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General Property Litigation

It is not possible to list all areas covered, but common areas of work include:

Easements

Disputes as to whether rights have been acquired by prescription and what amounts to substantial interference, such as different types of gates and controlled barriers, ancillary rights to make up roads and liabilities for repairs. A more unusual case concerned a claim that a wind turbine would interfere with shooting rights.  Spaces Personal Storage v RSN concerned claims to rights of parking on an industrial estate road, and the ability of the owner to impose a scheme of control.

Development and sale agreements

Tom regularly advises parties to sale and development contract on their ability to enforce or escape their obligations. Examples include acting for a major retailer (A) seeking to enforce agreements to sub-let half of certain stores to another major retailer (B). B sought to rescind on the ground that the planning permissions which had been granted were granted subject to onerous conditions as defined in the relevant agreements. The disputes were referred to confidential arbitration, and were satisfactorily resolved. Tom also actedfor the major housebuilder BDW in a £1.5m dispute (BDW v Opticlife) over whether a purchaser could avoid completion as a result of a variation from the contractual specification for a block of new flats. Another interesting recent dispute concerned a sale of reversions on a block of flats at auction, where the contract failed to specify that the vendor required lease backs of the units let on ASTs. The vendor claimed rectification. A good settlement was achieved. More recently Tom advised a London Council on its ability to terminate an agreement for the redevelopment of a large housing estate, and on potential claims for damages.

Adverse possession

Numerous claims both before and after the 2002 Act. Cases include Lyn Lewis v Environment AgencyGrey v Howland and a claim by a scrap merchant to have acquired title to a yard within an old Pirelli cable factory. One reported case concerned the application of limitation periods to government bodies (Hill v Transport for London), and Thomas has acted  for the Secretary of State for Transport in several cases concerning claims for adverse possession of land adjoining motorways. One of these, Secretary of State for Transport v Quest, raised interesting issues as to the relationship between the Limitation Act and the Land Registration Act 2002.

Trespass

Thomas has obtained urgent injunctions and possession orders against protesters. In one case proceedings were served by an announcement over a loudhailer from a helicopter, and an order for possession was obtained the same day.

Restrictive covenants

Regular advice on the construction and enforceability of covenants, modification and the powers of public bodies to override covenants. In a typical recent covenant case, Thomas acted for a developer who proceeded with a housing development and faced a claim for an injunction or damages for breach of covenant. Recently Thomas has acted for developers seeking consent for basement developments in Mayfair and Belgravia under the Grosvenor Estate Management Schemes created under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. 

Highways

Issues frequently arise as to the relationship between land ownership and highway rights. In Secretary of State v Baylis Thomas acted for a purchaser who successfully obtained damages for failure to give vacant possession on completion where the land sold was subject to highway rights. In Goodmayes Estates v First National Bank there were issues as to the extent of the highway boundary, and the rights of the highways authority to carry out improvements at or near the boundary.

Land registration

Registration issues often arise in the context of property disputes, and Land Registry adjudication is now a common forum for resolving disputes. Regular disputes involving registration issues include urgent removal of notices (Sainsbury’s v Oliveview), rectification, claims for compensation (Hanson v Land Registry) and adverse possession and boundary disputes, such as Secretary of State for Transport v Quest.

Professional negligence

Thomas acts for claimants and defendants in professional negligence cases related to his areas of expertise, including solicitors and valuers negligence. Cases have concerned such issues as duties to third parties (Dean v Allin & Watts), solicitors negligence in enfranchisement, mortgage, restrictive covenant and conveyancing cases, and the liability of local authorities for negligent searches (Gooden v Northamptonshire CC).