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Archive for July, 2016

Don’t leave your chattels behind!

In September 2011 we looked at what amounted to a fixture as opposed to a chattel.  The issue arose again in the judgement of His Honour Judge Saffman delivered this month in the High Court in Riverside Park Limited v NHS Property Services Ltd [2016] EWHC 1313 (Ch).  A useful case as it reviews the law re vacant possession and construction of documents but the judge underlines that “no test is definitive and it is a question of fact whether an article is a chattel or a fixture“.

The case turned on the age old problem of a break clause exercisable by the tenant “Provided That any notice served by the Tenant shall only be effective to determine this Lease if the Tenant gives vacant possession of the Premises to the Landlord on or before the Break Date“.  The tenant purported to determine the lease but left in the Premises on the break date a large amount of partitioning, kitchen units, floor coverings, window blinds, intruder alarm and water stand pipes.  In order to give vacant possession the tenant should yield up the Premises empty of people and of chattels if the presence of chattels would prevent or interfere with the enjoyment of the right of possession or a substantial part of the property.

A single joint expert was instructed to report on what items remained at the Premises and the manner in which they were attached or annexed to it.  Taking, for example, the partitioning, it sat on top of the raised floor and extended to the underside of the suspended ceiling.  It was not fixed to the structure of the Premises and the judge found it to be a chattel which resulted in a series of small offices which evidence showed was not what prospective tenants generally looked for.  In consequence the judge found the partitioning did not afford a lasting improvement to the Premises, would affect the Landlord’s ability to re-let the premises and hence interfered with the enjoyment of the right of possession.  Recognising his decision as harsh he adopted Lewison J’s words in a previously reported case i.e. “there is no room for general considerations of fairness or conduct” in an assessment as to whether the conditions attached to a break clause have been met.

If you wish to hear more, do contact Hatherleigh Training.