Huts, portakabin and a shed: fixtures or not

In Wessex Reserve Forces and Cadets Association v White ([2005] EWHC 983) one question was whether certain structures erected on land by a tenant were fixtures or chattels. If they were fixtures, were they tenant’s fixtures?

Two huts were held to be fixtures. Although they could be dismantled and re-assembled elsewhere, this would be labour-intensive. It was also relevant to consider the general nature of the huts; they were like assembly or meeting halls and prima facie were real property ([44] – [53]). The other buildings on the land (a portakabin, a garden shed and a pre-cast concrete building on a concrete slab) could be easily dismantled and removed and were chattels ([54] – [60]). The landlord accepted that if any of the buildings were fixtures, they were tenant’s fixtures and could be removed by the tenant on the termination of the lease ([2]).

The case was an application by the landlord to resist the tenant’s application for a lease renewal under Part II of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. The landlord relied on section 30(1)(f) of the Act (that it intended to demolish or reconstruct a substantial part of the premises contained in the holding). It argued that it intended to demolish the buildings erected on the land by the tenant. The lease contained an obligation on the tenant to do this itself at the end of the lease. If the tenant were to fulfill this obligation, the landlord would not need possession to carry out this work and its ground of opposition would disappear. To counter this, the landlord executed a deed releasing the tenant from this obligation. The tenant was not a party to the deed. The landlord could only unilaterally release the obligation if it was an obligation that was for its benefit alone. This was not the case since the clause also gave (or at least confirmed) the tenant’s right to remove the buildings and structures. The deed was therefore ineffective ([65] – [66]).

Michael Lower

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