A door might be a door or ajar but who does it belong to?
12th August 2021
12th August 2021
The Court of Appeal has recently considered the Upper Tribunal decision from last year in Marlborough Knightsbridge Management Ltd v Fivaz:  EWCA Civ 989 on the question of whether a front entrance door to a leasehold flat is a ‘landlord’s fixture’ or something else.
This was the Landlord’s second appeal. The overall issue was specifically whether the flat entrance doors were to be considered ‘landlord’s fixtures’ such that their removal (and replacement by a new door) rendered the lessee in breach of covenant not to remove landlord’s fixtures without prior written consent.
Our Legal Update from November 2020 (here) outlined the key facts and the earlier decision of the FTT and the Upper Tribunal.
The Court of Appeal‘s Decision
The Court of Appeal decided that the front door was part of the original structure of the flat. The front door was seen as essential to the structure of the property since it afforded privacy and security to the Leaseholder and that the construction of a flat would be considered incomplete if the entrance door had not yet been hung!
In coming to this conclusion, Lord Justice Arnold, with which the other Judges agreed, drew on the statement in Climie v Wood (1868-69) L.R. 4 Exch 328 where Willes J stated in delivering the judgment in that case that:-
“There is no doubt that sometimes things annexed to land remain chattels as much after they have been annexed as they were before. The case of pictures hung on a wall for the purpose of being more conveniently seen may be mentioned by way of illustration. On the other hand, things may be made so completely a part of the land, as being essential to its convenient use, that even a tenant could not remove them. An example of this class of chattel may be found in doors or windows. Lastly, things may be annexed to land, for the purposes of trade or of domestic convenience or ornament, in so permanent a manner as really to form a part of the land; and yet the tenant who has erected them is entitled to remove them during his term, or, it may be, within a reasonable time after its expiration.” […]”
The UT was therefore found to have been correct and the appeal against its decision was dismissed!
There are some important lesson to learn here:-
In this particular case, the lease was silent on the entrance doors, they were neither expressly part of the demise, nor reserved to the freehold. Express clauses in a lease will prevail the position found in this case. If the lease says the door belongs to the Freeholder, then it does.
The above does not mean that the Leaseholder can do as they wish with the front entrance door. This is because the Fire Safety Act 2021 expressly extends the scope of the 2005 Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to “all doors between the domestic premises and common parts” and therefore subject to the inspection and enforcement regime under that Order. The Building Safety Bill, published in July 2020, also enables powers for the “Accountable Person” to compel a Leaseholder to address any safety issues arising from their doors.
We are frequently being asked by Landlords and Management Companies ‘who owns, and who has responsibility for, flat entrance doors?’, particularly where upgrades to fire compliant doors are required. If you find yourself in this scenario, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for specialist advice.
This legal update is provided free of charge for information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of KDL Law or by KDL Law as a whole.
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