What Constitutes a House?
We recently wrote in our article on Day Estate v Hosebay and Howard de Walden Estates v Lexgorge that the long-standing dispute over the meaning of a house under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 is far from over. Sure enough, the case of Brightbest Limited v Meyrick has recently been decided in the Winchester County Court and it is beginning to look like we will never definitively know what constitutes a house.
The 1967 Act gives the tenant of a house under a long lease the right to compulsorily acquire the freehold of the house from his landlord, provided the tenant has owned the lease for two years and certain conditions are met. The first condition is that the property be a “house”, which under the 1967 Act can include “any building designed or adapted for living in and reasonably so called”.
In Brightbest, a tenant of two buildings sought to acquire them both from the landlord on the basis that they were houses under the 1967 Act. One of the buildings was a house built in 1876 with a GIA of 10,675 square feet. It was subsequently increased to 13,522 square feet by the addition of a new wing in 1930 when the building was converted into 32 residential units for occupation by impoverished women. The other building, the cottage, was originally constructed as stables ancillary to the main building.
The judge in the County Court found that the main building was originally designed for living in and was also later adapted for living in, but he did not consider the building to be a house reasonably so called, finding that the essential character of a “house” had been lost by 1930 and replaced with something plainly institutional.
The judge found that the cottage was also not a house reasonably so called, but that in any event, it was excluded from the right to enfranchise because it was ancillary to the main building within the meaning of section 1(3) of the 1967 Act.