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Chattel or part of the land? The naked truth 30 July 2015

I wrote recently about a case in which the court took the view that a lodge in a holiday park was a chattel, meaning that the occupier had a lease only of the land and not of the structure (to use a neutral word) – and therefore did not benefit from the protections given to residential tenants by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (see “Dwelling on the problems” on 26 February 2015).

Now here is a similar case, but with three twists.  The case is Spielplatz Ltd v Pearson [2015] EWCA Civ 804.  First, in this case the court decided that the structure (termed a “chalet” in this case) was part of the land, and therefore the tenant was an assured tenant, with all the benefits that that brings (including the landlord’s implied covenant to repair).  This was in part because a jointly instructed expert had opined that “the original construction would have been intended to be permanent and was not mobile or movable at any point in its life.”  In effect, the structure could only have been moved by demolishing it and rebuilding it elsewhere.

Secondly, this decision was reached in spite of the fact that both landlord and tenant were convinced that the chalet belonged to the tenant (ie that it was a chattel, not part of the land).  Sir Colin Rimer, giving the only judgment in the Court of Appeal, said:

“The [tenants] had likewise believed, and were adamant in their evidence, that they owned the chalet.”

He went on to say:

“The judge observed that whilst, therefore, both parties were denying that [the landlord] had any interest in the chalet, it might be that they were both wrong.”

This gives me an excuse to trot out (once again) my favourite landlord and tenant quote, which is from Lord Templeman in Street v Mountford [1985] AC 809:

“The manufacture of a five pronged implement for manual digging results in a fork even if the manufacturer, unfamiliar with the English language, insists that he intended to make and has made a spade.”

(Incidentally, you can read an article about that case, which I wrote last year for Landlord & Tenant Review, by clicking on this link.)

Thirdly, the park in which the structure had been erected was a naturist resort.  From my limited researches, this ought to have nothing whatever to do with the law as to whether the structure was part of the land or a chattel, but I remain nervous about being definitive about that, given that both the Court of Appeal and the writer of the Lawtel summary took the trouble to tell us that the landlord, Spielplatz Limited, ran a naturist resort (near St Albans, should you be tempted to investigate).  I think it must be the same sort of reporting that insists that the age of anyone who is mentioned in a newspaper is provided, despite it rarely being relevant in any way.

In passing, I was hoping to find the usual statement in this sort of decision that the judge had carried out a site visit – which could have made the fact that the chalet was located within a naturist resort a very relevant factor indeed.  It took me back to the classic Peter Sellers’ film “A Shot in the Dark”.  You may recall that Inspector Clusoe has to visit a naturist resort while investigating a murder.  The audience’s sensibilities are, fortunately, protected by means of a strategically placed guitar.

peter sellers

Sadly history does not relate whether the judge in this case made a site visit or, if she did, what (if any) musical instrument she was carrying around with her at the time.  In any event, the judge (Her Honour Judge Lindsay Davies at Luton County Court) deserves plaudits for reaching the conclusion that the chalet was part of the land,despite hearing evidence from both the landlord and the tenant that it was not.

 

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