Declaratory relief only granted in cases of real dispute between parties

When a tenant of a warehouse sought a declaration from the High Court against a landlord in relation to repairs to the warehouse, the court refused to issue such a declaration.

In the case of Office Depot International (UK) Ltd v (1) UBS Asset Management (UK) Ltd (2) AMEC Foster Wheeler Group Ltd (3) FK Facades Ltd (4) UBS Triton General Partner Ltd, the matters before the court raised the issue of whether, and in what circumstances, the court should exercise any discretion to grant declaratory relief to satisfy a party's obligations under a commercial agreement. In the final analysis, the court said that declaratory relief would only be granted if there was a real dispute and precise terms could be set out in the declaration. That was not the situation here.

The proceedings concerned the design, construction and maintenance of a warehouse. UBS granted a lease of the warehouse, which included a repairs clause, to Office Depot for a term of 20 years, subsequent to which a claim emerged against the defendants in relation to faults and repairs.

In deciding not to grant the declaration, the High Court said: “There must be finality in litigation. The injustice to the defendants in letting the proceedings continue is that they have an unknown claim hanging over them. They are entitled to know the nature and quantum of the claims against them and should not have the uncertainty of waiting for a case to evolve. The parties are entitled to a fair and expeditious determination of the dispute.”

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