Ebsworth (suing on behalf of Crystal Mount Management Company) v Crystalight Limited (2019):-

This matter concerned an unusual property dispute, originally dealt with by Anna Rohan, whereby the lessees of a block of flats came to an agreement with the freeholder that they would manage the property as the freeholder was failing to do so. There were only 5 flats let at the time.

This did not follow the usual process for creating a Residents’ Management Company or the Right to Manage process under the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002. Instead the lessees were assuming responsibility by consent with no formal change in the responsibilities under the leases. There was then an oral agreement reached between the parties with regard to what payments, if any, would be made by the freeholder in respect of the unoccupied flats. It was failure to pay the amounts due for the unoccupied flats that gave rise to this claim by the lessees.

The Appellant freeholder appealed the District Judge’s decision, accepting the findings of fact about the agreement could not be challenged, but averring that the agreement would amount to a variation of the leases and being oral in nature was unenforceable.

Rebecca was instructed for the Respondent lessees in the appeal. Rebecca prepared and produced a detailed skeleton argument and persuaded the Judge that the Appellant had, in essence, jumped a step: on the findings of fact of the lower court it must be found that this agreement was external to the leases and therefore did not amount to a variation. This was essential as it would have to be conceded that a variation to a lease of this nature would have to be in writing. The Judge concluded that the agreement was secondary and not a variation and as such dismissed the appeal.

The following law and commentary was referred to within the skeleton arguments at the hearing:

– Landlord and Tenant Act 1987
– Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002
– Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989
– Statute of Frauds 1677
– Law of Property Act 1925
– Woodfall’s Landlord and Tenant
– Landlord and Tenant (Covenants) Act 1995
– Business Environment Bow Lane v Deanwater Estates Ltd
– Heilbut Symonds v Buckleton

The appeal was therefore dismissed and costs were awarded in favour of the Respondent.