Tower Hamlets Community Housing Limited v Leaseholders of Painter House: Landlord's Proposed Lease Variations Deemed Unreasonable and Prejudicial by Tribunal

Citation: [2024] UKUT 37 (LC)
Judgment on


In the case of Tower Hamlets Community Housing Limited v Leaseholders of Painter House, the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) reviewed an appeal concerning the variation of leases and service charge computations under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987. The judgment provides detailed consideration of the statutory provisions for varying leases due to unsatisfactory service charge provisions. The case analysis focuses on the legal principles and statutory interpretation of service charge arrangements between a landlord operating as a community benefit society and leaseholders within a mixed-use property.

Key Facts

The case centered on Tower Hamlets Community Housing Limited’s application to vary the leases of flats in Painter House, Sidney Street, London E1. The dispute arose from the leases’ computation of the service charge, where the landlord sought variations to match historical charging practices. The First-tier Tribunal (FTT) had refused significant changes, leading to the landlord’s appeal. The leaseholders opposed the application, contending that the variations sought would result in unfair additional burdens upon them.

Several crucial legal principles related to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 form the backbone of this judgment:

  1. Section 35(2)(f) Gateway Provisions: The judgment clarified that descriptive proportions, such as “a fair proportion,” fall within the meaning of “proportions” for service charges under section 35(4)(b). This interpretation enabled the consideration of all relevant leases, including those with non-numerical proportion definitions, within the scope for potential variation.

  2. Exercise of Discretion under Section 38(1): Once the “gateway” conditions of section 35 are met, the Tribunal has discretion to vary the lease. This discretion is subject to considerations including whether any variation would be reasonable and whether it would substantially prejudice any leaseholders or other parties.

  3. Reasonableness and Prejudice Test: The Tribunal assessed whether the proposed variations would substantially prejudice the leaseholders or not be reasonable in the context of the circumstances. Substantial prejudice or the lack of reasonableness could justify refusing a lease variation despite gateway conditions being met.

  4. Section 38 Restrictions: According to section 38(6), the Tribunal must not effect any variation of a lease, which would substantially prejudice any respondent or any third party who cannot be compensated adequately.

The Tribunal applied these principles directly in assessing whether to approve the landlord’s requested variations. The case also touched upon the reasonable allocation of service charges between residential and commercial units within a mixed-use property, though the Tribunal did not provide specific guidance on this issue.


The Tribunal upheld the FTT’s decision not to vary the leases as requested by the appellant. It determined that the proposed variation would place unreasonable and substantially prejudicial obligations on the leaseholders to cover costs attributable to services for the landlord’s commercial unit. The Tribunal declined to implement the alternative variation proposed at the hearing, considering it unfair to the respondents, as it would necessitate further analysis and was beyond the scope of the original application.


The Upper Tribunal’s decision in this case emphasized the binary nature of the gateway under section 35(2)(f) and the importance of the Tribunal’s discretion when considering whether to vary leases. Crucially, the Tribunal must balance the legislative intent against the implications such variations would have on leaseholders and other relevant parties. While the landlord’s original drafting errors and intentions were recognized, the Tribunal deemed the proposed variations as rendering the leases significantly unreasonable and prejudicial to the leaseholders. As such, despite meeting the gateway criteria, the practical implications for leaseholders ultimately led to the refusal of the variation sought. This case serves as a clear example of the Tribunal’s application of legal principles in ensuring leasings’ fairness and reasonableness within the context of property law.

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