Lands Tribunal for Northern Ireland – decision on Landlord’s own use ground for opposition to the grant of a new tenancy.

28 June 2012

Author: Victoria O'Hara
Practice Area: Real Estate

Voh

The recent decision by the Lands Tribunal for Northern Ireland in the case of Samuel Stranaghan & Michael Simpson (“the applicants”) and Iris May Townsley (“the respondent”) BT/33/2011 provides helpful guidance on the type of evidence to be adduced by a Landlord trying to prove the “own use” ground for opposition to a Tenant’s request for a new tenancy.

The respondent had previously operated an amusement arcade business from the premises in 1992 they moved to Florida and let the premises to the applicant for a term of 20 years.  The applicant occupied the premises as an amusement arcade and upon lease expiry requested a new tenancy.  The respondent objected on the grounds of Article 12(g) of the Business Tenancies (NI) Order 1996, that the landlord intends to occupy the premises for the purposes, or partly for the purposes, of a business to be carried on by the landlord or by a company in which the landlord has a controlling interest.  The respondent produced the following as evidence; gaming machine licence and various renewals; draft application for transfer of the current amusement permit for the premises; a quotation for replacement windows and partitioning; and bank statements from accounts in Florida.

Counsel for the respondent suggested that the evidence provided demonstrated that the respondent had a genuine and settled intent with a reasonable prospect of implementing the intention to occupy the premises.  The respondent had plans to run an amusement arcade business at the premises and also wanted to improve the premises by providing coffee and sandwiches and carrying out renovations.  She planned to run the business from Florida using a combination of return visits and direct monitoring of gaming machines through internet links.

The Tribunal stated that despite the respondent’s stated experience of business projects in Florida there was no evidence that the respondent had considered the viability of the proposed new business, nor any estimates of revenue costs and capital requirements or the practicability of managing a gaming machine arcade business through internet links.  There was no evidence that the respondent had made any enquiries regarding any regulations in order to provide catering at the premises.  The tribunal did not accept that the proposal of replacement windows helped in assessing the respondent’s intention to occupy.

The Tribunal concluded that the respondent had not yet shown she had moved “out of the zone of contemplation - sphere of the tentative…into the valley of decision.”   The Tribunal agreed with the applicant’s counsel that the respondent’s plans fell short and could only be regarded as exploratory and tentative at the time of the hearing. 

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