The lessons learned from a recent dilapidations ruling are less about legal issues; rather, the case highlights the particular importance of one expert's conduct and duties.
Coldunell Ltd v Hotel Management International Ltd  EWHC 1290 (TCC) centred on a dilapidations claim at a Surrey hotel. The 20-year lease required the tenant to return the property in good and substantial repair and condition. Because it failed to do so, the terminal schedule of dilapidations claimed almost £1.1m, of which around £465,000 had already been incurred by the landlord.
On the question of the standard of repair, the parties agreed the following six principles in relation to the claim.
The landlord's expert surveyor knew the property, having previously been instructed by them to deal with an insurance claim, as well as undertaking inspections over several years. He was also the contract administrator for the external works and boiler repairs carried out after the end of the lease.
The tenant argued that the expert could not be independent because of this dual role, but the court disagreed. The judge felt it was reasonable and proportionate for the landlord to rely on this expert given his detailed knowledge of the condition of the property and works required.
In addition, she found that the landlord's surveyor had given his evidence in a 'measured manner', including making appropriate concessions and accepting the limits of his knowledge. She noted that he had sought 'to assist the court[,] and that he well understood that he had an independent role to perform'.
Unfortunately, the court could not say the same of the tenant's expert, with whom two key problems were found.
By contrast, both parties' valuation experts gave 'their evidence in a measured and thoughtful manner seeking to assist the court'. The court rejected the tenant's attempt to challenge the independence of the landlord's valuation expert on the basis of his involvement in marketing the hotel. The judge observed that this did not prevent the expert from 'giving his honest professional opinion as to the value of the hotel in September 2016', which had not been favourable to the landlord on some elements.
The court ultimately found for the landlord in the sum of £597,117, including costs not yet incurred of £168,267 and Scott Schedule and quantity surveyor costs of £7,000.
More importantly, experts in all fields should take note of the court's observations here regarding the quality of expert evidence and ensure they consult both CPR Part 35 and the RICS guidance Surveyors Acting as Expert Witnesses before preparing and giving evidence. Surveyors advising on dilapidations claims should also consult the relevant RICS guidance note covering dilapidations in England and Wales or Scotland and the Dilapidations Protocol.