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To consent or not to consent, that is the question … (Part Two)

1st July 2020

In January 2019 (here) we reported on the Court of Appeal’s decision in the case of Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent Limited [2018] EWCA Civ 2298, which caused ripples throughout the leasehold sector, with serious implications for landlords concerning the issue of consents. That decision was subject to further appeal and yesterday (6 May 2020) the Supreme Court handed down its ruling - see here the full judgment here.

The Court of Appeal last January 2019, and now the Supreme Court yesterday, have confirmed that landlords should ensure, when faced with requests for consents under a lease, that consent is only granted where the landlord is entitled to do so. 

Where the lease contains:

  • an absolute prohibition against certain conduct (ie, subletting or alterations);

  • a commonly found provision that all leases in the development are to be granted on similar terms;

  • a commonly found provision that where a lessee is prepared to indemnify the landlord’s costs, the landlord is obliged to enforce the provisions of the leases against a lessee who is in breach;

the landlord may not grant consent for something that would otherwise breach the terms of the lessee’s lease as to do so will amount to a breach by the landlord of its own obligations to all other leaseholders. 

Where consent is provided in those circumstances, a landlord should be prepared for legal action by complaining leaseholders to compel the landlord to enforce the prohibitions under the lease, or a claim in damages. This warning is not to be taken lightly.

What are the practical considerations of this decision?

It is not unfair to say that Dr Duval, the upset party in the above matter, (so upset in fact that she conducted the matter through the initial trial, then the Court of Appeal and now a second appeal in the Supreme Court) is likely to prove to be a rare breed.  Why? Well, whilst undeniably distressed by the works permitted by the landlord and undertaken in the flat above hers at Randolph Crescent and thus presumably reasonably justified in her complaint, she was prepared and financially able to provide the landlord with an indemnity for costs to fulfill her request that the landlord take action against the offending leaseholder.  She was equally financially able and willing, and importantly sufficiently driven, to then take the landlord to task when it refused to accede to her request of enforcing against the leaseholder.

In my experience, leaseholders willing and able to put their hand in their own pocket to indemnify the landlord’s costs of pursuing a defaulting leaseholder are few and far between (in my 23 years’ experience, I have only met a few). 

In addition, the remedy available to Dr Duval, and therefore all other leaseholders who might find themselves in a similar position to her, is damages.  What damages, though, will other leaseholders actually suffer as a result of the granting of consent in the specific context of each case?  In most cases that is likely to be nothing or nothing more than minimal and thus, is a repeat of the action by Dr Duval realistically to be expected?

On that basis then, and following a proper and full assessment of the risks, there is an argument to say that consent requested, even in circumstances similar to those in the leases applicable in Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent, might still be granted but so long as the landlord understands that it should not and the risks involved were it to do so. 

At KDL Law our stock advice is that no landlord, or its agent, should grant consent for alterations, or anything else in the lease where consent is required, without first obtaining advice on the specific lease terms in the context of the request made.  This will, at the very least, ensure that if the advice is that consent should not be granted because of the lease provisions but the landlord is minded to grant it anyway, then at least it does so fully informed of the risks.  Notwithstanding this advice we deal very regularly with requests for advice relating to the grant of licence in cases where such licence should not have been granted.       

As an aside, it is worth highlighting, on the subject of risk, that whilst the writer does not know what damages are, or will be, sought by the now victorious Dr Duval against her landlord, nor what costs her landlord incurred as a result of the lengthy and no doubt extremely expensive litigation, nor what proportion of Dr Duval’s costs her landlord is going to be ordered to pay, it is fair to say that, from the landlord’s perspective, it almost certainly wasn’t worth it.

Should you have any questions in relation to the above, then please do not hesitate to contact Kevin Lever on or 01435 897297.


This Legal Update describes the position in law as at the date of this article and care should be taken to note any subsequent amendments to the position as set out above.  The 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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