Evicting a residential long leaseholder for breaching their lease is, quite rightly, a court-heavy, cumbersome process and one that too often freeholders and managing agents are not keen to embark on.

Caroline Preist headshot

Caroline Preist

Nevertheless, it can have very positive outcomes for freeholders and fellow residents.

The process requires an admission by the leaseholder that there has been a breach of the lease. In practice, this would need to be in writing and unambiguous; otherwise, court or tribunal proceedings are required to determine if there has been a breach, then service of a Section 146 notice and, if the breach continues, another set of court proceedings for forfeiture and a possession order.

The evidence for both sets of proceedings will essentially be the same: witness statements from the freeholder or managing agents as to the wording of the lease and the activities that have led to the breach. Also critical is evidence from other residents, particularly where allegations of ‘nuisance or annoyance’ are relied on.

If the case is successful, the lease will be forfeit. Any charge secured against the property will be unenforceable as the lease it was secured against no longer exists. Once vacant possession has been obtained, this will allow the freeholder to sell the property on the open market and collect the windfall sale premium itself.

We have recently obtained an order for possession where the judge found the leaseholder had obstructed a shared balcony and access ways, causing a fire risk. The leaseholders had also alleged threats of violence and harassment, which had led to a number moving out. Against this background, the judge felt his only option was to “cut the Gordian knot” and grant an order for possession.

It should be noted that the judge was later prevailed on to allow relief from forfeiture but only on the basis that the leaseholder would sell the flat, vacate within a very short time and never return to the property. This demonstrates that evicting a long-term leaseholder is often a long-winded procedure but can be worthwhile.

Caroline Preist is a partner in the property disputes team at law firm RWK Goodman