Mina and Jeffrey Herrmann bought a Grade II listed property in the exclusive enclave on the borders of Knightsbridge and Chelsea at Ovington Square for reputedly in excess of £7,000,000. The property did not have a garden of consequence and it appears that the purchasers incorrectly believed that they would have the right to access the private gardens set within the centre of the Square. Reports suggest that this was following assurances from their conveyancing solicitors that rights to the gardens would be attached to the property.
Although the property had a view of the garden square, it was not facing the garden and it was deemed therefore that there was no right to a key and access to the garden. Legal action was brought both against the Garden Committee that maintain the garden as well as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
After a long and drawn out legal process, they have been informed by the High Court that access to the Square is not a right due to property ownership nor being able to see the private garden from within the property, as the property did not face the garden “in the sense intended”. Not only have they been advised that they do not have rights of access to the Garden but the purchasers are also faced with a legal bill in the region of £130,000.
In his judgement Sir William Blackburne, the Judge said if Mr and Mrs Herrmann had succeeded it would open the floodgates for other home owners in similar positions to apply for access to private gardens.
Properties in Ovington Square are reputed to be let out for in excess of £20,000 per week and are some of the most expensive and exclusive homes in London. The property itself was believed to have once been the home of Lillie Langtree, the mistress of amongst others the future Edward VII when Prince of Wales and Prince Louis of Battenburg.
The consequences to the new owners obviously involve a loss of amenity to the property (and corresponding loss of value) and a legal bill to pay. Whether this will be at the ultimate cost of the purchasers or at the cost of any legal advisor’s indemnity insurers, we cannot confirm.
It is however an expensive and salient reminder of the need to be precise about specific rights that attach to a property, whether within the demise of the property to be purchased or simply any benefit outside it.
26th October 2010