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Meaning of a 'house' and the Leasehold Reform Act

Meaning of a 'house' and of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967

A court has clarified whether the Leasehold Reform Act can apply to derelict properties converted to use as a hostel .

The case of Brightbest Ltd George Christopher Cadafel Tapps Gervis Meyrick (Bart) arose after the claimant leaseholder tried to find out if they were permitted to purchase the freehold to the two buildings.

However, this raised questions as to whether the properties could be classed as a house, given that they had been converted into flats and bedsits and used as a hostel.

A court later determined that the properties - one main building and a cottage - could not be categorised as houses under the Leasehold Reform Act.

Mark Vinall, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors specialising in enfranchisement and residential property matters, commented: "In this case the court applied the principles from the Supreme Court’s decision in Day v Hosebay Ltd [2012] UKSC 41, [2012] 1 W.L.R. 2884, to decide whether two derelict buildings, comprising a main building and a cottage, which had been converted into bedsits and flats were "houses" within the meaning of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 s.2(1) namely whether the building was one "designed or adapted for living in" or was a "house ... reasonably so called".

"It reiterated that, with regard to whether the buildings were "designed or adapted for living in", parliament had expressed itself using simple English and over-analysis was unlikely to aid the application of the phrase to particular properties.

"The court looked at the story told by the documents as opposed to relying on the way in which the parties described the properties. It concluded that while It was clear that the main building was initially designed to be lived in extensive alterations had been undertaken changing the property into a "hostel" and a "Home" for "ladies of limited means"; the property had completely changed in character; a new lease had to be granted because the contemplated change in use was so significant. By 1930 the property was not a house, reasonably so called; there were no contemporaneous documents to suggest that it was regarded as anything other than a hostel.

"The cottage was separate from the main building. Its use was originally that of a coach house before being converted at the same time as the main building into two flats with separate entrances and no common parts. It was clear that the cottage was to be used for the same purpose as the main building as extended and converted. The 1928 lease tied the use of the cottage to the main building; the only lawful use of the cottage was ancillary to that building. The cottage never had the character of a house; it had been used as, and had the character of, a small block of two flats. Those flats were not "houses" and, although the cottage as a whole might be, the complete lack of connection between the two units meant that it could not reasonably be so called.

"The court found that no one objectively considering the cottage would call it a house, a point that was reinforced if the observer was aware of the building's history.

"Lessons to be taken from this are firstly that where the use of a building has changed over time it appears that the use as evidenced by the relevant documentation from the time of the change in user will be determinative and secondly where a building comprises flats the layout (in this case separate entrances and consequent lack of common parts) and appearance to the layman will be determinative."

Source: Lexology


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