Lilyford v La Porta: repossession and relief

The law of forfeiture, in particular the landlord’s right to repossess and the tenant’s right to relief, is highly complex. Without specific expertise in landlord and tenant law and the proper and timely deployment of active or protective tactics, parties can find themselves waiving rights or estopping themselves from taking action. Non-specialist courts can and do err in this niche area, with potentially devastating effects, to the extent that parties can become erroneously excluded from land. The case of Lilyford Limited v Giovanni La Porta is an interesting illustration.

In 2001 the defendant landlord (Mr La Porta) let two properties, a restaurant and flats above, on two separate leases to the claimant tenant (Lilyford). By 2009 a dispute had arisen over the subletting of the flats. During the dispute (which led to litigation) Mr La Porta declined to accept any rent from Lilyford in respect of either lease. Following the conclusion of those proceedings, Mr La Porta wrote to Lilyford demanding payment of all outstanding rent and insurance within 21 days, failing which he would forfeit both leases. Rent was not paid and, on 11 November 2009, 21 days after the date of the letter, Mr La Porta took possession of the restaurant (but not the flats) and immediately let the restaurant to a third party. On 20 November 2009, Lilyford issued a claim in the Barnet County Court for relief against forfeiture…

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