The word “house” is one of the 200 most frequently used words in the English language and one of the 20 most frequently used nouns.  However an unintended consequence of the abolition of the residence test for enfranchisement claims in 2002 has led to a spate of decisions in the appellate courts on the question of what constitutes a house for the purposes of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967.

The latest instalment in the saga is Mangohard -v- Cadogan [2012] EWCA Civ 594 decided by the Court of Appeal on 2 May 2012.  Very simply the question was whether a block of flats could constitute a house.  The case concerned a substantial building in Sloane Square constructed in 1888.  It comprised 8 residential flats and 3 shops laid out over basement, ground and five upper floors.  Although there had been alterations to the building over the years it remained substantially as constructed.  The Court of Appeal had to decide whether the building was a house reasonably so called.  At first instance the Court held the building was a block of flats.  The Court of Appeal had no difficulty in upholding that decision and decided it was not reasonable to call the building a house.  A block of flats is not a house, at least not in the absence of unusual factors.

However this case is far from the end of the story.  In around 10 weeks time the Supreme Court is due to hear the joined appeals in Hosebay -v- Day and Howard de Walden -v- Lexgorge [2010] EWCA Civ 748 which concerns buildings originally constructed as houses but now used as an aparthotel and a solicitors’ office.  Landlords, tenants and investors must hope that the Supreme Court will finally bring clarity to the matter.