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Rowland v. Blades [2021] EWHC 2928 (Ch)

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Facts

The parties had commenced a relationship in 2006. They each already owned their own homes.

In early 2009, the parties purchased Tadmarton House. The property was purchased with the intention to spend their free time together (Per Dr Rowland), and at weekends and holidays, share with family and friends, and to live in when they retired (Per Ms Blades). (HHJ Jarmon QC held that for the purpose of this judgment, there was no material difference between the descriptions for purchase given by each party [2]).

The property was purchased for just over £1.5 million. The purchase monies and associated costs were supplied by Dr Rowland [3]. The property was registered in the names of both parties.

Later in 2009, Ms B discovered that Dr R had formed a relationship with another person. She told Dr R she did not want him to take his new partner to Tadmarton House. Dr R agreed not to do so. Ms B spent most weekends at the property during the period. In October 2015, Dr R's new relationship broke down and thereafter there was nothing to stop him spending time at the property. However, he chose not to do so after this time [5].

Court at first instance (Deputy Master Hansen)

The court at first instance had ordered that the property should be sold and the net sale proceeds be divided equally between the parties. This was not challenged on appeal [4]. The court had also found that Ms B had excluded Dr R from the property, but only for 3 days per week over weekends in a period from 01 November 2009 to 31 October 2015. This was similarly not challenged on appeal [6].

After setting out his findings in the draft judgment at first instance, Deputy Master Hanson invited the parties to make written submissions as to the sum to be awarded on the basis of his findings [8].

The Single Joint Expert had provided valuations for the period 2009 to 2018 on three different basis: (1) annual rent value; (2) the rental that would have been paid for occasional weekend and holiday use at any time of choice based on daily rent by day of the week; and (3) the rental payable for "occasional weekend and short usage" [9].

Dr R argued the appropriate rate was £650 per day for three days per weekend, and then divided by 2 to reflect Ms B's use, therefore seeking a compensation figure of £288,800. [12].

Ms B argued that the appropriate figure was £36,000. She submitted this was the appropriate figure to compensate H for loss of opportunity of enjoying alternate weekends at Tadmarton House for 6 years (2009-2015). In the alternative, that £36,000 was the appropriate figure by taking the valuation (3) figure for the relevant period of £59,958, but with an additional discount because Ms B argued that not every opportunity to use the property at the weekend would have the value to Dr R which equated to the rent different people would pay for a weekend break [13].

Deputy Master Hansen rejected Dr R's proposed figure of £650 per day [17]. He concluded that Valuation (3) was the most relevant and helpful on the facts of this case. He then applied the daily figures for the six-year exclusion period, thereby calculating a total of £59,958 [16, 18]. The daily rate was applied by Deputy Master Hansen to a three-day stay only twice per month. This was to reflect that following the parties relationship breakdown, they would be unlikely to spend the same weekends at the property [19].

The Appeal

The cross-appeals before HHJ Jarman QC were on a narrow point as to the appropriate calculation and quantum for occupation rent ordered at first instance.

Dr R appealed arguing the compensation for exclusion should have been £216,199 for the period November 2009 to October 2015. Ms B argued that Dr R's award should have been compensatory and based on loss of enjoyment rather than rental values, meaning the appropriate figure was £36,000. In the alternative, that the award should be the £59,958 or the reasons given by the master [1].

HHJ Jarman QC concluded that loss of opportunity for Dr R to enjoy Tadmarton House as his own home in his free time was something different to renting someone else's property for a weekend break [29]. He observed that the facts of this case were unusual and did not fit neatly into any of the scenarios that the SJE had been asked to consider and value. The Master had therefore had to do the best he could on the evidence before him [30].

The difficulty with Dr R's position, was that the figures proposed by him came close to the annual rental figure (valuation (1)). If that figure was divided by two to allow for both parties' separate use, then what Dr R was seeking actually exceeded the figure under that valuation mechanism. The Court held that 'In my judgment this would overcompensate Dr Rowland for loss of the enjoyment which the master found, namely the loss of long weekends rather than loss of full time enjoyment' [35].

HHJ Jarman observes that:

'…the difficulty in this case is deciding which valuation given by the expert, or which combination of valuation, most accurately reflects Dr Rowland's loss as a result of the exclusion as found. Such an exercise needs to take account of fact that the purpose of purchase was to provide a weekend home for this couple which purpose had come to an end and neither enjoyed it during the period in question in the way that had been intended. However, in my judgment, the exercise also has to take into account the fact that Dr Rowland was deprived of a weekend holiday home, rather than a weekend rental. It had been chosen and intended as such, not as a place to rent for the odd weekend' [39].

HHJ Jarman QC went on to conclude that:

- Dr R lost a grand weekend country home, not just an "occasional weekend and short usage" rental [41].

- It was the loss of a grand holiday home which was in question [41.

- However, when determining the appropriate compensation for exclusion, account must be given for the fact that Dr R would not have stayed in the property for 4 days during the week [41].

- That there should not be a deduction to reflect the possibility that Dr R would not go to the property on every weekend he could have [42].

- That 'Where, as here, such loss is not financial, the exercise of assessment inevitably includes an evaluative element rather than being purely arithmetical. In my judgment the loss is more than occasional weekend and short usage but less than the loss of a home, and falls roughly at the midpoint between the two' [43].

HHJ Jarman QC therefore allowed Dr R's appeal, ordering a total award of £120,000. Ms B was given permission to bring her cross-appeal but it was dismissed [45].

Case summary by Bethany Scarsbrook, Barrister, St John's Chambers

For full case, please see BAILII