What does ‘elevation’ actually mean?

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) has been asked by a landlord to decide what the term ‘elevation’ means.  The question here was does it apply only to the front elevation, or to all aspects of the external appearance of the building.  The Upper Tribunal found that it applies to all external vertical surfaces of the building.

In Triplerose Ltd v Patel [2018] the tenant’s lease of their flat contained a covenant not to alter the elevation of the flat, but the tenant had, without consent, removed a window and installed a door in the back wall of the property.  The Tribunal was asked to consider whether the alterations covenant in the lease had been breached.

In the past, case law had found that ‘elevation’ meant the front view of a building as opposed to any horizontal plan, and when the First Tier Tribunal first heard the case they agreed and found that the alteration was not capable of being a breach of covenant.

Unfortunately for the tenant, the Upper Tribunal disagreed and placed more emphasis on the natural meaning of the word ‘elevation’.  The judge decided that “Unless it is qualified... it denotes the external vertical surfaces of a building generally, the front, the back and the sides, rather than referring only to the front of the building.”  Had the landlord only intended to limit alterations to the front of the building, as the tenant claimed, this would have been made clear in the lease.

If you are considering granting or taking a lease and want to avoid any arguments in the future due to ambiguous drafting, contact our experienced commercial property team on 0161 941 4000 or lawyers@myerson.co.uk.