New Northumbria Hotel Limited v Maymask (148) LLP [2010] EWHC 1273 (Ch)

New Northumbria ran a hotel business under an informal arrangement with the tenant of the hotel premises. The freeholder of the hotel was placed into administration and, during the administration, no rent was paid by the tenant, causing substantial arrears to build up. The administrators sold the freehold to Maymask and also assigned to them the right to collect the arrears of rent and the benefit of a debenture which the tenant had granted to the freeholder over its assets. Maymask made a demand under the debenture and proceeded to appoint administrators over the tenant. Before the administrators were properly appointed they agreed to give Maymask possession of the hotel premises. Maymask took possession, ordered New Northumbria’s staff to leave and began operating the hotel business. New Northumbria issued proceedings, claiming that it owned various items of equipment at the hotel which Maymask was using unlawfully.

The court was extremely troubled by Maymask’s conduct and found that there was a triable issue over the ownership of the equipment. However, except in relation to the tills, the court was not prepared to grant an interim injunction ordering Maymask to deliver up the equipment. This was on the basis that any unlawful use of the equipment by Maymask could be adequately compensated in damages. The tills were different because they were not simply machines, rather they held valuable historic data. Maymask was ordered to deliver up the tills to New Northumbria or, alternatively, provide reasonable access to allow the data to be extracted.