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Company can reclaim house following occupier’s failures

A property company has won the right to repossess a house after the occupier failed to comply with an obligation to insure it and keep it in good repair.

The case involved a woman who had lived in the house all her life. In 1985, ownership passed to her brother.

In 2008, the brother sold the house after making a statutory declaration that she should be entitled to occupy it for the rest of her life provided that she maintained and insured it.

In September 2011, the house was sold to a property company but the brother’s declaration remained in force.

A surveyor's report obtained in October 2012 had identified numerous defects requiring immediate repair. The occupier failed to carry out those repairs and also failed to take out insurance. The company took legal action to gain possession.

The County Court dismissed the occupier’s defence that the previous owners had ignored her breaches and therefore her failure to carry out repairs and obtain insurance could not now be treated as repudiation of the terms of her occupation.

It was common ground between the two sides that she had failed to insure and maintain the property. The breaches had continued year by year and, while previous owners had not complained, since at least December 2012, the new company had.

The court held that there were no grounds for holding that there had been waiver of any breaches that had occurred since then and so the company was granted the right to repossess.

The Court of Appeal has upheld that decision.

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