What exactly is a house?

12th November 2015

What exactly is a house?

New house in box

Ruling opens the door for thousands of leasehold tenants

What exactly is a house?

It may seem like a straightforward question but it is one that has taxed judges for decades.

Now though, a Court of Appeal ruling appears to have settled the issue – and the ramifications of the decision may well assist thousands of tenants who wish to acquire the freehold of their premises.

In a process known as enfranchisement, long leasehold tenants of houses have the right to buy the freehold of the property from their landlord if certain criteria can be met under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967.

But what if you reside above a shop or business premises? Can you still claim, in the legal definition, to be living in a house?

In the recent case of Jewelcraft Limited v Pressland & Anr, the Court of Appeal ruled that those living in such circumstances can be successful in their bid to purchase the freehold.

The Court heard how the premises comprised a self-contained ground floor purpose-built shop with residential accommodation above. Originally, the shop could be accessed via an internal staircase leading to the first floor but in the 1970s the layout was changed. The internal staircase disappeared and access to what then became a self-contained first floor flat was provided by a new external staircase.

The premises were subject held on a long lease and the owner was seeking to purchase the freehold. When a notice to enfranchise was served in 2010, it was initially held that the premises did not constitute a house. However, the tenant successfully appealed on the basis of an error of law.

The Court of Appeal found that the removal of the internal stairway did not take the premises outside the statutory definition of a house. It is a ruling that could help those in a similar position who want to buy the freehold to their property.

The notion of having full ownership of your property can be very appealing and a successful claim can give you security of tenure and improved control, in addition to adding value.

Gotelee Solicitors, which has offices in Ipswich, Felixstowe and Hadleigh, can offer you expert advice on the issue of exercising the right to enfranchise your building. Associate Solicitor Oliver Ray is a specialist in commercial property, dealing regularly with freehold sales and purchases. If you would like to discuss the options available to you, call him on 01473 298110 or email oliver.ray@gotelee.co.uk.

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