Occasionally lawyers and the legal press get very excited about something that to the oridnary man on the street would be obvious. The recent Supreme Court decision in the long standing cases Day v Hosebay Ltd and Howard de Walden Estates Ltd v Lexgorge Ltd could be an example of one of those instances.
I wrote a blog about the Court of Appeal decision last year in which it was held that just because the buildings concerned were currently being put to a commercial use it did not stop them from being viewed as “a house reasonably so called”, for the purposes of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. Accordingly, the commercial tenants could serve notice on the freeholder to enfranchise and acquire the freeholds. After this decision I took a number of calls from commercial tenants in properties that had originally been dwellings seeking to investigate the possibility of buying their freeholds. However, the Supreme Court has poured cold water onto these aspirations.
The 7 Supreme Court judges all agreed that the actual use of a building was in general a much more important factor in determining whether a building was a house reasonably so called than previous uses and internal/external physical appearances.
It is not quite the end of the road for this type of case, mixed used premises will still provide fertile ground for qualification disputes but tenants of buildings occupied entirely for commercial purposes will in general not be able to avail themselves of the benefits of the 1967 Act.