Sydney Mitchell is recognised in the Top Tier of the Legal 500 and ‘punches above its weight’ for contentious and non-contentious matters. The firm is recognised for thoroughness and good commercial approach to cases.

Sydney Mitchell has again been recognised as a Tier 1 firm for its Contentious Wills and Probate work; handling a variety of high-value complex cases.

In total the firm has obtained recommendations in 13 areas of legal practice; Contentious Probate, Commercial Litigation, Debt Recovery, Insolvency and Corporate Recovery, Employment, Clinical Negligence, Personal Injury, Professional Negligence, Family, Personal Tax, Trusts and Probate, Health, Commercial Property and Property Litigation.

The firm’s clients have made some excellent comments on the work undertaken by the legal teams.

Div Singh, Senior Partner, Sydney Mitchell commented:

We have an excellent result again this year with the firm maintaining its ranking in Tier 1 for our Contentious Probate work.

We were especially pleased for some of our young solicitors Hayley–Jo Lockley and Preena Lal who have been recognised for their hard work and dedication. Our clients and referrers have made fantastic comments on the work we have undertaken including…

‘One of the strongest of the smaller city centre firms in commercial litigation’;  ‘experienced and sensible with sound judgement and a particular skill at negotiating very good deals…; ‘superstar and a joy to work with’; ‘very tenacious …’ ‘attention to detail and thorough approach’.

What more can you ask for than recommendations from your clients for the excellent service received for work undertaken by our legal teams.

The joint heads of the Dispute Resolution team, Dean Parnell and Kamal Majevadia were recognised for their high-value and complex claims undertaken with Dean recognised for his “technical knowledge that is second to none and is a solicitor you would want on your side’ and Kamal ‘… is very thorough and applies a good commercial approach to his cases’.

Leading Midlands Law firm Sydney Mitchell is ranked in 13 Legal 500 categories and has won Birmingham Law Firm of the Year 4 times in the last 9 years.

A full breakdown of the Sydney Mitchell recommendations and comments on Legal 500 are shown below.

West Midlands: Dispute resolution

Commercial litigation: Birmingham

Commercial litigation: Birmingham - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP is ‘one of the strongest of the smaller city centre firms in commercial litigation’, and thrives under the leadership of Dean Parnell, who is ‘very experienced and sensible, with sound judgement and a particular skill at negotiating very good deals for his clients’. Parnell is an experienced mediator and is also qualified to act as a supervising solicitor for search orders. The practice represented clients in a number of multimillion-pound claims and noted an increase in injunctive relief, SWAP claims, shareholder disputes and civil fraud. Kamal Majevadia, who co-heads the team with Parnell, has ‘good technical knowledge and is particularly good at insolvency, restructuring and financial professional negligence cases’.

Debt recovery

Debt recovery - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s ‘very efficient’ team has a ‘light touch’ and is led by Kamal Majevadia, who is ‘adept at spotting the wood for the trees and combines this with a user-friendly sense of humour for very experienced officeholders such as liquidators, who are his staple clients’. Majevadia’s recent caseload includes acting on behalf of the administrators of Blakemores in relation to the collection of several large debts from former clients. Another name to note is insolvency specialist Leanne Schneider-Rose, who leads on debt recovery matters for business lenders such as AIB Group (UK) and West Bromwich Commercial. The practice also acts for secondary lenders on mortgage repossessions.

West Midlands: Finance

Insolvency and corporate recovery

Insolvency and corporate recovery - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s practice offers ‘exceptional value for money’ and is also noted for its ability to ‘quickly grasp the instruction and work with the officeholder to implement (and refine as necessary) the strategy’. Practice head Leanne Schneider-Rose has a loyal following of lenders and insolvency practitioners, such as AIB Group and Smith & Williamson, and wins praise for her ‘attention to detail and thorough approach’. In one example, Schneider-Rose acted for a bankrupt in the Court of Appeal in a claim against receivers for breach of duty regarding a property owned by the bankrupt.

West Midlands: Human resources

Employment

Employment - ranked: tier 5

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s diverse practice ‘punches above its weight’. The practice acts for employers and individuals in contentious and non-contentious matters, and Birmingham-based team head Dean Parnell attracts praise for his ability to ‘focus on solutions rather than conflict for the sake of it’. He represented an individual in a complex disability discrimination and victimisation claim against their employer, as well as a shareholder who was dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct following a health and safety audit. Jade Linton is ‘a superstar and a joy to work with’; she acted for an individual in sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010, which was complicated by the fact the claimant and respondent had previously been in a relationship. She also handled a whistleblowing claim brought by a high-ranked executive whose employment was terminated due to suspicions of fraudulent activity. Associate Tina Chander left the firm to join Wright Hassall LLP.

West Midlands: Insurance

Clinical negligence: claimant

Clinical negligence: claimant - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP is ‘a small firm that really punches above its weight’, and clients rate it for ‘having the skills and knowledge to handle a vast array of negligence and personal injury matters’. Mike Sutton leads the clinical negligence practice; he ‘has an excellent manner with clients’ and his experience ‘allows him to focus on the key issues in the early stages of a case’. Sutton is representing the wife of a man who died of a pulmonary embolism following the hospital’s alleged failure to appropriately treat him during the post-operative recovery period. Stephen Jesson acted for a claimant seeking compensation in light of the alleged delay in diagnosis of cancer, and is acting in a group claim filed against a consultant urological surgeon for alleged improper treatment of prostate cancer.

Next generation lawyers

Stephen Jesson - Sydney Mitchell LLP

Personal injury: claimant

Personal injury: claimant - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP acts for local clients on a wide range of personal injury work – much of which consists of multi-track claims – and ‘has a strong reputation in the West Midlands’. Team leader and ‘very tenacious lawyer’ Mike Sutton ‘does not shy away from difficult, complicated or messy cases’; he recently represented a man who suffered career-ending injuries following an accident at work, and acted on behalf of the family and financial dependents of a man killed by careless driving. Other key names include Stephen Jesson, who assisted an elderly client in her claim against a restaurant which allegedly failed to provide the duty owed by the manager to a disabled customer.

Professional negligence

Professional negligence - ranked: tier 4

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP handles high-value and complex claims regarding property and banking issues for clients such as Hertford Solutions and West Bromwich Building Society. The ‘commercially astuteDean Parnell has ‘technical knowledge that is second to none and is a solicitor you would want on your side’. He leads the practice with Kamal Majevadia, who is singled out for insolvency, restructuring and financial cases. Assistant solicitor Sundeep Bilkhu supports the partners with regards to negligence claims against solicitors and construction professionals, and recently represented a professional client in a case against his governing body for allegedly failing to adequately represent him in court resulting in significant liability costs. The ‘hardworking and responsive’ Preena Lal is also recommended.

West Midlands: Private client

Contentious trusts and probate

Contentious trusts and probate - ranked: tier 1

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s contentious trusts and probate team is based in Shirley and demonstrates ‘sound knowledge of the law, which it applies for the practical benefit of the client’. The team, led by Kamal Majevadia (who ‘is very thorough and applies a good commercial approach to his cases’) handled an Inheritance Act dispute in which a significant portion of the assets was held overseas. Solicitor Hayley-Jo Lockley supported the team in obtaining a grant of probate, forcing the removal of caveat and removing an individual from the deceased’s property, and led on the advice on the recovery of monies due to a client as per the deceased’s will. Tracy Creed is also a key contact.

Family: Birmingham
Family: Birmingham - ranked: tier 3

 

Sydney Mitchell LLP

At Sydney Mitchell LLP, Karen Moores leads the firm’s family team alongside Mauro Vinti, who works out of the Shirley office. The partners are supported by legal executive Jayne Gregg, who is ‘very positive and firm with her advice’. Recently, the team represented clients in the Birmingham family court in connection with financial remedy and child arrangement proceedings. Solicitor Teresa Mannion joined the firm in Shirley from Alsters Kelley LLP...

Personal tax, trusts and probate

Personal tax, trusts and probate - ranked: tier 2

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s clients find the wills, trusts and probate team, led by Tracy Creed, to be ‘extremely professional and efficient in all engagements and dealings’. The practice has substantial experience acting on behalf of vulnerable elderly clients in connection with care work and funding. Solicitor Ravinder Sandhu (whose ‘knowledge in this field is wide and deep’) recently assisted a client with the removal of an executor from an estate, and handled the administration of an estate according to a will, which was complicated by unclear paternity links and genealogical evidence. Clients also recommend ‘very good and helpful’ solicitor Nicholas Bennett, who is based in Shirley and acted for clients with regards to locating missing wills and applications for grants of probate.

West Midlands: Public sector

Health

Health - ranked: tier 3

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmigham)

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s public-sector healthcare practice is headed by Fahmida Ismail in Birmingham, closely supported by consultant Tony Harris, who splits his time between Birmingham and Shirley and acted for a retiring senior partner with regards to the cancellation of his GMS contract and the negotiation of his retirement agreement. Areas of expertise include advising on sales, acquisition and mergers of GP practices, partnership disputes, and LIFT and non-LIFT projects. Harris and Ismail recently advised on the changes to partnership agreements in the context of retiring and incoming partners and the re-mortgaging of freehold surgery premises through a complex borrowing scheme requiring safeguarding and indemnity clauses to protect each individual partner. In another mandate, Ismail oversaw the retirement of a GP partner who wished to remain an owner of the leasehold premises. Associates Stewart Coles and Roy Colaba recently represented a GP partnership in connection with the lease of its surgery premises, while Dean Parnell handled a commercial dispute between dentists working in the same practice where the relationship had completely broken down but a fee-sharing agreement remained.

West Midlands: Real estate

Commercial property: Birmingham

Commercial property: Birmingham - ranked: tier 5

Sydney Mitchell LLP

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s team includes the ‘knowledgeable, prompt and efficientStewart Coles, who has particular expertise in dealing with property transactions involving pension schemes, and regularly acts on behalf of SIPPs and SSASs on the purchase, sale and leasing of commercial premises. Coles also represents clients in the retail and hospitality sectors and in 2016 he advised investors on a number of hotel acquisitions. Head of practice Div Singh and finance specialist Fahmida Ismail are the other main contacts.

Property litigation

Property litigation - ranked: tier 6

Sydney Mitchell LLP (Birmingham)

At Sydney Mitchell LLP, senior solicitor Sundeep Bilkhu is a ‘good driving force’ for cases and continued to be particularly active in landlord and tenant issues for lenders and receivers: Bilkhu represented Hertford Solutions in enforcing a possession order against a tenant in occupation, and also acted for a receiver in obtaining vacant possession of a property following the borrower’s default of a legal charge. In other highlights, the team is defending Property Link Midlands in a claim alleging breach of a landlord repair covenant in a lease. Kamal Majevadia heads the practice.


 

21 lawyers are recommended in The Legal 500 United Kingdom 2017 editorial (listed below)

WEST MIDLANDS

Dispute resolution - Commercial litigation - Birmingham
- Dean Parnell
- Kamal Majevadia

Dispute resolution - Debt recovery
- Kamal Majevadia
- Leanne Schneider-Rose

Finance - Insolvency and corporate recovery
- Leanne Schneider-Rose

Human resources - Employment
- Dean Parnell
- Jade Linton

Insurance - Clinical negligence - claimant
- Mike Sutton
- Stephen Jesson

Insurance - Personal injury - claimant
- Mike Sutton
- Stephen Jesson

Insurance - Professional negligence
- Dean Parnell
- Kamal Majevadia
- Preena Lal
- Sundeep Bilkhu

Private client - Contentious trusts and probate
- Hayley-Jo Lockley
- Kamal Majevadia
- Tracy Creed

Private client - Family - Elsewhere in the West Midlands
- Jayne Gregg
- Karen Moores
- Mauro Vinti
- Teresa Mannion

Private client - Personal tax, trusts and probate
- Nicholas Bennett
- Ravinder Sandhu
- Tracy Creed

Public sector - Health
- Dean Parnell
- Fahmida Ismail
- Roy Colaba
- Stewart Coles
- Tony Harris

Real estate - Commercial property - Birmingham
- Div Singh
- Fahmida Ismail
- Stewart Coles

Real estate - Property litigation
- Kamal Majevadia
- Sundeep Bilkhu

The legal requirement that, when making a will, you must make reasonable provision for those who are dependent upon you generally benefits hard-up family members or loved ones. However, in a case that broke new legal ground, the Court of Appeal ruled that the principle applied to a 93-year-old man who was substantially richer than his deceased partner.

The man had no expectation that the widow with whom he had lived for almost 20 years would leave him anything in her will and she did not do so. He accepted that he had no moral claim against her estate and, given that he had greater financial resources than she did, he had left her a substantial sum in his own will.

Following her death, her daughter and sole heir asked him to leave the house where they had lived together. He refused to do so, however, and the daughter launched possession proceedings on the basis that he was a trespasser. He responded by making a claim for reasonable financial provision from the widow’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

His claim succeeded before a judge, who granted him an option to buy the property from the widow’s estate at a price of £385,000, the sum at which the daughter had had it valued. That decision was subsequently upheld by the High Court but, due to her emotional attachment to the property, the daughter mounted a second appeal. It was submitted that, although the man might wish to carry on living in the house, he had no need to do so and was well able to buy an alternative home.

In rejecting the daughter’s appeal, however, the Court of Appeal found that, although she was poorer than him, the widow had maintained the man by giving him a roof over his head until her death. She was thus obliged to make reasonable provision for him in her will and her daughter’s proper interests as heir were outweighed by the man’s objectively assessed need to remain living in the property. He was old and infirm and had no desire to leave the house, which was in the village where he was born and close to supportive neighbours and the village shop.

Contact Kam Majevadia or Hayley-Jo Lockley for help and advice on contentious probate matters. k.majevadia@sydneymitchell.co.uk or h.lockley@sydneymitchell.co.uk. For general wills trust and probate matters contact Tracy Creed or complete our enquiry form.

How far will your business fly - Business Forum 9 February 2017 Solihull Professionals Sydney Mitchell  

How far can your business fly and how far has it gone?

When looking at your business over its lifetime, businesses go through many challenges on the way.

The Solihull Professionals Group would like you to join them at an enlightening, thought provoking event on 9th February.

A panel of business entrepreneurs and leaders will share their life story and the lessons they have learnt.  The panel will invite questions before, after and during the event. So if you have any questions or business issues that you have faced that you would like the panel to address, please send it to us now! (l.heyworth@sydneymitchell.co.uk)

Background to the event
Solihull a vibrant place to do business – the Solihull Professionals group was developed to bring together professionals in the area to get our voice heard further afield showing the opportunities in the region for companies to start-up, grow and develop and we have all in the region to help them no matter what stage of business life a person or company is at.

Every business has a natural lifecycle; from the first flicker of an idea, through to the excitement of watching a business grow and onto reaping
the benefits of all the hard work. This is an opportunity for attendees to
stand back and look at business from a different perspective.

There will be interactive panellist sessions focussing on each of the
three main stages of the lifecycle. Attendees will hear and learn the valuable lessons encountered from business leaders; who have lived and breathed their businesses and would like to pass on their experiences and resolutions.

Why should you attend this event
This event will be of interest to all businesses at whatever stage in its life cycle.  Whether you are looking to grow, expand, diversify or plan for retirement and exit then this event may just give you a few pointers.

What will you get out of it?
Attendees will benefit from the experiences of others, learn about the pitfalls and how to avoid them, discuss concerns and have questions answered. They will come away with fresh ideas, solutions and new contacts that can support them through their decision making.

Our panel and experts will be on hand at the end of the event if you have any additional questions that you may not wish to raise in open forum.

EVENT TIMING:
08.30 – 08.55hrs           Registration, Tea, Coffee and Danish
08.55 – 09.05hrs           Welcome and Introduction to panellists
09.05 – 09.50hrs           Session 1 followed by Q &A (Start Ups)
09.50 – 10.35hrs           Session 2 followed by Q&A (Growth)
10.35 – 10.50hrs           Coffee Break
10.50 – 11.35hrs           Session 3 followed by
                                          Q&A (Exiting/Selling On)
11.35 – 11.45hrs           Final Q&A
11.45 – 12.15hrs           Closing Remarks
12.15 – 13.30hrs           Networking, time for 1-2-1 sessions                                           and Light Lunch
13.30 hrs                       Ends

We do hope you can join us.

WHEN:
9 February 2018
TIME:
8.30  am – 1.30 pm
WHERE:
Solihull – De Limesi Suite, Crown Plaza Hotel
61 Homer Road
Solihull B91 3QD
EVENTBRITE BOOKING LINK
HTTPS://HOW-FAR-CAN-YOUR-BUSINESS-FLY-SOLIHULLPROS.EVENTBRITE.CO.UK
COST
£25.00 plus VAT and Eventbrite fees(Total £32.58)
RSVP:
LINDA HEYWORTH
l.heyworth@sydneymitchell.co.uk
SOLIHULL PROFESSIONALS GROUP

Pro Solihull - Solihull Professionals group - Solihull Chamber of Commerce

EVENTBRITE BOOKING LINK
HTTPS://HOW-FAR-CAN-YOUR-BUSINESS-FLY-SOLIHULLPROS.EVENTBRITE.CO.UK

 

 

One of the primary purposes of insurance is to give peace of mind, but those who do not read the small print can find that the cover that they have paid for is illusory. Exactly that happened in one case in which the High Court ruled that insurers were fully entitled to refuse to pay out after a hotel was destroyed by fire.

The company that owned the hotel claimed just under £1.75 million under a policy that on the face of it protected it against the risk of fire. However, the policy included a warranty, requiring that the hotel’s electrical wiring be professionally inspected and tested at least every five years. There was no evidence that such inspection or testing had been carried out within the five years before the start of the policy or at any time prior to the fire.

In those circumstances, the insurers declined to cover the company’s loss and the company launched proceedings, claiming that they were not entitled to do so. Following a preliminary hearing, the Court found that, on a true interpretation of the policy, the warranty had the effect of suspending fire cover until such time as the required inspection and testing were carried out.

Given that the warranty had not been complied with, the cause of the fire did not matter and there was no liability on the insurers’ part. The Court’s decision did not preclude the company from seeking compensation from the brokers who had arranged the policy, although they had denied negligence or breach of contract.

For help and advice on this or contract or policy failure advice, please speak to Gemma Parker, Chartered Legal Executive on 0121 698 2200 g.parker@sydneymitchell.co.uk

If you are a director of a company that has gone into Liquidation (or might go into Liquidation) and you are now involved (or are considering becoming involved) in another company with a similar/same name then be aware of the provisions of Section 216 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

Whilst it is possible to re-use the same or similar name of a liquidated company it can ONLY be re-used if one of the “exceptions” set out below applies.  If none of the “exceptions” apply then you will be in breach of section 216 of the Insolvency Act 1986 and could be liable to a fine, imprisonment, director disqualification proceedings and will be “invited” by the Investigation & Enforcement Services of the Insolvency Service to change the new company name and / or resign as a director of the new company.  All of these penalties can so easily be avoided if one of the following is undertaken or applies at the time that the “old” company goes into Liquidation; these are known as the “Excepted Cases”:

Excepted cases

  1. Where a “new company” acquires the whole or substantially the whole of the business of an insolvent company under arrangements made by an Insolvency Practitioner acting as Administrator or Liquidator or the Supervisor of a Voluntary Arrangement, the new company must serve notices (in a prescribed form) on all of the creditors of the liquidated company providing details of the old company in liquidation, the new company, and the names of the directors.  A similar Notice must also be placed in the London Gazette.  All of this must take place within 28 days from the completion of the purchase of the assets / business of the liquidated company from the Insolvency Practitioner.
     
  2. If there is no purchase of assets of the company in liquidation but you want to set up a new company and re-use the liquidated company’s name, or a similar name, then an application to the court must be made not later than 7 days from the date the company went into liquidation and leave of the court must be granted no later than 6 weeks from that date.  Even if the application is made it does not mean that the court will grant the application. The court will consider issues such as the financial standing of the new company and will want to know who will be responsible for managing it and its finances.
     
  3. The name of an existing company which is similar to the name of an insolvent company can continue to be used if:
    a) the existing company had been known by that name for the whole of the period of 12 months ending with the day before the company with a similar name went into Liquidation; and
    b) the existing company had not at any time in those 12 months been a dormant company.
    This is to cover the position where you have group companies known by similar names.  If one goes into Liquidation the others should not have to change their names.

Please note that Companies House will not, in any event, allow a “new” company to use the same name already being used by another company.  So even having regard to the above if you want to use the same name as a company that is in insolvency the Insolvency Practitioner will firstly have to deal with changing the name of the Insolvent Company.  However in many cases it is “similar” names that people want to use that give rise to claims arising under Section 216 of the Insolvency Act.

There are many cases of people not having complied with the excepted cases as set out at (1) and (2) above and they find themselves many years later on the receiving end of a letter from the Investigation & Enforcement Services of the Insolvency Service claiming that they have breached the provisions of Section 216. 

At Sydney Mitchell we can assist you in preventing such claims arising by assisting you with dealing with Notices or Applications to the Court as set out at (1) and (2) above or we can advise and assist you if you find yourself in breach and on the receiving end of a letter from the Investigation & Enforcement Services of the Insolvency Service. 

For further information please call Leanne Schneider-Roseon 0121 698 2200 or email: l.schneider-rose@sydneymitchell.co.uk

Midlands Top Tier Award Winning law firm Sydney Mitchell LLP is delighted to announce that Sundeep Bilkhu has been promoted to Associate Solicitor in the Dispute Resolution Team. Sundeep has proven his strength in all types of property and professional negligence related matters within the firm.Sundeep Bilkhu promoted to  Associate Sydney Mitchell LLP 0121 698 2200

Sundeep’s expertise, commercial and analytical approach to property and professional negligence disputes has been well received by so many of our commercial and private clients and he has obtained some great results for these clients.

said Dean Parnell, Sydney Mitchell Partner and Head of Dispute Resolution in Birmingham.

Sundeep Bilkhu commented:

I am delighted with my promotion to Associate Solicitor at Sydney Mitchell.  I really enjoy working within the litigation team who have some excellent lawyers and we are all highly motivated and keen to deliver a first class service to our clients.

 

Law firm Sydney Mitchell LLP has offices in Birmingham, Shirley, Sheldon and facilities in Sutton Coldfield.  The firm provides an extensive portfolio of legal services is listed in the Top Tier of the Legal 500, Lexcel accredited and won the Birmingham Law Society award for Law Firm of the Year (5- 15 partners) in 2015.  Sydney Mitchell employs over 100 people and has 10 partners.

Sundeep Bilkhu Associate Sydney Mitchell LLP

 

Millions of pounds frequently hang on the interpretation of commercial contracts, but it is rare that a dispute comes down to the correct reading of a single word. That is what happened, however, in one case concerning a cargo of soya bean meal that suffered damage before its much delayed discharge at an Iranian port.

Due to a delay in payment for the cargo, the owner of the ship had been instructed by her time charterer to wait outside port for over four months before discharge. The charterer had, during that period, effectively used the vessel as cheap floating storage. When off-loaded, damage to the cargo was discovered by its purchaser.

Following negotiations, the ship owner agreed to pay the purchaser 2,654,238 Euros in respect of the damage. The ship owner subsequently launched arbitration proceedings against the charterer with a view to recovering that sum, plus 1,012,740 Euros in hire charges relating to the delay outside port.

The arbitrators found that the damage was due to overheating and that neither ship owner nor charterer had been at fault. In upholding the ship owner’s claim, however, they ruled that it was the ‘act’ of the charterer in directing the delay in discharge that gave rise to the damage.

In challenging that decision before the Court of Appeal, the charterer argued that the word ‘act’ in the phrase ‘act or neglect’ within the relevant shipping agreement meant a culpable act. In dismissing the appeal, however, the Court found that the word should be given its natural and ordinary meaning and did not import any element of fault. The phrase merely represented a contractual mechanism by which liability for cargo claims could be assigned.

For help and advice on contract failure advice, please contact Gemma Parker, Chartered Legal Executive on 0121 698 2200 g.parker@sydneymitchell.co.uk

 

Covenants that restrict the use of land are commonly encountered in a domestic context – to maintain scenic views, rights of way and the like – but can also be used to protect business interests. In one case, a tribunal analysed a covenant that banned boat building in part of a dockyard.

The dockyard was subject to an array of leasehold and freehold interests and was shared by a company that specialised in building and repairing superyachts and other pleasure craft, and various shipbuilders whose stock-in-trade was the construction of commercial and military vessels.

As part of its expansion, the company had invested £8 million in creating a 2.3-acre sheltered basin in which vessels could be berthed as they were worked on. The basin was, however, subject to a restrictive covenant that banned boat building in the area. The covenant had been put in place to protect the shipbuilders’ interests.

The company was concerned that the covenant meant that it could not use the basin for constructing new vessels, but only for repairing or restoring old ones. The problem was pressing as it had recently signed a £10 million contract for a brand new yacht and intended to use the basin for the final stages of the project.

The company asked the Upper Tribunal (UT) to exercise its powers under the Law of Property Act 1925 to modify the covenant, but encountered stiff resistance from the shipbuilders. They were concerned that, if the company or any future occupier of the basin diversified into commercial or military shipbuilding, they would lose customers.

Ruling on the dispute, the UT had no doubt that the covenant needed to be modified to take account of changing circumstances in the dockyard. It was rewritten so as to enable the company to build or repair yachts or pleasure craft of any size in the basin. However, a restriction on the basin being used for commercial or military shipbuilding was kept in place on the basis that it secured practical benefits of substantial value to the shipbuilders.

Contact Sundeep Bilkhu, Associate Solicitor s.bilkhu@sydneymitchell.co.uk in respect of restrictive covenant help or advice.

 

Questions and Answers on pressing Insolvency and Administration matters - as published in Winter 2017 'Recovery' Magazine. Leanne Schneider-Rose, Insolvency Partner at Sydney Mitchell answers a few crucial questions.

 

Personal relationships are generally considered private matters, but it is sometimes necessary for judges to delve deeply into them in order to discern whether binding promises have been made. One such case concerned a handyman who formed an intimate relationship with his very wealthy employer.

The woman, who was worth about £10 million, had taken on the handyman to do odd jobs around her country estate. However, after their relationship developed, he claimed that they had lived together as man and wife for several years before they parted acrimoniously. He alleged that she had promised him a stake in two residential properties and shares in a company that owned a third. Alternatively, he sought compensation for work he had done on the properties.

She accepted that she had had a dalliance with him, but argued that their relationship never moved beyond that of an employer and employee who became good friends and companions and occasionally enjoyed sexual intimacy. She denied that she had ever promised him any part of her wealth, which was in part derived from her divorce but also from her success as a property developer.

In dismissing the handyman’s claim, a judge found him to be a thoroughly dishonest witness. The woman had never had any interest in forming a committed relationship with him and he had never been any more to her than a kept man, in addition to being an employee or jobbing worker.

She had made him no enforceable promises and he had never genuinely believed that she was his business partner or that he would be entitled to a share of any of her assets. There was also no credible evidence that he had done any work for which he had not been paid. The facts of the case emerged as the Court of Appeal dismissed his challenge to the judge’s decision. Neither the judge’s assessment of the witnesses nor his findings of fact could be faulted.

If you are concerned about family legal issues or have been affected by similar issues to that above, please contact Amanda Holland or a member of the Family Team on 0121 698 2200, email a.holland@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

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