Tristmire was the leasehold owner of a number of plots of land situated around a harbour. Each plot was occupied by a houseboat, which rested on wooden platforms supported by piles driven into the harbour bed. The occupants of the houseboats paid rent to Tristmire.
Tristmire gave notice to the occupants requiring them to give up possession of the harbour. The occupants argued that they were tenants and that their houseboats were dwelling houses as a result of which they enjoyed security of tenure as assured tenants under the Housing Act 1988.
The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s finding that the occupants were licensees and not tenants. They could only be tenants if the houseboats had become sufficiently annexed to the land so as to become part of it. The degree of annexation required was a matter of fact and degree to be considered in light of all the circumstances. In this case, the houseboats were chattels rather than land. It was highly unlikely that the occupants would have expected to be required to leave them behind when their rights to occupy the harbour came to an end, which would be the result if they had become part of the land. As the houseboats were not part of the land, the occupants could not be tenants and the Housing Act did not apply.