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The law has changed

As we reported in October, the property world awaited the Supreme Court decision in the case of S Franses Ltd v The Cavendish Hotel (UKSC 2017/0151) in which the meaning and effect of the word ‘intends’ within ground (f) of s30(1) of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954 was to be considered.  The case turned on the landlord’s intention to conduct works sufficient to defeat the tenant’s application for a new tenancy.

The law was long thought to be settled.  The question to be asked of the judge was ‘would the landlord require possession of the demised property in order to do the substantial works it has said it would do’?  Why it was doing the works was irrelevant.  In this case, the landlord gave an undertaking to the court to the effect that it would conduct substantial works but admitted it was doing so to defeat the tenant’s application.  Would the admission be relevant?

Giving judgement, Lord Sumption said

“This appeal does not, it seems to me, turn on the landlord’s motive or purpose, nor on the objective reasonableness of its proposals.  It turns on the nature or quality of the intention that ground (f) requires.”

However, he then continued to say

“The acid test is whether the landlord would intend to do the same works if the tenant left voluntarily.”

We cannot help but think that ‘the acid test’ does turn on the landlord’s motive or purpose but who are we to question Lord Sumption’s view?

In future, therefore, the question to be asked of any landlord opposing a tenant’s application for a new tenancy is: ‘would you intend to do the same works if the tenant were to leave the property voluntarily and abandon its application?”  The law has changed.

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