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Recovery of Leaseholder’s Legal Costs

Most commercial and long residential leases contain provisions which enable the landlord to recover any legal costs that may be incurred, however due to the vast amount of case law surrounding this issue there is considerable uncertainty as to whether or not the landlord can recover these costs if they proceed through the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT).

In the case of Freeholders of 69 Marina v Oram & Ghoorun the freeholders of a block of flats undertook work on the common parts and sought to recover the service charges from the tenants. However two tenants disputed the amount and the freeholder applied to the LVT to recover the service charges and the costs of taking the matter before the LVT. No monies were received from the two tenants despite the LVT decision so the freeholders served notice under section 146 of the Law Property Act 1925 demanding payment and issued a claim at the county court. The tenants then made payment. The issue to then be decided was whether the tenants should be equally liable for the costs of enforcement of the legal costs or whether the costs should be applied to all the tenants collectively. The Court of Appeal interpreted the terms of the lease and it was held that the costs were to be recovered from the two tenants only.

The above decision of the Court of Appeal is one that courts will have to consider in future cases. It should be noted that this decision was made because the costs clause in the lease was unambiguous. The decision clearly indicates that each particular lease needs to be carefully considered and whilst many leases contain covenants with the wider wording such as Freeholders of 69 Marina, many other leases contain the narrower wording.

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