3PB’s Joshua Dubin warns local authorities about their right-to-buy lease terms when major works are being planned

3PB’s specialist Property and Regulatory Law Barrister Joshua Dubin warns local authorities about their right-to-buy lease terms when major works are being planned.

Piechnik v Oxford City Council [2020] EWHC 960 (QB) – Mrs Justice Tipples DBE

In a judgment with significant implications for right-to-buy (‘RTB’) long leaseholders, the High Court has held that a local authority lessor does not have an extended right of entry implied into such leases in order to carry out works which would avoid the risk of death or personal injury.

Oxford City Council had argued that in addition to the familiar express and implied terms in Dr Piechnik’s long lease, it had an additional right to enter his home to carry out works which would have the effect of avoiding death or personal injury, even if those works were improvements or outside the lessor’s rights and obligations under the lease. The Recorder at first instance agreed with Oxford that the provisions of Schedule 6, Housing Act 1985 had automatically imported into the long lease the implied right of entry found in Lee v Leeds City Council [2002] 1 WLR 1488, CA.

In overturning that ruling, Tipples J held that the argument had been misconceived. There is no implied right for the local authority lessor to enter RTB premises in order to remedy a state of affairs which it believes is injurious to health or presents a risk of death or injury. The Schedule 6 provisions are directed to wholly different rights, not to rights of access.

Local authorities will have to continue to pay close regard to the terms of their right-to-buy leases when considering what works they have the right to carry out, even where – as at Dr Piechnik’s tower block – those works are intended to improve the health and safety of all the residents.

Further reading:

Willis, R. (2018). Why are tower block refurbishment projects implemented and whom do they benefit?.

Bright, S. (2019). Retrofitting Sprinklers in Mixed Tenure Blocks.

Peaker, G. (2019). ‘Freeholder rights of access to leaseholder’s premises to carry out works’.