Posted by Caroline Preist, Partner
A fine line over quiet enjoyment – tenants rights and landlords obligations
The courts have recently considered how best to balance the often conflicting needs of a landlord to look after its building and the tenant’s rights to ‘quiet enjoyment’. The right extends far wider than the ordinary meaning of the words ‘quiet enjoyment’ and would be more accurately described as the right to ‘uninterrupted use’ of the property.
If the landlord does something (or allows someone else to do so) which interferes with the ability of the tenant to use the property, it will breach the right. Making excessive noise can be a breach but will not be in every case. Other examples include blocking access to the property so the tenant can’t use it properly or at all or granting rights over the property to someone else, wrongful eviction and making repeated threats to evict.
The case below concerned Centre Point Tower, a high profile commercial building in central London, although it’s relevant to almost every landlord and tenant relationship, whether commercial or residential.
The tenant of the top floor ran a restaurant and bar which boasted a viewing platform providing an attraction for its many customers who came to enjoy the far reaching views across the City. The landlord was obliged in the lease to repair the fabric of the building and when the time came, informed the tenant that these repairs required sheeted scaffolding to be erected around the whole building.
Unfortunately this would detract from the appeal of the top floor restaurant so the tenant applied to court for an injunction order to put a stop to the work. The tenant argued the work could be done just as easily using cradles suspended from the roof and therefore by choosing scaffolding instead, the landlord was breaching the covenant of quiet enjoyment.
The court emphasised the need to balance both the rights of the tenant and the obligations of the landlord, and one cannot be said to dominate the other. The landlord was obliged to repair the building and it had the right to choose how to do the repairs. However the landlord has to act reasonably and needs to have regard to the tenant’s use of the property.
In this case, the landlord had taken advice from two separate experts, both of whom had recommended scaffolding with plastic sheeting. As such the court refused the injunction, even though it would inevitably lead to the tenant losing revenue.
The case is ongoing and it remains to be seen whether the court will award compensation to the tenant for that lost revenue.
The overall message is that a landlord and tenant cannot carry out their respective rights and obligations in isolation of each other.
If you need advice about your tenant’s rights to quiet enjoyment contact our specialist Property Disputes team
0800 923 2070 Email us