Dynamic duo save corporate clients in excess of £750,000 in dilapidations bills
Our property litigation partner, Martyn Liberson and director Anna Albini have separately concluded dilapidations disputes for two tenants of commercial buildings. The result is that our clients have massively reduced their liability arising out of their failure to yield up their premises in good repair at the end of their leases.
In the first case the aggressive and highly motivated investor landlord began the claim with a terminal Schedule of Dilapidations costed in the sum of £1.8million. After much negotiation between surveyors the landlord claimed that the tenant’s surveyor had agreed to a settlement of £365,000 based on the estimated cost of repair of the warehouse and 5 acre yard in the South Midlands, which was a mistake. The dispute hinged on the actual amount spent by the landlord in putting the building into repair. The landlord brought proceedings against the tenant claiming £365,000. However this badly backfired in that by issuing proceedings the landlord could be forced to disclose documents. After much twisting and turning on the part of the landlord’s solicitors, disclosure showed that the actual cost of work incurred by the landlord was not £365,000 plus costs but considerably less. The claim was settled for £150,000 including costs – which is hugely more palatable than the £1.8 million at which the claim started.
The client, one of the UK’s largest private property companies was never going to be harried by the landlord’s approach and was delighted with the settlement. Their Estates’ Manager said of the settlement “Having the right solicitors on board who truly understand dilapidations is vital for our company. They will understand the arguments and issues and fight our corner hard. We are really delighted that Martyn Liberson’s team has been so determined to resist a claim of an amount which ought never to have been brought. We are ever vigilant of the dilapidations claims brought against us and this is a perfect example of why.”
In the second case Anna Albini on behalf of a public sector tenant fought off a terminal dilapidations claim of £2million brought by the landlord. This related to a 1980’s office building located on a business park. Having carefully studied the client’s repairing obligations under the lease, the alleged disrepair and the component parts of the building she soon became aware that the claim could not be substantiated. As with all large claims, and is our practise, we were walked around the building and quickly developed a first-hand grasp of the issues. This makes all the difference between a result and an good result when working off schedules of dilapidations and drawings and the time spent quickly pays for itself. Working with surveyors a £500,000 reduction in the claim was negotiated.
The lesson in these cases is that it is never too early to secure legal advice from specialists who have over the years conducted dilapidations disputes worth millions of pounds, both in and out of court and all over England and Wales: good advice pays for itself. In gaining his Master of Laws degree, Martyn’s thesis was on the law of dilapidations, giving him a real strength and depth in this field, which he puts to daily use.