Following our Law-Now of May 2012 (click here) the claim to enfranchise the freehold of Dolphin Square, the largest collective enfranchisement claim to date, was finally given the green light in the High Court of Justice on 17 July 2014.
Westbrook, the claimant, acquired a long lease of the building in Pimlico comprising over 1,200 flats and implemented a scheme granting underleases to newly formed Jersey companies (SPVs) in order to meet the qualification criteria under the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 (the “1993 Act”). Westbrook successfully fought off challenges made by the freeholder, Friends Life, and the High Court ruled that Westbrook was entitled to proceed with the purchase of the freehold of Dolphin Square, at a price to be agreed or determined by the First-Tier Tribunal.
Amongst other things, the High Court rejected the claim, made by Friends Life, that the SPVs were not qualifying tenants under the 1993 Act because the corporate structure was specifically engineered to take advantage of the statutory qualification criteria.
The Court also rejected the freeholder’s claims that more than 25% of the floor area of the building was used for non-residential purposes and that the price specified in the Initial Notice (£111M) was unrealistic. The question now is whether the freeholder, Friends Life, will pursue an appeal and, if so, on what grounds.