Renting accommodation on a boat seems similar to renting a flat or house, and it can be as expensive. However it is not always realised that this is not a proper tenancy and therefore you do not get the same rights as a tenant.
The reason for this, as I explained in my first Foundations in Law post, is that a tenancy is a type of ownership of land. A boat cannot be classed as land, even if it is permanently moored.
The leading case here is a case called Chelsea Yacht and Boat Club Ltd -v- Pope and was decided by the Court of Appeal in 2000.
Here the boat, a houseboat called The Dinty Moore, which was moored upstream of Battersea Bridge in London, was secured by ropes to rings in the embankment and an anchor, and from time to time it rested on the river bed below. However the Court held that this was not sufficient to actually make it part of the land itself, which was necessary it it was gong to be the subject of a tenancy.
There has been another Court of Appeal decision on this point recently called Mew and Tristmere Ltd (which you can read about in more detail on Nearly Legal). Here again the Court held that as the boats were capable of being moved (even though that would probably result in their destruction) they could not be classed as land and therefore could not be the subject of a tenancy.
Legal implications of not being a tenancy
So what are the implications of this if you live in a boat which you rent from your landlord? The main points are:
- you do not get the benefit of the statutory repairing covernants and your landlords obligations as regards repair are as set out in your rental agreement
- any deposit you pay does not need to be protected in a statutory scheme as this only applies to deposits paid with assured shorthold tenancies
- you cannot refer your rent to the Rent Assessment Panel during your first six months as assured shorthold tenants can
- you will not have the benefit of the ‘covenant of quiet enjoyment‘ (although you will have the right to enforce the terms of your contract)
However so far as I can see, you will still have the benefit of the Protection from Eviciton Act as this applies to licenses as well as tenancies, and the legislation refers to ‘premises’ rather than ‘dwelling house’.
You will also have the benefit of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts legislation (provided your landlord can be classed as a business and you can be classed as a consumer) as this covers all types of contract.