Car parking rights: Lift and shift at your peril

The High Court granted injunctions to stop a “high handed” landlord varying its tenants’ parking rights even though alternatives were to be made available. Had circumstances been different and damages awarded, they would have been substantial.

Although it does not make any new law, the case of Kettel v Bloomfold Ltd is a timely reminder of the seriousness with which the courts view interference with property rights.

A landlord wished to develop land which was subject to parking rights that had been granted to eight residential long leaseholders. It had reserved certain rights to develop the land outside the leases. In what was described by the court as a “high handed” manner, the landlord told the tenants that it was going to build over their parking spaces, but that other, replacement spaces would be made available to them. The tenants argued that their parking rights were actually leases entitling them to exclusive possession, and claimed injunctions restraining the landlord’s plans. The landlord defended on the basis that it had the right to “lift and shift” the parking spaces and that if it did not have that right then damages in lieu of injunctions were the appropriate remedy.

The court found that, properly analysed, the parking rights were not leases but easements. Easements are a type of property right and the usual remedy when those rights are threatened is an injunction. The landlord had not reserved to itself the right to vary those easements and the right to vary them would not be implied.

The tenants got their injunctions. Had the Judge awarded damages instead of the injunctions, the “price” for the interference with the tenants’ rights would have been a hefty £516,000, split equally between the eight tenants.

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