R. (on the application of HCP (Hendon) Ltd) v Chief Land Registrar  EWHC 1278
Reliance upon Official Copy Entries – Extent of the demise – Leases
The case dealt with the question of to what extent a purchaser of land can rely upon the property registers of the relevant titles, without reference to other documents, and in particular any leases mentioned in the property register, with respect to the extent of the demise of the registered properties in question.
The building comprised of a ground floor and first floor. There were 14 flats held on long leases. Each register for the existing first-floor leases contained a ‘floor level note’ stating “Only the first-floor is included in the title” or words to a similar effect. Each of the leases included a detailed description of the demised property at Schedule 1 which expressly included the roof and roof space.
The freeholder had obtained planning consent to build a second floor. It granted a lease of the second floor to the claimant, who intended to undertake the construction. Under the lease, the freeholder demised to the claimant the area above the joists or beams of the ceilings of the first-floor flats including the roof and roof space.
When the claimant applied to register the lease, the Land Registry informed it that the roof and roof space had already been demised in the leases of each of the first-floor flats. It therefore proceeded to register the second-floor lease as a concurrent lease, thus subject to the existing first-floor leases for their duration so far as the overlap in the demises was concerned.
The claimant applied for judicial review of the Land Registry’s decision.
The claimant argued, amongst other things, that the Land Registry’s decision should be quashed because the property register for the first-floor flats described the extent of those estates as “the first floor only” with no mention of airspace above the first floor. The claimant argued that it was entitled to rely on the register, without having to inspect the leases noted against the register.
Mr Justice Spencer disagreed. He held that it is necessary to examine both the register and any leases noted against it to determine the extent of any demise. The register gives a general description of the title and location of any existing leases but, if the person inspecting the register wants to know the precise boundaries of those leases, including whether the demise extends vertically to the roof and roof space, they needed to inspect the leases too.
The claimant’s argument that the Registrar had effectively explicitly excluded the roof and roof space by using the word “only” in the property register for each of the first-floor flats was rejected. Mr Justice Spencer noted that being a plan from above, the delineated blue part would, without more, also include the ground floor flats. It was for this reason that the register specifically stated that only the first-floor maisonette was included in the title: by these words, the registrar made it clear that it was not intended to include the ground floor; the inclusion of these words was not intended, nor did they have the effect, of thereby excluding the roof and roof space from the demised areas.
In the case of a first-floor flat in a two-storey property, Mr Justice Spencer noted that it would normally be expected that the roof and roof space above the flat would be included in the demise in the lease. While it was a discretionary matter for the registrar on a case-by-case basis, the court might potentially expect them to put specific words on the face of the register if the roof and roof space were specifically excluded from the demise in the lease, but not otherwise.
The Registrar has a discretion as to what should be included on the face of the register itself and what should be left to be discovered by an inspection of the lease. It follows therefore that a purchaser or person inspecting the register must examine any lease noted against the register to determine the boundaries, including whether the demised land extends vertically and horizontally. One cannot rely simply on what is contained on the face of the register. The same principle does not doubt apply to other interests affecting land, including easements and restrictive covenants.
Trecarrell House Ltd v Rouncefield  EWCA Civ 760
The long-waited Gas Safety Certificate judgment is out. The Court of Appeal concluded that the failure to provide a gas safety certificate prior to a tenant taking up occupation is remediable. It follows that a landlord can serve a s.21 notice as long as the Gas Safety Certificate has been given to the tenant before the landlord serves the s. 21 notice.
Good news for landlords, but two questions were left open by the judgment. The first is what happens if a landlord has not done a gas safety check at all for the period before the tenant went into occupation. The second is what happens if the landlord fails to do the annual gas safety inspection, although the judgment did consider that the duty to carry out a safety inspection annually is not a prescribed requirement before a s. 21 notice can be served.