When acting for lessees, it is paramount to get back to the condition of the house or flat as at the grant of the lease to determine whether there are any valid improvements carried out by the lessee or a predecessor in title – the value of which falls to be disregarded.
Painstaking research is needed which could include research at the Grosvenor Archive with the estates permission, the London Metropolitan Archives particularly for past historic photographs which can, for example, prove when an additional storey was added if initial planning research draws a blank, and drainage plans as this often reveals changes not picked up on the planning records.
This is even more important in houses where one can look back to the commencement of prior leases by virtue of section 3(3) of the 1967 Act where the tenant of any property under a long tenancy, on the coming to an end of that tenancy, becomes or has become tenant of the property or part of it under another long tenancy …. shall apply as if there had been one single tenancy granted for a term beginning at the same time as the term under the earlier tenancy and expiring at the same time as the later tenancy.
A wonderful example of this provision was where I managed to trace the leases continuously right back to 1831 on a large house in Belgrave Square when the then house was approximately 2/3rds the size of the house as at the date of claim notwithstanding lack of electric light and modern plumbing services. The result was a settlement over 63.5% lower than the landlords quoting premium saving my client nearly £4m off the Grosvenor’s quoting premium.
Research can also be conducted at the RIBA Collections Archive at the V&A where they keep all of the original plans of celebrated architects. This was particularly helpful recently in being able to scale measure as to area in order to advise potential claiming tenants on the (albeit original) layout of the other flats in the building in the landlord’s control (including the porter’s flat) where, for obvious reasons, ‘Mum was the word’ as to my clients intentions. As a result access would not have been possible to physically inspect and measure and report back on value. Nevertheless I was able to give them a for more considered idea of the additional space and consequent cost they may have to collectively purchase the additional space if the landlord subsequently did not elect to take a voluntary 999 year leaseback at a peppercorn rent. Fortunately I have been around long enough to possess an old imperial scale rule in order to complete this task!