Play centre boss who appeared on ITV show loses court battle with landlord
- Credit: Archant
A judge has given the owners of a play centre seven days to leave after they lost a court case against their landlord.
Landlord Roger Skinner Holdings Limited took the company which runs 4 Fun Play Centre, at Carlton Park Industrial Estate in Saxmundham, to court on Wednesday for not paying rent.
The owner of 4 Fun Ltd, Layden-Grant Seymour, said he had now been given a week to pack up equipment which took three months to build - but he vowed that it was not the end of the centre.
“We have put our blood, sweat and tears into it,” he said. “We went into the business believing we had a 10-year lease.”
However, the court found that the lease was not signed by both parties, so therefore 4 Fun could be evicted.
Roger Skinner said he was relieved by the ruling, bringing an end to a long-running legal dispute.
Mr Seymour, his wife Frances and their nine children appeared on the ITV show Britain's Biggest Families earlier this month.
But his appearance, in which he is seen driving luxury cars, angered some people in Suffolk and Norfolk, including Mr Skinner, who were owed money by Mr Seymour’s company.
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Mr Seymour has now hit back, saying: “I have been made out to be the worst guy around for not paying suppliers, but we were paying everyone until lockdown.
“He (Mr Skinner) threw thousands of pounds at litigation to get us out. We were fighting for our survival. We have put our life and soul into the play centre.
“We are a hard working family, trying to make an honest living.”
Court documents show that Mr Skinner first took legal action last June to evict 4 Fun for non-payment of rent.
However, commercial landlords were not able to evict tenants at that point due to the pandemic.
In September 2020, Mr Skinner’s solicitor sought surrender of the lease for rent arrears, but 4 Fun refused to surrender.
Then in October, Mr Seymour was accused of breaching the lease by subletting at the site, but that failed too.
In December, the landlord again tried to forfeit the lease.
That month Mr Seymour reported Mr Skinner to police, accusing him of harassment.
Police gave “words of advice” to Mr Skinner but took no further action. Mr Skinner said the allegation was without foundation.
Mr Seymour claimed Mr Skinner wanted him out because he was looking to redevelop the site.
Plans lodged with East Suffolk Council show Mr Skinner wants to build new industrial units on land next to 4 Fun. Its building is not included in those plans but its car park is within the master plan.
But Mr Skinner said the car park was not going to be built on under current plans. He said the reason he fought to get 4 Fun out was for not paying rent and he said he now has a new tenant.
On Tuesday, Mr Skinner’s solicitor argued the two parties had a "tenancy at will" meaning the tenancy could be terminated at any time.
He argued the lease drawn up was not valid because it had not been signed by the two parties. Mr Seymour and his solicitor said he had signed the lease in June 2019, but the landlord had not.
His solicitor argued 4 Fun Ltd had something called a periodic tenancy meaning it could not be kicked out, but the judge disagreed.
He also awarded Mr Skinner £9,000 towards his legal costs of £12,000.
After the hearing, Mr Skinner said he would donate the first month's rent from his new tenant to former staff of 4 Fun.
Mr Seymour, meanwhile, said his family had been subject to abuse after their appearance on the ITV show.
He added: "We have fought to stay in business, save jobs and a valuable local resource. We wish to move forward with our business."