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Billson v Residential Apartments Ltd [1992] 1 A.C. 494

Property law – Landlord and tenant - Forfeiture

Facts

The landlords had a lease with the tenants of a freehold property which included a covenant that prevented the tenants from undertaking alterations of the property without the landlord’s consent. During the tenancy, and without express permission or the landlord’s consent, the tenants undertook major construction work on the property. Under the Law of Property Act 1925, section 46, the landlord served a notice requiring the breach of covenant to be remedied, which the tenants failed to do. The landlords later entered the premises, changed the locks and claimed forfeiture. The construction men subsequently broke into the property and reclaimed possession. Both parties appealed to the court for clarification and the court held that once the landlord regained possession, the court no longer had jurisdiction.

Issue

It was important for the court to establish at which point that they had jurisdiction over the matter in hand. The landlord of the property had gained re-entry to the property but had done so without the permission of the court. It was also important for the court to establish whether the plaintiff had a right to appeal after their breach of the covenant.

Held

The court allowed the appeal of the tenant, on the basis that the landlord had entered the property without gaining a court order allowing him to do so. However, the court emphasised that the tenant could not apply for relief once the landlord had regained possession of the property and had the courts permission to do so. In the current circumstances, this had not been established and therefore the tenant’s application for relief would be considered by the court.


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