Marlborough Knightsbridge Management Ltd v Fivaz [2021] EWCA Civ 989 Case Analysis

Jessica Dickinson, 28th July, 2021

What qualifies as a ‘landlord’s fixture’ when the term is not defined in a residential lease?

The Facts

Mr Fiaz (the Tenant) was the long leaseholder of two units in a residential block of flats in London. The name of the building was Marlborough, hence the Landlord carrying the name Marlborough Knightsbridge Management Ltd.

Mt Fiaz replaced the front door of each flat leading into the communal area. He did so without permission from the Landlord.

The First-Tier Tribunal (‘the FTT’) decision

The Landlord made an application to the FTT for a declaration that the replacement of the doors without consent was a breach of the Tenant’s covenants contained within the lease pursuant to section 168(4) of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002.

The FTT determined that the doors were indeed part of the Landlord’s fixtures and fittings and this decision was based on the fact that the doors were not chattels because they were fixed to the building. The FTT therefore handed down a declaration that the Tenant was in breach of his lease.

The Upper Tribunal (UT) decision

The Tenant then appealed to the UT. The UT applied the case of Elitestone Ltd v Morris and another where the House of Lords had developed a test in order to determine whether an object was a fixture, a chattel or part of the land itself. Essentially consideration was given to:

  1. The degree of annexation to the building (the extent to which the door had been attached) and;
  2. The purpose of annexation (why was the door there? What was its function?)

The Upper Tribunal overturned the FTT’s decision and held that the door was not a fixture or fitting belonging to the Landlord. Applying the above test from Elitestone, the UT found that the doors of the flats were in fact part of the building that had been installed during the construction of the flats.

The Court of Appeal (CA) decision

The Landlord then appealed to the CA. The CA dismissed the Landlord’s appeal, agreeing with the UT. It was held that the entrance doors to the flats did form part of the original structure of the building.

In reaching their decision, the CA applied the principle from Climie v Wood which drew a distinction between fixtures and parts of a property which are so integral that they are ‘essential to its convenient use.’ Rather unsurprisingly, the CA took the view that the flats could not be used conveniently without their front doors being intact and the construction of the flats would be incomplete without the said doors.

A similar judgment was reached by the court in Boswell v Crucible Steel which involved the windows of a warehouse. The windows were deemed to be part of the original structure of the building, therefore not being fixtures and fittings belonging to the landlord.

What does this decision mean?

The decision helpfully sets out what a court will determine to be a fixture and a fitting and gives detail as to how a court will reach that decision.

A high degree of certainty is provided, given that the decision a CA decision; it is binding on all lower courts. What must be borne in mind however is that differing decisions by lower courts may be reached if the facts of a case are materially different.

The decision also highlights the importance of defining terms within a residential lease in the interests of certainty. For example, a landlord may want each flat in a building to have an identical entrance door for aesthetic purposes (which is not unusual on new built developments) Should this be the case, then the lease should set out that the entrance doors (or any other relevant items) are fixtures and fittings belonging to the landlord, not to be replaced without consent.

Key contact: Jessica Dickinson | | Tel: 01482 324252

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