When is a building ‘structurally detached’ for the purposes of an RTM claim?
CQN RTM Co Ltd v Broad Quay North Block Freehold and another  concerned a redevelopment of a site in Bristol whereby two new blocks were erected either side of a Radisson Hotel. In the north block are 95 private residential units accessed through one entrance, and 30 social housing units accessed via a separate entrance. An underground car park is situated underneath the hotel and the south block, accessed via a ramp and supported by pillars under the north block. Residential tenants do not use the car park.
The First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) found that the subject property was not sufficiently ‘structurally detached’ from the adjoining premises, a requirement under s.72(2) of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002, and did not therefore allow the RTM claim to succeed. The RTM company argued that any connection between the subject property and other buildings was not load-bearing. Whilst this was accepted by the FTT, the Tribunal looked further and found that there was not a visible division between the properties, in particular the ceiling of the car park and floor slabs which adjoined the subject and other premises.
The RTM company appealed. The Upper Tribunal supported the view of the FTT, in that the subject property was not sufficiently structurally detached from the adjoining premises to enable the RTM claim to succeed. There was a structural connection between the properties, and the UT held that the car park ceiling and floor slabs of the properties above comprised one structure.
In its judgment, the UT considered the meaning of ‘structurally attached’. ‘Structural’ means more than simply touching; a structural feature should affect the fabric of the building, and the UT found that there should be a structural inter-dependence between properties. For example, one property may partly or wholly support the other. The right to manage could not therefore be acquired by the RTM company and the UT found in favour of the freeholder.
Advice and action for landlords
This useful case provides guidance as to the meaning of ‘structural’ in the context of an RTM claim. Here, a structural part of one property was attached to a structural part of another, and the subject property could not therefore be found to be ‘structurally detached’ sufficiently to allow the RTM company to acquire rights to manage.
The Upper Tribunal’s test requires parties to consider the parts of a subject property which are attached to another building, and assess the nature and degree of attachment to determine whether the subject property is ‘structurally detached’. Particularly in the case of larger and mixed-use developments, as well as those in densely built areas, landlords may find this a helpful argument when faced with an RTM claim.
The UT considered the meaning of ‘structurally attached’. ‘Structural’ means more than simply touching; a structural feature should affect the fabric of the building, and there should be a structural inter-dependence between properties.