Hasn’t that been answered before?

Questions sometimes come to court which appear so fundamental that surely they have been answered before. Two recent cases prove us wrong! The first (Alford House Freehold Ltd v Grosvenor (Mayfair) Estate and anor [2019] EWCA (Civ) 1848) asked: what is a flat? Thirteen leasehold owners in a block of flats had given notice of their desire to acquire the freehold of the block. Legislation (Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993) required the number of qualifying leaseholder owners to amount to not less than half the number of flats in the relevant building. The block had consisted of twenty six flats: the thirteen relevant leasehold owners were, therefore, just sufficient. However, when the relevant notices were served, substantial works were being conducted in the block in order to create four additional flats.

The judge at first instance had decided the building consisted of thirty and not twenty six flats. Hence, the required number of qualifying leasehold owners would be fifteen: thirteen was insufficient. He came to his conclusion despite the fact he had found the construction works being undertaken had not resulted (at the time the notices were served) in creating space which added four additional dwellings within the block of flats. The relevant leasehold owners appealed. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. There were only twenty six flats at the relevant time.

In the second case (London Borough of Haringey v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government [2019] EWHC 3000), the High Court had to decide what is a building? The question arose from an appeal against a planning inspector’s decision to allow an appeal against an enforcement notice issued by Haringey Council and relating to UPVC windows installed in a flat in a conservation area. The flat was within a converted house being part of a terrace block of three similar properties. The inspector had to decide whether the windows materially affected the appearance of the building. Was ‘the building’ the house in which the flat was situated or the terrace block? He believed it reasonable to consider the terrace block as a whole as the building and due to the prevalence of UPVC windows in the building, he held those installed at the flat did not materially affect the appearance of the building. The High Court held the inspector was wrong: each house within the terrace was ‘a building’ and the windows had to be considered within the context of the house, not the terrace.

Comments are closed.