Last year was the year of the house after the decisions in Day v Hosebay Limited / Howard de Walden v Lexgorge Limited and the early signs are that this could be the year of the flat after a decision in the county court in the case of Smith and Dennis v Jafton Properties Ltd (not to be confused with the earlier case involving the same parties and their status as qualifying tenants).
The Hosebay/Lexgorge cases concerned the definition of what constitutes a house reasonably so called under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, which confers a right to acquire the freehold interest on qualifying tenants.
The Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 confers a similar right upon tenants of flats. But what is a flat?
In this case the tenants contended that the loft units, which had been constructed by converting a warehouse and then sublet to a company who used them for short term serviced lettings, were flats. Despite the physical appearance of the units being that of conventional flats, this was not determinative. The actual use was not really as dwellings but more akin to hotel use. As such, the county court was not persuaded that the flats were in fact flats, following similar reasoning to the Hosebay/Lexgorge cases from last year.
Physical characteristics and occupation looked at together is the correct way to approach the question of what is a house or what is a flat and not one of those criteria alone. The judge did emphasise that the decision was finely balanced and may be the subject of an appeal.