Crisplane v Plymouth Community Homes [2024] UKUT 15 (LC); Successful Appeal in Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).

Crisplane v Plymouth Community Homes [2024] UKUT 15 (LC); Successful Appeal in Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).

Rawdon Crozier represented the successful appellant tenant in Crisplane v Plymouth Community Homes [2024] UKUT 15 (LC). The appeal was brought with leave of the First Tier Tribunal on the basis that grounds of appeal settled by Rawdon (who did not appear at first instance) showed an arguable case that it had erred in interpreting the leases in question.

There were two flats, one a ground-floor, and the other a first-floor, flat in different blocks, with largely identical leases, although because of the location of each flat the repairing obligation in each lease came to the same overall effect by different routes.

Martin Rodger KC, The Deputy President, held that while, when it replaced the roof of each block, the landlord was complying with the covenant implied by paragraph 14(2) of Schedule 6 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and with its express obligation to keep the reserved premises in repair, the latter obligation insofar as it related to the roof was in one case not included in and in the other excluded from the Lessee's service charge contribution obligation by paragraph 12 of the Third Schedule to the Lease.

Accordingly the costs of repairs were not recoverable and there was no need to construe the Leases in the light of the 1985 Act so as to render the cost recoverable.

The Deputy President applied the principle that was "no presumption that the cost of all works that the landlord is obliged to carry out can be passed on to the Lessees" - City of London v Leaseholders of Great Arthur House [2021] EWCA Civ 431. The Landlord's alternative argument, which sought to rely on a more generally worded clause, was rejected on the grounds that it offended against the principle that the court should not "bring within the general words of a service charge clause anything which does not clearly belong there" per Lord Neuberger in Arnold v Britton [2015] UKSC 26 @ 23 (a case in which Rawdon appeared).

The landlord had persuaded the First Tier Tribunal that the covenant implied by paragraph 14(2) of Schedule 6 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 had to be read as one of the Landlord's repairing obligations in Schedule 4 of the Lease.

The decision provides an authoritative restatement of the principle  that a statutorily implied obligation exists independently of the lease and does not have to be read into any particular part of the lease, which was implicit in the dictum of Lewison LJ in City of London v Leaseholders of Great Arthur House [2021] EWCA Civ 431, @ 15:

" Because that obligation is imposed by statute, the lease itself contains no express obligation to like effect on the part of the landlord"

and as such provides a welcome degree of rigour in the construction of service charge obligations.

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