@SIPP (Pension Trustees) Limited v. Insight Travel Services Limited, 4 September 2014 –extent of tenant’s repairing obligations on termination of lease

Outer House case relating to the lease of commercial premises in Port Glasgow. @SIPP were the landlords and Insight, the tenants. @SIPP argued that, when the lease came to an end, the premises were not in good and substantial condition and a dispute arose as to the extent of the tenants repairing obligations under the lease.

There were two issues for the court to decide.

  • Whether the tenants’ obligation on termination of the lease was limited to putting the premises into the condition in which they were accepted by it at the commencement of the lease.
  • Whether the landlord was entitled to payment of a sum equal to the cost of putting the premises into the relevant state of repair, regardless of whether it actually intended to carry out any such work.

Putting and keeping
Lord Tyre began by rejecting @SIPP’s contention[1] that an obligation to keep the premises in good and substantial repair necessarily imports an obligation to put the premises in that condition regardless of its condition at the commencement of the lease. Then, taking a modern approach (which requires the court to consider what a reasonable person would have understood the parties to have meant by the language they used, rather than necessarily imposing interpretation which is grammatical result of the language used) to construction of the relevant clause, Lord Tyre found that the tenant’s obligation was referable to the condition in which they were accepted at the commencement of the lease (and not the condition in which they were deemed to have been accepted).

Remedy for breach of the repairing obligation
Where a tenant breaches its obligation to return the premises to the condition specified in the lease at the end of the term, the landlord is entitled to common law damages for the loss sustained. The landlord will normally argue that that loss amounts to the cost required to put the premises into the specified condition. However, that will not be the measure of the loss in all cases. In some cases the proper measure of loss may be the diminution in the capital value of the subjects[2] and in some cases, for example where the building is to be demolished (for reasons unconnected with the tenant’s breach), the landlord may be unable to show any loss at all.

In this case @SIPP argued that the relevant clause in the lease provided an express right to payment of a sum equivalent to the cost required to put the premises into good and substantial repair and that in exercising that contractual right it was not making a claim for damages for its loss.

However, Lord Tyre found that there was nothing in the relevant clause compelling the interpretation favoured by @SIPP. In the view of Lord Tyre, a lease would require very clear wording to allow a conclusion that the tenant had to pay a sum which bore no relation to that required to compensate the landlord for the loss actually sustained as a result of a breach of the repairing obligation.

As such, Insight were entitled to prove that @SIPP’s loss was equivalent something other than the cost of repair and the case was put out by order for discussion as to further procedure[3].

The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here

(NB see appeal to Inner House appeal here)

All of our property and conveyancing case summaries are contained in the LKS Property and Conveyancing Casebook here.


[1] This argument was based on the judgment of the Supreme Court in L Batley Pet Products Ltd v North Lanarkshire Council[2014] UKSC 27, however, Lord Tyre found that the reference to putting/keeping the property in good condition related to a commentary on the particular clause used in that case rather than making a general statement/change as to the law.

[2] In this case the estimated cost of the works required was over £1m whereas Insight argued that even if it had carried out all of the works in the schedule of dilapidations, the capital value of the premises would only have increased by £175k.

[3]The question of whether @SIPP would be entitled to recover the cost of the repairs if it could prove an intention to carry out the repairs regardless of the extent to which the cost of the repairs would exceed the increase in capital value of the subjects was left open.

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