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Eventuate Capital Ltd v Grosvenor Estate Belgravia (E02CL652)

Toby Boncey acted for the successful Defendant landlord in the County Court at Central London sitting at 10 Alfred Place under one of the first unopposed business lease renewal claims to proceed to trial under the County Court and First-tier Tribunal Unopposed Business Lease Renewal Pilot Scheme (cf White Book 56.LT).

This was an unopposed business lease renewal claim in respect of office premises at 13a Motcomb Street, London SW1. The issue for the Court was the determination of rent payable under the new lease and interim rent.

The Claimant sought a rent of £27,500 per annum but called no expert evidence in support of that figure. The Defendant, in reliance upon expert evidence in support of its figure, sought a rent and interim rent in the sum of £53,560. The Court accepted the Defendant’s expert valuation evidence and accordingly determined the rent and interim rent in the sum of £53,560.

The approach of the Court to the pilot scheme procedure may be of more general interest to practitioners.

Deputy Regional Tribunal Judge MartyƄski sat as a Judge of the County Court (judges of the First-tier Tribunal being judges of the County Court by virtue of s.5 of the County Courts Act 1984).

Mrs Anthea Rawlence was also present at the hearing with a view to sitting as an assessor, as contemplated by the pilot scheme.

Neither party had been notified in writing pursuant to 35PD.10 of the name of the proposed assessor, of the matter in respect of which the assistance of the assessor would be sought or of the qualifications of the assessor to give that assistance. It was explained to the parties that this was because it would be prohibitively expensive for the Tribunal to incur the cost of appointing identified assessors for every case 21 days before the hearing, since the majority of cases in the pilot scheme settle shortly before trial. The parties were content, however, for Mrs Rawlence to be appointed as a valuation assessor and invited the Court to make an order to appoint her as such.

Accordingly, at the hearing, but before commencement of the trial, Mrs Anthea Rawlence was appointed as an Assessor pursuant to section 63 of the County Courts Act 1984 to assist the Court in the evaluation of expert evidence in relation to the valuation of commercial leases.

The Court was invited to make suitable directions to clarify the assessor’s role in the hearing (in accordance with CPR 35.15(3)) and to permit the parties an opportunity to comment on any advice given to the Court by the assessor (in accordance with the guidance in The Owners of the Bow Spring v The Owners of the Manzanillo II [2004] EWCA Civ 1007 at [59]).

Directions were given that Mrs Rawlence would attend the trial, inspect the subject property and compile a summary report which would be made available to the parties prior to the parties making submissions. It was anticipated that any comments made by Mrs Rawlence on the evidence given at trial could be the subject of submissions either orally at the hearing or during written closing. The report provided to the parties following the site visit largely comprised notes of the inspection and the layout and condition of the subject property.

An order was also made at the hearing disapplying the ordinary rule in s.63(3) of the County Courts Act 1984 that the remuneration of the assessor should be costs in the proceedings, neither party bearing the cost of Mrs Rawlence’s remuneration for sitting.

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