19 September, 2014
Last month, Croydon Council obtained an injunction to gain access to a leaseholder's property without consent, to change a uPVC door that did not meet the local authority's fire safety standards and posed a risk to the building's ability to resist a fire.
Councils are facing increased pressure to comply with fire safety rules and a failure to comply can result in them being issued with enforcement notices. Croydon Council successfully argued at the hearing that the leaseholder's door remained the responsibility of the council as the freeholder of the building and that it needed replacing for communal safety reasons. Circuit Judge David Ellis granted Croydon Council the injunction to carry out the repair.
Although this decision was granted at Croydon County Court, it is yet to be seen whether or not this approach will be adopted by higher courts. Only decisions made in the higher courts, such as the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, are binding on the lower courts and so we will have to wait until a decision is made in a higher court for a precedent to be set.
Whilst it is imperative that landlords comply with fire safety standards, here at Forbes we would urge landlords to think very carefully about their justification for seeking such an injunction. The decision in this case will have been very specific to the facts of the matter and the door in question posed a health and safety risk not only to the leaseholder, but to all the residents living in the building. We would urge all landlords in a similar situation to exhaust all their options in order to gain access and only consider this action as a last resort, after careful consideration of their justification in doing so.