Easements - A warning to Landlords

Landlords should be aware of a recent High Court decision that considered a right to park.

The court granted eight tenants in a block of flats an injunction against their landlord, where their leases:

  • Granted each tenant a right to use a designated car parking space.
  • Reserved in the landlord's favour a right to redevelop neighbouring property as it saw fit despite such redevelopment affecting or diminishing light or air enjoyed by the tenants.

The landlord wanted to develop a new building on land which included the car parking spaces that had been granted to the tenants. The landlord claimed that it was entitled to require the tenants to accept alternative car parking spaces in place of those originally allocated. The landlord's contractors fenced off an area that included the tenants' car parking spaces.

The judge was quite dismissive of the landlord's conduct, calling it "high-handed". Although the judge granted an injunction, he stated that he would have assessed damages in lieu of an injunction at £517,500 to be divided between the eight tenants. Whilst the case concerns a right to park, the test and principles discussed are relevant to any other easements.

What is an easement?

An easement is a right benefiting a piece of land (known as the dominant land) that is enjoyed over another piece of land owned by someone else (known as the servient land).

Usually, an easement allows the owner of the dominant land to do something on the servient land, such as use a path, or run services over it.

More rarely, an easement will limit what the owner of the servient may do on its land. For example, the servient owner might be prevented from interfering with the dominant owner's right to light.

When can an injunction be granted?

Injunctions are equitable remedies which are awarded at the discretion of the court. An equitable remedy will normally only be granted where damages would be an inadequate remedy.

An injunction is a very effective remedy and, if granted, will effectively prohibit any further interference with the easement. However, as injunctions are rather draconian, the courts do not grant them lightly.

Damages can sometimes be granted in lieu of an injunction.

If you have any queries about the content of this article, please contact our commercial property team.


 

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