EVERYDAY LAW: Defining ‘house spot’ under Tenantries Act
WHEN THE Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act 1980 came into operation, it defined a non-plantation “tenantry” in Section 2.
It stated: “An area of land that is subdivided, before or after the commencement of this act, into lots for letting as sites for chattel buildings to be used as dwelling houses whether the land is vested in the Crown, in a statutory board or in any person, but does not include land adjoining the foreshare; and ‘tenant’ means an individual who occupies a lot comprised in a tenantry pursuant to a tenancy, whether that tenancy exists by virtue of a lease, contract or licence and either at law or in equity.”
In the case of Burnham et al v Burnham (1985, Barbados High Court), one of the issues considered by the court was whether the mere siting of two chattel houses on land would be enough to constitute a tenantry.
In that case, counsel for the defendant had argued, among other things, that a chattel house used as a dwellinghouse which is placed on land automatically demarcated its own area and thereby subdivides the land. Therefore, where two or more houses are so positioned, the land is thereby subdivided into lots and becomes a tenantry; and, a person who resides on such a lot becomes a tenant.
The court found that the plaintiffs had become owners of the land in 1965. One of the plaintiffs, Samuel, had erected a house on the land and rented it out. The defendant occupied another house on the land with her mother who died in 1979. The plaintiffs then permitted the defendant to remain in the house until 1980 when she was given notice to quit.
The issue that then arose was whether the presence of two tenanted chattel houses on the land in the circumstances described above amounted to a tenantry under the Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act.
Justice Husbands, who heard the case, observed: “In my judgment the land in question is not a tenantry, the presence of two chattel dwellings notwithstanding. The mere siting of chattel houses on land cannot create a tenantry.
“In the definition in Section 2, a tenantry means an area of land subdivided into lots for letting as sites for chattel buildings to be used as dwellinghouses. ‘Lots’, however, is given a special meaning and includes such part of lot of land as constitutes a house spot within the meaning of the Security of Tenure of Small Holdings Act (Cap. 237).
According to that act, a house spot is defined as follows: ‘house spot’ means any parcel of land comprised in a contract of tenancy made (whether or not the contract of tenancy expressly so provides) in contemplation of the land being used solely as a site for a chattel building and the cartilage appurtenant thereto for the use of the tenant, as a dwelling or as a place of business.
“It is clear from this that ‘house spot’ means land in respect of which there is some tenancy agreement.
“If one recalls the circumstances on which the plaintiff Samuel’s house was erected, it becomes evident that it was not erected on a ‘house spot’ as defined; there was no contract of tenancy made between Samuel and anyone about the land on which the house was placed; indeed he was the joint owner of the land.
“The only tenancy agreement that exists is between Samuel and the tenant of the house concerning the house itself.
It therefore follows that the land on which the plaintiff Samuel’s house stands is not a ‘house spot’ as defined and consequently is not a subdivided lot which with another may constitute a tenancy.”
Another issue that arose in the case was whether the defendant was a qualified tenant as defined in the legislation. nI will consider this issue in next week’s article which will focus on the meaning of “qualified tenant” under the legislation.
• Cecil McCarthy is a Queen’s Counsel. Send your letters to Everyday Law, Nation House, Fontabelle, St Michael. Send your email to [email protected]