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Mobile Homes and Article 8!

In Murphy v Wyatt the Court of Appeal Wyatt brought in a mobile home to replace a dilapidated caravan after her partner Mr Barrett died. The caravan was located on just under 2 acres of rough pasture which the Wyatt’s partner used for his livery business. The landlord served a notice to quit in 2009.

Mr Barrett entered into a oral weekly tenancy in 1975 and in 1979 he moved a caravan onto the plot and began sleeping in the same from time to time. His relationship with Wyatt began in the mid-80s and in 1989 Wyatt moved in with Mr Barrett. In 1996, Mr Barrett then ceased using the land for his livery business.

Mr Barrett then sought a certificate of lawful use for the caravan in 2002 in order to claim Housing benefit. Upon Mr Barrett’s death in 2002 Wyatt continued living in the caravan and paid rent with Murphy’s consent.

The caravan was then replaced in 2007 with a mobile home. Wyatt failed to obtain planning permission and failed to obtain Murphy’s consent. The mobile home was on the same original location but was slightly larger than the caravan. Again the certificate of lawful use was obtained.

The issue before the Court was therefore did Wyatt have security of tenure under the Mobile Homes Act 1983.

The court held that Wyatt did not and found in favour of Murphy. The reasoning for the courts decision was that the 1983 Act could not apply to a tenancy where planning permission was sought after the tenancy term began. The court held

“it would be a little surprising if the 1983 Act protected an occupier, who, after entering an agreement, brought a caravan onto the premises and lived in it, simply because there was nothing in the agreement which precluded his from doing this, unless there has always been planning permission for such a use…”.

The court also held that they did not believe that the 1983 Act could apply to more land than the land on which the mobile home is to be sited plus any garden or other amenity land. If the Act applied to land other than the pitch that was for the tenants use this would run into “serious conflict” with the legislation protecting business and even agricultural tenants.

Wyatt sought permission to appeal but was refused. The court did however state that if any further applications for possession of this site are made the courts may need to consider Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Whilst we can not fault the court for its reasoning it is unfortunate that the issue of Article 8 was dealt with so swiftly and briefly. With the influx of cases recently suggesting that Article 8 is only applicable to social landlords there are fears among private landlords that the scope of Article 8 is going to be extended and some certainty would have certainly been welcome.

One Comment

  • Peter Smith 28th April 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Further certainty would have been welcomed for it seems to me that the Article in this respect applies not only to private to private letting – and I am a landlord myself – but also to possession proceedings by mortgagees.

    The ruling in Kaye v United Kingdom included “notwithstanding that, under domestic law, his right to occupation has come to an end.”

    That surely applies to any sort of occupation, whether as tenant or mortgagee or whatever.

    The test appears to be “proportionality.” With a fairly small portfolio the LL should be able to show that his need for rents to pay mortgages fulfils that test, a larger portfolio or property with no mortgage may have more trouble, and a large lender or a Housing Association even more.

    Again, large families are more likely to gain protection than single people and the conduct of the tenant or mortgagor are likely to be relevant.

    But I cannot see that this can only apply to social landlord tenants just because that was the case with Kaye and others.

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