The Court of Appeal handed down an important decision this morning in the long-running battle for control of Aldford House in Mayfair. The tenants’ attempts to collectively enfranchise have been met with resistance from the head-lessee, K Group Holdings Inc.
The case involved a number of issues regarding the qualification criteria for collective enfranchisement but the main focus of this morning’s decision was what constitutes a ‘flat’ for the purposes of the legislation. The High Court had decided that four ‘flats’ which were in the process of construction qualified as flats for the purposes of the claim. This was a surprise to many as, at the relevant time, they were bare shells each divided only by a wall with large doors in it.
The legislation requires a ‘separate set of premises...which is constructed or adapted for use for the purposes of a dwelling’. The Court of Appeal found that whilst they were separate they had not yet reached a stage of construction suitable for use as a dwelling. It is arguable they are not separate in the true sense of the word, given the connecting doors. However, common sense has prevailed overall.
As predicted by my colleague Laura Bushaway (see her comment below), the Court of Appeal has adopted a narrower interpretation of the meaning of the word flat. This will provide much needed certainty going forward in terms of whether and, if so when, a property will qualify for enfranchisement.
Bushaway added: “Whether a property constitutes a flat is a crucial question of wider significance, because the definition of a flat is the same for both collective enfranchisement claims and lease extension claims under the 1993 Act. So, it will be interesting to see whether or not the Court of Appeal agrees with the High Court’s decision or adopts a narrower interpretation of the meaning of a flat under the 1993 Act.”