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Battle of the Beach Huts 2017
- AuthorAndrew Turner
A landowner allows an individual to erect a beach hut on his land. That individual then starts using the beach hut periodically and pays an annual fee to the landowner. After a few years, the landowner wants the beach hut off his land. What is the landowner faced with? Does the owner of the beach hut have anything more than a simple licence?
These are questions that the High Court was asked to address in the recent case of Gilpin v Legg. This case concerned 5 beach huts owned by different people. The landowner wanted possession of his land in question and he therefore served notice on the occupiers. This prompted a legal punch-up.
It was common ground between the parties that the beach huts were chattels and could quite easily be removed from the land; they were not fixtures. The big issue was what rights, if any, the occupiers had to stay on the land. Were they tenants or mere licensees?
The landowner’s argument was that the only right that had been granted to the occupiers was the right to occupy the huts installed on the land and that because these huts were chattels, not fixtures, this right amounted to a licence, not a tenancy of land.
The Judge rejected this argument and referred to the oft-quoted Street v Mountford, a case in which the House of Lords ruled that the hallmark of a tenancy, as opposed to a licence, is the grant of exclusive possession of land for a term at a rent. Applying this test to the beach huts, the Judge held that all three of these characteristics were present, namely the granting of exclusive possession of land (upon which the huts were situated), for a term (a twelve monthly periodic term), and at a rent (an annual fee being paid to the landowner by the occupiers).
The hard-fought beach hut battle was therefore brought to a close by the landowner serving notice on the occupiers terminating their periodic tenancies.
Ultimately, one could argue that the whole thing was a colossal waste of time and money. The beach hut occupiers succeeded with their argument that they were tenants, not licensees. But so what? They still had to pack up and leave. Pyrrhic in every sense.
If you have any queries about this article please contact Andrew Turner, Director, Property Litigation on 01242 586841 or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.