A House Is A Dwelling, Not An Office Or Hotel Says Supreme Court

John Stephenson, Senior Partner at BDB, believes that the Supreme Court ruling that a house in English law must involve a substantial element which is used or usable as a residential dwelling is one of the most decisive, unequivocal rulings he has ever seen.

In its decision allowing the landlord's appeals from the "reluctant "decisions of the Court of Appeal that buildings which were originally houses but had subsequently been adapted wholly to other uses could be enfranchised under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, the Court has firmly rejected the notion of "once a house, always a house", no matter what the use of the property at the time of the claim.

"The judgement is striking for its clarity - there is no doubt or hesitation in it as it resists, both on policy and legal grounds, the notion that buildings having the current physical character of offices or other business premises can still be houses in law so as to enable the tenant to buy the freehold," explains John Stephenson.

The Court's unanimous judgement, delivered by Lord Carnwath and supported without addition or qualification by the other six members of the panel, including the outgoing Supreme Court President Lord Phillips, overturned a Court of Appeal led by the then Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, who has, subsequently to the Hosebay hearing in the Supreme Court, become its President.

The decision involved two cases, Day v Hosebay, where the houses in Rosary Gardens SW7 had been converted into self-contained flatlets being let for very short periods, what the judge in the lower court called a 'self-catering hotel', and Howard de Walden v Lexgorge, where the building in Queen Anne Street had again started life as a dwelling house, but had over the years been converted to use as offices.

"The judgement does not criticise the judgements in earlier landmark cases on the issue, such as those in Lake, Tandon, Boss Holdings and Prospect Estates, but derives most help from the judgment of Lord Denning in a 1965 slum clearance case known as Ashridge. Denning's definition of a house in that...

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