Property Rights Wrangle Ends Up in Court

Dense tangles of rights of way, easements and other property rights are inevitable in the rabbit warren of heavily populated cities and are a common source of strife. Feelings ran particularly high in one High Court case concerning toilet facilities shared by an adjoining restaurant and hotel.

The restaurant had no toilets of its own but had the benefit of an easement that allowed its customers to pass through a connecting door in order to use the hotel's facilities. The door was blocked whilst the hotel underwent a ten-week refurbishment. The restaurant's response was to seek an injunction requiring the hotel to reopen the access route. The dispute had generated a great deal of heat, with each side accusing the other of behaving in a high-handed fashion.

The restaurant could not operate without toilet facilities and had closed temporarily. However, in refusing to grant the order sought, the Court noted that it had been influenced by the restaurant's regrettable conduct of the litigation, including its failure to give the hotel proper notice of an emergency application.

The Court observed that the hotel had offered an alternative access route to the toilets which would involve only a minimal reduction in the restaurant's kitchen space. The disruption would be for a limited period and the restaurant could readily be compensated for any loss of profit by an award of damages. If granted, the injunction would seriously hamper the refurbishment works, possibly precluding them altogether, and would have an oppressive impact on the hotel.