Where a lease is granted with the benefit of security of tenure under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, a landlord has a number of grounds under which it is able to oppose a tenant's application for renewal of the lease under the Act. One such ground relates to the landlord's intention to redevelop the land, under section 30(1)(f) of the Act.
The recent case of Somerfield Stores Limited v Spring (Sutton Coldfield) Limited (in administration) has recently considered this ground of opposition, and in particular the question of when the landlord's intention to redevelop must be established.
The case concerned Somerfield, who held three leases in connection with a particular supermarket, with the leases expiring in March 2008. The landlord, who had bought the site in 2006, intended to redevelop it. The landlord opposed Somerfield's application to renew their tenancy on the grounds of redevelopment.
Somerfield applied for a summary judgment dismissing the landlord's opposition on the basis that the intention to redevelop had not been sufficiently demonstrated at the date that the summary judgment application was heard. The judge at first instance found in favour of the landlord, so Somerfield appealed to the High Court.
The High Court considered whether the requisite intention to redevelop had to be demonstrated at the date of the summary judgment hearing, or at the date of the substantive trial, which could be some months later. The court held that the requisite intention had to be demonstrated at the date of the substantive trial of the landlord's ground of opposition, rather than the earlier date.
If the tenant had succeeded on this point, this would have proved beneficial to tenants seeking to renew their leases under the 1954 Act, as it would provide a means of reducing the time available to a landlord to formulate and put in place its plans for redevelopment to establish the basis for the statutory ground for opposition to renewal.
In finding in favour of the landlord the High Court noted that, if a tenant was concerned that a landlord was delaying matters (in the hope of being able to devise a development strategy by the date of the trial), the tenant should make the necessary applications to establish and thereafter ensure compliance with any directions timetable made by the court in renewal proceedings.