‘qualified tenants’ the chance to purchase the freehold, before selling the property on to a third party. This is known as the right of first refusal. This is done by the freeholder serving a Section 5 Notice on the tenants which sets out information about the sale. If you are looking to sell your property or you are a tenant wishing to acquire a property, you must meet certain requirements. For more information, please give us a call.

Injunctions

An injunction is an order of the court that requires a party to either perform or refrain from certain acts. Granting an injunction, is at the court’s discretion and is decided upon by applying the ‘balance of convenience’ test. There are rules which must be followed in order to ensure the best chance of being granted an injunction. If you would like to know more, please give us a call.

Rights of Light and Easements

Easements are rights enjoyed over land that belong to someone else but benefits other land. An example of this is the right of light. A right of light ensures the enjoyment of natural light that passes over someone else’s land, and then enters through gaps in a building to benefit another person’s land, such as through windows. If you would like to know more, please get in contact with us and we can assist.

Service Charge Disputes and Issues

Service charges are charges set by landlords to tenants for services they offer the property and which the tenant benefits from, such as contributing to the cleaning of communal stairways. There may be disputes over how the fees are set and collected, or obligations on a landlord to consult tenants before carrying out work which will be charged to the tenants. If you are a landlord or tenant and have concerns about your service charges, please contact us and we will be able to advise you as to your rights.

Valuation Disputes and Valuer's Negligence

Valuers are used to assess a variety of things from property values to the cost of repairs. Disagreements can arise if a Valuer has not undertaken their work properly, for example, determined an incorrect valuation for a property. This may be due to a valuer being negligent or through misrepresentation. Of course, it may not be possible that each valuation will be exactly the same, however they should be similar and if they are not, there should be good reason for deviating from what any other prudent valuer would determine. If you have found yourself in a valuation dispute, we are able to assist.

Property Related Negligence

Property related negligence can occur with surveyors’ reports to conveyancing and negligent construction work; or even solicitors who have been negligent when undertaking conveyancing work. Remedying the issues may be costly for the innocent property owner and therefore the owner should seek that the property is remedied without it coming out of their own pocket. If you believe that you are the victim of property negligence, or wish to defend a negligence claim, we are able to assist.

Unauthorised and Illegal Subletting & Short Term Lettings

A lease or tenancy agreement sets out what a tenant can and cannot do. Where a tenant sublets property, or part of it, without authorisation or does so illegally, this is a breach of the agreement. Short term lettings can also cause serious issues for landlords, especially in London which has a limit on how many days a landlord can use their property for short term lettings. A landlord must follow a particular process to remove a tenant, but this depends on the facts of each matter. If you would like to know more, please get in touch with us and we can provide you with your options.

Beneficial Ownership and Trusts Disputes

The legal owner of a property is someone with complete control over an asset and can treat and dispose of the asset as they wish. A beneficial owner does not share these rights but usually has an economic right which comes from the property, such as rental income. It is usual that where a person is not suitable to be the legal owner, such as a person who is not of full mental capacity or where a child inherits property, the property may be managed by someone else in their interest. A variety of disputes may arise, however, particularly where there are several beneficial or legal owners who may not agree with how the property is being managed. This can get particularly complex. If you would like to know more, please contact us.