Every landlord of premises in multiple occupation who wishes to escape potential criminal prosecution would be wise to take note of an unusual High Court ruling which once and for all defines what is, and is not, a ‘storey’ in a building.

houseA landlord had been prosecuted by a local authority for allegedly failing to obtain a licence required by Section 55 of the Housing Act 2004 in respect of a maisonette which was occupied by a number of tenants. Such a licence was only required if the maisonette extended over more than two storeys and the charge was dismissed by magistrates, who found that it did not.

In challenging that decision, the local authority argued that the communal entrance hall and first floor landing which led up to the maisonette on the second and third floors of a substantial building counted as ‘storeys’.  It was therefore submitted that the accommodation spread over four storeys and that a licence was required.

In dismissing those arguments, the Court accepted the landlord’s arguments that to describe the hallway and landing as ‘storeys’ would defy common sense and only serve to mislead potential tenants or purchasers of the property.

Although the two small spaces formed part of the premises demised to the tenants, the Court found that their ‘exiguous and transitory’ nature meant that they could not be viewed as either ‘living accommodation’ or an ‘integral part’ of the maisonette. Any other outcome to the appeal would be ‘capricious’, the Court found.