Quia Timet Injunctions and the Unknown
Circumstances when a property owner may obtain an injunction in advance against parties unknown.
In Vastint Leeds BV v Persons Unknown , the landowner’s property, which was reserved for development, was subject to fly-tipping, illegal raves and occupation by travellers. Construction on the site was not due to start for some time due to planning and completion of ground preparation works, but the site contained numerous hazards including undisturbed asbestos and unstable buildings.
Although the site had been secured, Vastint applied for an injunction to prevent unknown persons from entering onto or remaining on the site without consent on the grounds that harm could be caused by, or to, trespassers and the site used for illegal fly-tipping.
The injunction was awarded. ‘Persons unknown’ identified a group or class of defendants, and they could be identified by reference to a future infringing act. Anyone who subsequently commits a future infringing act becomes a defendant who is subject to the order and therefore in breach of it. Anyone who may consider themselves at risk of falling into this class or group may apply to vary or discharge the injunction.
The Court referred to a two-stage test in determining whether to award a quia timet injunction:
- Is there a strong possibility that the claimant’s rights will be infringed if the injunction is refused?
- Would grave and irreparable damage be caused from an infringement, such that damages would be inadequate?
Advice and action for landlords
Undoubtedly helpful for owners of development sites, this case sets out clearly the circumstances in which a quia timet injunction may be awarded.
Site owners may wish to consider making an application for such an injunction where they have a strong case for doing so, particularly where sites are vulnerable to fly-tipping and other acts of trespass or illegal occupation and owners have an obligation to ensure the safety of those on their property (whether legally or otherwise).
The Court awarded a quia timet injunction. ‘Persons unknown’ identified a group or class of defendants, and they could be identified by reference to a future infringing act.