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In Eaton Mansions v Stinger, Stinger appealed against a High Court decision that he had trespassed on the roof of a building when he installed some air conditioning units.

Eaton Mansions is the long leaseholder and Stinger was the sub lessee (it has now sold its interest). In 1980 Stinger had been granted permission to install air conditioning units. In 2007 and 2008 Stinger then installed further air conditioning units without obtaining the consent of Eaton or the head landlord Grosvenor Estates.

Numerous meetings were held by all three parties and their representatives about the consent for the new units, correspondence also went back and forth but Stinger still proceeded to install the units and claimed that Eaton had unreasonably withheld consent. Eaton argued that it had not unreasonably withheld consent because it was likely that Grosvenor would have refused consent and that would have then put Eaton in breach of their lease with Grosvenor.

When looking at the facts and the terms of the lease itself the Court of Appeal held that Stinger had in fact no right to install anything on the roof with or without the consent of Eaton because there was no provision in the lease for such an installation. The court also held that it would have been unreasonable for Eaton to refuse consent if Eaton was aware that Grosvenor would have consented to the units. But here Stinger knew that consent from the freeholder had not been obtained and yet Stinger still demanded consent from Eaton and then went ahead and installed the units in any event.

Grosvenor had indeed entertained Stingers proposals for the units but at best they were only prepared to offer an irrevocable licence for the units. They did not in their conduct indicate that a licence would be forthcoming and as such Eaton were entitled to be cautious when dealing with the matter.

It was therefore held that Stinger had not shown that Eaton had unreasonably refused consent for the new units and as such the appeal was dismissed.

Many agents are now managing blocks of flats such as this and are not familiarising themselves with the lease when making a decision on the running of the building. The lease is the contract between any freeholder and leaseholder and it must be referred to prior to any decisions being made to avoid expensive litigation such as this. It was due to the fact that Stinger obtained consent in 1980 that it automatically assumed that it was entitled to consent in 2007 when the lease made no provisions for such units.

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