There have been a flurry of noteworthy enfranchisement cases recently.  The latest, in the High Court, concerned a claim to purchase the freehold made by the tenants of Palgrave Gardens in London under the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993.

The decision in Consensus Business Group (Ground Rents) Ltd v. Palgrave Freehold Company Limited [2020] EWHC 920 turned on its particular facts but is an interesting decision showing the Court's approach to modern estates with complex layouts.

The estate comprised five residential blocks of different heights, a single storey commercial block, a leisure centre and communal gardens.  In addition, there was a single basement car park underneath all of the blocks which extended beyond the footprint of the buildings.

The landlord applied for a declaration that the Initial Notice commencing the claim was invalid because it failed to make clear whether the premises to be acquired included, or excluded the basement car park.  As part of the proceedings, the tenants were given permission to rely on an amended notice.

The High Court dismissed the landlord's appeal on grounds that the recipient of the Initial Notice would have been in no doubt that the tenants were seeking to purchase the freehold of the whole estate and the notice was valid.  In addition, the High Court held that the County Court Judge was entitled to allow the tenants to amend the Initial Notice pursuant to the power in the 1993 Act permitting a party to amend a notice with the permission of the Court. 

On the question of whether the estate was a single self-contained building or part of a building, as required by the 1993 Act, the High Court found that the County Court Judge was entitled to reach the conclusion, on the evidence, that there was a single building because the development was constructed as a single unit and the buildings were not designed to function independently.

Landlords and tenants will no doubt seek advice from their professional teams as to whether a building is likely to fall within the scope of the collective enfranchisement framework under the 1993 Act as each case will turn on its own facts.  These cases also involve expert evidence on whether there is a structural detachment between the constituent parts of the estate. 

Permission to appeal has reportedly been granted on all issues to the Court of Appeal.  So, this does not appear to be the end of the story.  Landlords and tenants will be keeping a close eye on the next chapter.