The case involved partitioning which was installed by the tenant during initial fit out works in accordance with a licence to alter. Both the lease and the licence to alter required the Landlord to give notice of any reinstatement the Landlord reasonably required before the end of the term. The tenant exercised a break option with 2 pre-conditions: 6 months’ prior written notice and vacant possession.
The Landlord did not serve a notice of his requirement to reinstate the premises. The case turned upon whether the partitioning alteration was a fixture and therefore formed part of the premises.
The partitioning was not carried out in accordance with the specification attached to the licence to alter and therefore the partitioning was in breach of the licence. The validity of the licence was conditional upon compliance with the condition on which the licence was given. As the conditions were not met, the partitioning became unauthorised works and therefore should have been removed automatically by the tenant. This meant that even if the partitioning was not a tenant chattel, the tenant should have removed it and failure to do so meant vacant possession had not been given.
Based upon expert evidence it was found that the partitioning was demountable and therefore the tenant did not in fact give vacant possession.
On sending or receiving a break notice, parties to the lease should review the lease and all supplemental documents (including licences to alter) carefully.
A recent dilapidations case involved the yielding up of the premises by the tenant where carpet tiles had been replaced in strips rather than tiles. The tenant served a break notice but the landlord did not reply (there is no obligation for the landlord to do so).
After the lease had ended, the parties were unable to agree a figure for the dilapidations liability. Following a court hearing it was held that the re-carpeting works had not been carried out in accordance with the lease terms. On appeal, the tenant argued that the carpet tiles were a tenant’s fixture and the court agreed – carpet tiles were a fixture and the alteration was a permitted alteration. The new carpet was not out of repair at the end of the lease and any works would be carried out by the landlord once a replacement tenant had been found. The tenant should not need to finance any void period of the premises once compensation had been paid for the tenant’s breaches of covenant.
Some leases e.g. new or re-furbished premises have a specification attached. Clear wording in such a lease makes it easier to give advice and ensures that each party are clear about their obligations.