“Any premises” does not mean what it says – it is what is on the ground that counts

United Kingdom

A long leaseholder of a flat has a right to acquire a new lease from its landlord subject to the landlord’s intention to redevelop “any premises” in which the flat is contained. If the landlord can show he intends to redevelop at least a substantial part of those premises, he need not grant the leaseholder a new lease.

The House of Lords has ruled that “any premises” does not mean literally any premises. This interpretation would enable a landlord to deprive the leaseholder of his right to a new lease by establishing an intention to develop the leaseholder’s flat together with a wholly insignificant adjacent area such as a box room or broom cupboard. Instead “any premises” refers to a self-contained unit of which the subject flat forms part – something which the landlord, tenant and prospective purchaser can objectively recognise as “premises”.

In a large block of flats, plans to convert two flats into one – lateral conversions and maisonettes – are therefore unlikely to be sufficient to defeat a leaseholder's right to a new lease. Landlords need to have an intention to redevelop whole blocks or readily identifiable larger premises containing the flat in question. However, in a small block of flats the position is less clear and there is plenty of room for argument over what constitutes work to a substantial part of “any premises” - a question left open by the House of Lords.

Majorstake Limited v Curtis [2008] UKHL 10