In a recent decision, the Court of Final Appeal concluded that, according to the deed of mutual covenants (DMC), external walls in a multi-storey building are considered common parts. They emphasized that the first assignment’s reservation clause, granting exclusive use to the developer, doesn’t override the DMC’s designation. The DMC outlines common areas, binding all co-owners with mutual covenants. Thus, the status of external walls is solely determined by the DMC, with the first assignment aiding interpretation only if the DMC is ambiguous.Our Property Group advises about all aspects of land law and we act in all types of property litigation. The core themes are:

  1. Commercial landlord and tenant: rent reviews, contested and uncontested renewals, covenants and consents, forfeiture and relief, dilapidations;
  2. Development: options, pre-emption and contracts for sale, joint ventures and overage, planning agreements, daylight and ways, cables, pipes and drains, demolition and construction, injunctions and specific performance, possession and orders for sale, compulsory purchase;
  3. Mortgages, charges and security: receivership, possession and sale, disputed validity and priority;
  4. Residential landlord and tenant: statutory, assured and secure tenancies, enfranchisement and service charge, enforcement of covenants;
  5. Rural economy: agricultural holdings and farm business tenancies, commons and village greens, mines and minerals, sporting rights, wayleaves and waterways; and
  6. Title: land registration, rectification and priorities, trusts and beneficial ownership, boundaries and easements, restrictive covenants, adverse possession, overriding interests, unregistered land.

Most members of our Property Group are also members of other groups in chambers, such as those dealing with Insolvency or Professional Liability or Trusts, Tax, Probate and Estates. We recognise that property problems do not always come neatly packaged, and sometimes require a breadth of knowledge and experience, transcending the traditional boundaries of conveyancing and land law. One of our strengths is that we can provide people at all levels of seniority who have the cross-disciplinary expertise to deal with the whole problem, and not just the property parts of it. Yet we also have experts in some of the narrowest niches of property law, such as art, cultural property and heirlooms, drones and air rights, manors and inclosure, oil, gas and fracking, strict settlements and perpetuities, and telecommunications. No matter how esoteric or difficult the property problem, we probably have someone who already knows about it, and who has helped to solve it before.

Although we are primarily advocates, not all of our work is contentious. When required, we can also advise upon the appropriate structures, and help to draft the necessary instruments, to solve complex transactional problems; something that will work for all parties to the deal. Nor is our work confined to this jurisdiction. The legacy of the British Empire means that English land law still has a surprisingly long reach. In addition to appearing in the Privy Council members of the group also sometimes advise upon the law in, and travel to, Bermuda and the Caribbean, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.


Rankings and recognition

Wilberforce is ranked as a leading property set in both Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500.

Chambers & Partners 2024: Wilberforce Chambers acts in a wide range of property matters, including both residential and commercial landlord and tenant cases, development disputes, title disputes and agricultural property cases. Members appear frequently in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. This year the set has been instructed is such matters as Annington Property Ltd & Others v The Secretary of State for Defence and Manchester Ship Canal Company v United Utilities Water. A source reports that “members of Wilberforce have the ability to cut through complex matters and identify the points that are central to these and most important for clients,” and another interviewee adds: “A premium offering of property counsel.”

The Legal 500 2024: With a wealth of experience at the senior level, Wilberforce Chambers acts on all forms of property litigation. Core areas of focus for the set include commercial landlord and tenant, development, mortgages and property rights concerning economy. Jonathan Seitler KC acted before the Supreme Court in On Tower v AP Wireless, a group appeal brought by numerous cell site operators involving numerous issues of the Telecommunications Code, including the interpretation of the transitional provisions between the new and old codes. Joanne Wicks KC is acting on R (Annington Property Ltd & Others) v The Secretary of State for Defence, a case concerning a proposal by the MoD to reacquire married quarters it disposed of via a sale and leaseback arrangement using conventional enfranchisement law. Tiffany Scott KC represented the claimant in Clifford v Grosvenor West End Properties, in which the inhabitant of a Mayfair mews home sought to require the Duke of Westminster to eject prostitutes and drug dealers from an adjacent block of flats.

The Legal 500 Awards 2023: Benjamin Faulkner wins Property and Housing Junior of the Year and John McGhee KC and Jonathan Seitler KC are shortlisted for Property and Housing Silk of the Year.

Chambers Bar Awards 2022: Jonathan Seitler KC wins Real Estate Silk of the Year and Benjamin Faulkner is shortlisted for Real Estate Junior of the Year

The Legal 500 Awards 2022: Joanne Wicks KC wins Real Estate Silk of the Year

The Legal 500 UK Awards 2020: Wilberforce wins Real Estate Set of the Year

Chambers Bar Awards 2018: Wilberforce wins Real Estate Set of the Year

Notable cases

Donora Company Limited v The Incorporated Owners of Tsuen Kam Centre [2024] HKCFA 3

The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal allowed the appeal and held that, on the proper construction of the deed of mutual covenants (DMC), the external walls are common parts in that multi-storey building. The relevant character of the external walls is to be determined by reference to the DMC, though the first assignment may be referred to as an aid to construction in case of ambiguity in the DMC.

Read the full judgment

Water Plus Limited and another v Brendon International Limited [2024]

[2024] EWCA Civ 220

A Court of Appeal case claiming restitution of alleged overcharges for sewerage services. The judgment clarifies the operation of the burden of proof in such circumstances, and provides guidance about the ability of factual witnesses to give expert evidence without the Court’s permission which will be of interest to practitioners more generally.

Read the full judgment


IAA Vehicle Services v HBC Limited [2024]

[2024] EWHC 1 (Ch)

High Court grants specific performance of three leasehold options.

The Claimant had served valid notices to exercise valuable options in three leases but had omitted to pay the 10% deposits which were due by midnight on the date the Claimant exercised the options.

Read the full judgment

Asturion Fondation v Alibrahim [2023]

[2023] EWHC 3305 (Ch)

The case, one of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2023, concerns a multimillion-pound property on The Bishop’s Avenue (sometimes known as “Billionaire’s Row”) in North London.

The judgment, in addition to dealing with questions of Liechtenstein, Swiss and Shari’a Law, addresses a number of principles of English property and trusts law and conflicts of laws.

Read the full judgment

Gill v Lees News Ltd [2023]

[2023] EWCA Civ 1178

The Court of Appeal gives important guidance on some of the grounds on which a landlord may oppose the grant of a new tenancy to a business tenant under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.

Read the full judgment

CPF One Limited & anor v Ortus Secured Finance I Limited [2023]

[2023] EWHC 2102 (Ch)

Successfully obtaining summary judgment in the defendants’ favour.

This judgment is be of especial interest to commercial lenders, particularly those operating in the realm of property and development finance.

Read the full judgment

Ensign House Limited v FEC Development Management Limited & Ors [2023]

[2023] EWHC 1563 (Ch)

The 342-page judgment contains much that will be of interest to practitioners in the field, including findings on the nature of fiduciary duties owed by different kinds of property agents, and the nature of negotiating damages for breaches of broad NDAs.

Read the full judgment

Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd v United Utilities Water Ltd [2023]

[2022] EWCA Civ 852

The latest round of the litigation between the Manchester Ship Canal Company and United Utilities Water Ltd about discharges from sewers into the canal. Supreme Court judgment awaited.

R (Annington Property Ltd) & Ors v Secretary of State for Defence & Ors [2023]

[2023] EWHC 1154 (Admin)

Deciding whether the MoD had the right to enfranchise eight homes occupied by the families of military personnel, in a test case named as one of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2023. The Judge decided that the MoD could enfranchise all eight houses.

Read the full judgment

Jalla & Anr v Shell International Trading and Shipping Company & Anr [2023]

[2023] UKSC 16

A Supreme Court appeal concerning the law of continuing private nuisance. The Claimants, who live and own property by or in the hinterland of the Nigerian Atlantic shoreline, brought a claim against various entities in the Royal Dutch Shell group of companies in respect of an oil spill that occurred in the offshore Bonga oil field in late 2011. This was one of the largest offshore oil spills in Nigerian oil exploration history.

Read the full judgment

Cayman Shores Development Ltd and another v Registrar of Lands and Others [2023]


The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal clarifies important aspects of Cayman Islands’ property law regarding restrictive agreements, easements and Land Register rectification.

Bank of New York Mellon v Cine-UK and London Trocadero v Picturehouse Cinemas [2022]

[2022] EWCA Civ 1021

Much-talked-about Covid rent arrears claims heard together in the Court of Appeal. Recognised as Estates Gazette’s top property case of 2022.

Read the full judgment

Cornerstone v Compton Beauchamp; Cornerstone v Ashloch; On Tower v AP Wireless [2022]

[2022] UKSC 18

Three Supreme Court cases heard together. The first time the Supreme Court case has considered the new Telecoms Code. And the first Supreme Court ruling on who is an occupier for the purposes of the Telecoms Code. The judgment is a significant boost for operators and will make it much easier for them to secure the agreements required for the roll out of 5G services. Recognised as one of Estates Gazette’s Top 10 Cases of 2022.

Read the full the judgment


Bath Rugby Ltd v Greenwood & Ors v Bath Recreation Ltd [2021]

[2021] EWCA Civ 1927

The most significant restrictive covenant case to reach the Court of Appeal for 10 years, settling the issue as to whether a restrictive covenant can be annexed to a ‘neighbourhood’.

Read the full judgment


Wynne-Finch & Ors v Natural Resources Body for Wales [2021]

[2021] EWCA Civ 1473

A landmark decision in the most complex mines and minerals case to be litigated for many years (decades). The case was about the ownership of mudstone across 40 titles covering hundreds of acres of forestry land controlled by the defendant, Natural Resources.

Read the full judgment


Capitol Park Leeds v Global Radio Services [2021]

[2021] EWCA CIV 995

A high-profile case about tenant break clauses. The matter concerned a three-storey modern commercial unit, constructed in 2000, outside Leeds.

Read the full judgment

TFS Stores Ltd v Designer Retail Outlet (Mansfield) General Partner Ltd [2021]

[2021] EWCA Civ 688

A Court of Appeal case about the process by which business tenants agree to give up the security of tenure they would otherwise have under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.

Read the full judgment


Fishbourne Developments Limited v Stephens [2020]

[2020] EWCA Civ 1704

The Court of Appeal underlines the importance of the factual context and commercial common sense when interpreting the trigger for the exercise of an option over development land. This was an expedited appeal about the interpretation of an option agreement to acquire a 117-acre farm in the village of Fishbourne, near Chichester in West Sussex.

Read the full judgment

Alexander Devine Children’s Cancer Trust v Housing Solutions Ltd [2020]

[2020] UKSC 45

The first ever case in which the highest court (whether House of Lords or Supreme Court) has considered s.84(1) of the Law of Property Act 1925 – the power of the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) to modify or discharge restrictive covenants.

Read the full judgment

TFS Stores Ltd v BMG (Ashford) Ltd & Ors [2020]

[2020] EWCA Civ 833

The Court of Appeal gives important clarity and breathing space to commercial and residential tenants by confirming that all parts of proceedings involving a claim for possession brought by a landlord are automatically stayed.

Read the full judgment


Duval v 11-13 Randolph Crescent Ltd [2020]

[2020] UKSC 18

Estates Gazette’s No. 1 Property Case of 2020. A Supreme Court appeal with very important ramifications for flat owners and the landlords of blocks of flats. The Supreme Court decided that if a landlord has promised leaseholders that it will enforce the covenants in their neighbours’ leases, it cannot give permission for works to other flats without the consent of everybody in the block.

Read the full judgment


University of London v Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited [2019]

[2019] EWCA Civ 2075

The first case in the Court of Appeal on Interim Rights and temporary Rights under the new Telecommunications Code. The result has been a massive boost for mobile phone operators in terms of their ability to put telcoms kit where they like.

Read the full judgment


Sequent Nominees Ltd v Hautford Ltd [2019]

[2019] UKSC 47

The Supreme Court by majority of 3 to 2 reverses unanimous Court of Appeal decision and holds that a landlord’s refusal of consent to an application for change of planning use was reasonable.

Read the full judgment


Great Dunmow Estates Limited v Crest Nicholson Operations Ltd & Ors [2019]

[2019] EWCA Civ 1683

Success in the Court of Appeal in the highest value case in this country on the question of when a Court can intervene in an expert determination under a property contract.

Read the full judgment


Gaia v Abbeygate Helical [2019]

[2019] EWCA Civ 823

A case about whether a developer, Abbeygate Helical, had fulfilled its obligation to use ‘reasonable endeavours’ to satisfy certain conditions ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ so as to trigger an obligation to make a £1.4million overage payment. The conditions related to ’site assembly’, specifically the acquisition of and variation to various interests to enable the development to take place.

Read the full judgment

Churston Golf Club v Richard Haddock [2019]

[2019] EWCA Civ 544

The Court of Appeal overturns the decision of Birss J that a standard form of fencing covenant should be treated as an anomalous “fencing easement”, capable of binding successors in title.

Read the full judgement


Canary Wharf v European Medicines Agency [2019]

[2019] EWHC 335 (Ch)

A landmark case whereby The European Medicines Agency, the EU regulator of medicines, claimed that its 25-year lease of premises in Canary Wharf would be “frustrated” – i.e. brought automatically to an end – by Brexit. The case attracted significant press and legal interest and appeared as one of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases of 2019.

Read the full judgment


S Franses v The Cavendish Hotel [2018]

[2018] UKSC 62

The first case to go to the Supreme Court on the business tenancies legislation, under which business tenants are entitled to renew their leases when they come to an end. It affects large numbers of business tenants and their landlords.

Read the full judgment


Clutterbuck & Paton v Cleghorn [2018]

[2018] EWHC 2125 (Ch)

After a three-week trial the High Court dismissed the Claimants’ claims for fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of a property joint venture agreement.

Read the full judgment

No.1 West India Quay v East Tower Apartments [2018]

[2018] EWCA Civ 250

This was the first case under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1988 relating to residential long leases, to reach the higher courts.

Read the full judgment

Sackville v Robertson Taylor [2018]

[2018] EWHC 122 (Ch)

Orientfield Holdings Ltd v Bird & Bird [2017]

[2017] EWCA Civ 348

Clutterbuck v Cleghorn [2017]

[2017] EWCA Civ 137

The Court of Appeal considered the correct approach to cases of alleged abuse of process comprising a failure to follow the guidelines in relation to overlapping claims set out in Aldi Stores [2008] 1 WLR 748.

Read the full judgment

Wensley v Persons Unknown [2017]

Vivienne Westwood v Conduit Street Devpts[2017]

Matchmove v Dowding [2016]

Catalyst Housing Limited v Martin [2016]

SEPT v Laindon [2016]

Bryant Homes Southern Ltd v Stein Management Ltd [2016]

Insights View all thought leadership

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    Green, brown and grey belts: modifying restrictive covenants, and the Upper Tribunal’s Discretion

    Article by Martin Hutchings KC, 20th May 2024 To read or download this article as a PDF, please click here. Introduction Why s.84(1) powers of the Upper Tribunal matter. The powers of the UT are important to developers because they are... Read more

    By Martin Hutchings KC
    Monday 20 May 2024

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    Wilberforce shortlisted for Chambers of the Year at The Lawyer Awards 2024

    We are delighted to announce that Wilberforce Chambers has been shortlisted at this year’s The Lawyer Awards for Chambers of the Year! Winners will be announced on Tuesday 18th June at London’s JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel. We are incredibly... Read more

    Friday 12 April 2024

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    Recent Cases

    Court of Final Appeal judgment on Proper role of the first assignment in delineating common parts

    Property, International / offshore

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    60 seconds with Simon Atkinson

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    By Simon Atkinson
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    Monday 10th July 2024
    Hogan Lovells London offices

    Alice Hawker

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    External Conferences

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    Thursday 26th September 2024
    The Midland Hotel, Manchester

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    London International Disputes Week 2024

    Thursday 6th June 2024

    Joanne Wicks KC

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    White Paper’s Commercial Property Leases Conference

    Thursday 16th May 2024
    The Caledonian Club, London

    Martin Hutchings KC

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    PBA Leeds Conference: Challenges for property litigators in 2024

    Thursday 30th April 2024
    Doubletree by Hilton, Leeds

    Tiffany Scott KC

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    Arbrix’s annual Index Conference 2024

    Thursday 18th April 2024
    Ardencote Manor Hotel, Warwick

    Benjamin Faulkner

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