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Long Leaseholders – You May Need Landlord’s Consent for Alterations!

HouseMany long leaseholders believe that their legal position is almost identical to that of a freeholder. However, in a case that showed how mistaken that view is, a maisonette dweller who failed to obtain her landlord’s consent before making a hole in an exterior wall was found to have breached the terms of her lease.

The woman held a 999-year lease in respect of the upstairs flat in a Victorian house. Her landlord, who owned the property’s freehold, occupied the flat beneath her. There was a history of disputes between them in respect of service charges and other matters. In particular, the landlord complained after a plumber knocked a hole in the wall in order to fit the tenant’s toilet with a new waste pipe.

Following lengthy proceedings, the Upper Tribunal (UT) granted the landlord a declaration under Section 168(4) of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 that the tenant had breached a covenant in her lease. That covenant forbade her from altering, cutting or maiming any of the maisonette’s exterior walls without first obtaining the landlord’s written consent to the works.

That decision opened the way for the landlord to seek forfeiture of the tenant’s lease under Section 146(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925. However, the UT noted that, if there were to be further proceedings, the nature and seriousness of the breach should be viewed in context. Had the tenant asked permission to make the hole, it was highly probable that the landlord could not reasonably have refused her request.