In Mew and Just v Tristmire Limited the leaseholder obtained possession orders upon the expiry of 2 notices to quit.
Mew and Just lived in houseboats which were located in a rectangular shaped plot around the edge of a harbour. The houseboats are converted landing craft which were constructed locally during the Second World War. They were subsequently modified and made water tight and habitable. They were once capable of floating but now rest on wooden platforms which are supported by wooden piles driven and cemented into the bed of the harbour. Services such as water, gas and electricity were connected but they could also be easily disconnected.
An expert giving evidence at court confirmed that generally houseboats can be removed by crane and then floated to a new location however in this case given the age and condition, if the houseboats were moved they would be probably be damaged or destroyed.
When Mew and Just purchased the houseboats they did not purchase the plot that the houseboats were situated in, they were owned by Tristmire who served a number of notices to quit and section 13 notices to raise the rent. However Mew and Just claimed that they were not licensees of the plots but assured tenants under the Housing Act 1988 and as such the notices were invalid.
The argument put to the court by Mew and Just was that the houseboats have a degree of permanence so as to make them part of the plot and cannot now be removed without their disintegration. That even if they were in good repair they were just like houses on stilts which are not intended to be removed.
But the court found for Tristmire and held that that the houseboats remained essentially boats, albeit adapted for residential use. They were constructed elsewhere and placed in the plot and did not as such form part of the realty and therefore remain as chattels. The court compared the houseboats to caravans, which as designed, are moveable.
Therefore because the houseboats did not become affixed to the land Mew and Just could not become assured tenants and were indeed licensees and the notices were therefore valid.
We often get asked whether ASTs can be granted for houseboats and it is a grey area as confirmed above. It is the degree of permanency that is relevant and this detail needs to be obtained before any decision is made.