A cautionary tale for residential leaseholders - the risk of forfeiture


Readers may have seen this recent Daily Mail article with the story of a flat owner who had his property repossessed by his landlord as a consequence of making alterations to his flat. 

The owners' lease required him to seek permission from his landlord before making alterations, which he did not do. 

Forfeiture is a landlord's right to end a lease where a tenant is in breach of its obligations under the lease. Where a lease relates to residential property there are various restrictions on a landlord's right to forfeit. A landlord cannot simply change the locks on the property – to do so would be unlawful. Instead a landlord must go through a number of stages to obtain possession. 

First, the landlord must obtain a determination from a Court or Tribunal that there has in fact been a breach. The tenant will be served with the application and will have an opportunity to oppose it. 

Following a determination, the landlord must wait a specified period before it must then serve the tenant with a notice pursuant to Section 146 of the Law of Property Act 1925. The notice informs the tenant that it is in breach and requires them to remedy the breaches within a reasonable time. 

Finally, if the tenant fails to remedy the breaches, the landlord must then apply to court for an order forfeiting the lease and giving the landlord possession. Again, the tenant may oppose the claim or remedy thebreaches and seek relief from forfeiture. 

The court's strongly lean towards granting relief to a tenant where residential property is concerned, as the consequence is considered extremely harsh. 

The Daily Mail article is a stark reminder to landlords and tenants of the importance of complying with the terms of a lease and the serious consequences of failing to respond to legal action in a timely manner. 

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