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Injunction against development of car parking spaces

The High Court in, Kettel and others v Bloomfold Ltd [2012] EWHC 1422 (Ch) granted an injunction to a group of tenants in a block of flats preventing the landlord from developing land where the tenants’ car parking spaces were located.  The Court ruled that the car parking spaces granted to the tenants as part of their long leases were easements and the tenants were entitled to an injunction preventing the landlord from carrying on the proposed development because the landlord was not entitled to unilaterally terminate the easements.

An easement is a right to use or pass over land, and not a right to possession or joint use of the land with the party that has granted the easement.  In addition, an easement cannot be claimed if its effect would be to deprive the party that has granted the easement the benefits of owning the land.  In other words, the right will not be an easement if it prevents the owner of the land in question having any reasonable use of the land.

The Tenants had been granted long leases of flats in the landlord’s existing development, which included a right to use a specific parking space.  In the leases, the landlord had reserved the right to develop its neighbouring property, even if this affected certain rights enjoyed by the tenants.  The landlord wanted to commence a new development on land which included the car parking spaces allotted to the tenants and required the tenants to accept different parking spaces elsewhere.

The Tenants sought an injunction to prevent the development, arguing that they had been granted rights to use the car parking spaces which amounted to exclusive possession, and which in turn deprived the landlord of all reasonable use of the land on which the car parking spaces were situated.  The landlord argued in return that the tenants did not have exclusive possession of the car parking spaces, and so the rights to use the car parking spaces were easements.  Therefore, the landlord further argued, if the proposed development deprived the tenants of their right to use the car parking spaces, the tenants should be awarded damages.

The High Court granted the injunction to the tenants.  The Court held that the tenants had not been granted exclusive possession of the car parking spaces and that the rights granted merely prevented the landlord from parking a car in the car parking spaces.  It did not prevent the landlord from doing anything else with the land, such as passing over it or laying pipes or service media beneath it for the existing block of flats.  Therefore, the landlord was left with reasonable use of the land.  However, there was no right set out in the tenants’ leases for the landlord to unilaterally vary the position of the car parking spaces.  In other words, the landlord could not on its own extinguish the easements that had been granted by granting equivalent easements to the tenants on a separate piece of land.  The landlord was entitled to temporarily obstruct the car parking spaces to carry out its maintenance obligations at the existing block of flats, but it could not extinguish the easement by requiring the tenants to park their cars elsewhere.  The Court therefore granted the injunction as an appropriate means of preventing the landlord from unilaterally terminating the easements, and the landlord was prevented from carrying out its proposed development.

This case confirms that where tenants are granted specific parking spaces within their lease, do have a legal entitlement to use the parking space.  Therefore, developers in granting new leases will need to consider and include a right to alter and indeed terminate the tenants parking rights, where there is a potential for development of that land further in the future.

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