Dem-Master Demolition Limited v Healthcare Environmental Services Limited, 19 November 2015 – Interpretation of repairing obligation in lease

Outer House case considering the extent of a repairing obligation under a lease of industrial premises in Shotts.

Demi-Master were the landlords and HES, the tenants. Demi-Master sought declarator that the lease had been terminated in terms of notices of irritancy which they had served following HES’s failure to respond to notices requiring HES to comply with the repairing obligations under the lease and also to make the premises clean and tidy in terms of the repairing clause in the lease.

The repairing clause provided:

“The Tenants accept the Premises as being in such condition as shown on the attached Photographic Schedule and in all respects fit for the Tenants’ purposes and shall at their sole expense and, to the reasonable satisfaction of the Landlords, repair and maintain and renew (and, if necessary for the purposes of maintenance and repair, to replace and rebuild) and decorate and keep the Premises and all permitted additions and new buildings, if any, in like condition as is evidenced on the said Photographic Schedule and in a clean and tidy condition, clear of all rubbish, for the Duration…”

Although the repairing clause referred to a photographic schedule detailing the condition of the premises at the commencement of the lease, neither party had a copy of the schedule and it may have been that it had never existed.

Dem-master, who were seeking a summary decree (which can be granted where, even if a defender succeeds in proving the substance of its defence, its case must fail), argued that as HES had (in terms of the repairing obligation) accepted the Premises as being “in all respects fit for the tenants’ purposes” at the date of entry, they had accepted that the Premises were in a tenantable condition at that time.

On the other hand, HES argued that, the premises were already badly dilapidated at the date of entry.  They were not wind and water tight and had not been for some years previously.  The reference to the premises being fit for the tenants’ purpose in the lease was not an acceptance that the premises were wind and watertight or otherwise in a good state of repair. HES’s use of the Premises did not require them to be wind and watertight and, in contrast to Dem-master’s assertion, the effect of the reference was to make it clear that the premises had not been wind and watertight or in a tenantable condition at the date of entry.

Lord Doherty found that he was not in a position to determine the meaning of the repairing clause without an inquiry into the material circumstances surrounding the signing of the lease and, in particular, the state of the premises at the date of entry (finding that HES were not bound to fail in their defence and he could not grant summary decree in favour of Dem-Master) and put the case out by order for a discussion as to further procedure.

The full judgement is available from Scottish Courts here.


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