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Property Disputes - Questions and Answers - Summer 2017

I am about to issue a claim against someone and I do not want that person to know my home address. Am I able to give my address as “care of” my solicitors? 

The general rule is that a claimant must state on the Claim Form an address at which he resides or carries on business. The court can refuse to return papers for service unless an address is supplied. There is however a process for applying to the court for a dispensation enabling the party to use their solicitor’s address as the “care of” address. Dispensations will not be granted lightly as they amount to a departure from the general principle of open justice. If a claimant’s address can be ascertained by other means such as from public records, internet searches, or through the use of investigative services, seeking a dispensation is unlikely to be worthwhile. There will need to be a compelling need for a dispensation before the court will be willing to consider granting one.

I am a tenant of commercial premises under a full repairing lease. The landlord is saying that I am liable to rectify defects which were present before the commencement of the lease. That can’t be right surely?

The exact wording of the repairing covenants in your lease need to be looked at carefully. But generally, if the repair clause obliges you to “keep the property in repair”, this includes an obligation to put the property into repair even if it is in disrepair at the start of the lease. So that is your starting point and your landlord may well have a valid argument. 

However, look carefully at the wording of your repairing covenants. Subtle differences in wording can significantly affect the extent of a tenant’s repairing liability. Have a think about the nature of the disrepair as well. Is what you are being asked to do an improvement rather than a repair? Does the work necessitate rebuilding? If so, does the wording of the repair clause extend to that rebuilding work? Also, consider the age and nature of the property at the date of the grant of the lease. This can have a limiting effect on a tenant’s repairing obligations. Bear in mind too that there can be a distinction between a defect and disrepair. If a defect has not caused an issue of disrepair, then a tenant’s repairing obligation will not be triggered as there is nothing to repair. 

I am the owner of a freehold residential block which is let to an institutional social housing provider. That housing provider has granted individual sub- tenancies of the various flats within the block. No part of the block is occupied by the housing provider; the block is occupied by the sub-tenants alone. I have been told that social provider might have some protection under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Is that correct?

The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 applies to business tenancies and provides tenants with security of tenure, that is to say the right to renew their lease at the end of their term. In your case, the tenant is operating a business and could therefore have protection under the 1954 Act because the tenancy is associated with a business purpose (the business of providing social housing).

However, the 1954 Act will not apply if the tenant does not physically occupy the premises (or a part of the premises). In your case it seems that no part of the premises is occupied by the housing provider. If the block is occupied solely by the sub-tenants, the 1954 Act will not apply and the housing provider will not have security of tenure. Just check very carefully that the housing provider does not have, for example, a care taker or housing manager in occupation of the block. If that is the case, that limited occupation may suffice to bring the tenancy within the Act. 

This article features in the Hughes Paddison Summer 2017 Property Disputes Update. You can view a summary of the full content of the newsletter and download a copy here.