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Murphy v Wyatt [2011] EWCA Civ 408

CitationMurphy v Wyatt [2011] EWCA Civ 408

John de Waal and Andy Creer have succeeded in the Court of Appeal for the landowner in a case about the scope of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 - Murphy v Wyatt [2011] EWCA Civ 408 (judgment 12th April 2011)

In a characteristically clear and illuminating judgment in the case Murphy v Wyatt Lord Neuberger the Master of the Rolls has carefully defined the parameters of the protection given by the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to occupiers of caravans and mobile homes.

The appeal was from a decision in the Central London County Court in which the respondent claimant Diane Murphy sought possession of 1.7 acres of land let to the appellant defendant Carol Wyatt. The land in Bromley on the outskirts of London had been let to Ms Wyatt’s partner Norman Barrett in 1975 by George Murphy, Diane Murphy’s father, for stabling and a livery business. A few years later with Mr Murphy’s consent Mr Barrett brought a caravan onto the site and over time started living there. There was no planning permission for the caravan until 2002 when Mr Barrett applied successfully for a certificate of lawful use. In 2007 (after Mr Barrett’s death) Ms Wyatt who had inherited the tenancy replaced the old caravan with a large new mobile home.  Andy Creer argued the case successfully for Diane Murphy at trial but Ms Wyatt was given permission to appeal.

The two key questions which were the focus of the appeal were:

(1) Can someone who with their landlord’s agreement brings a mobile home onto land let to them for another purpose gain the protection of the 1983 Act? The answer given by the Court of Appeal was ‘No’, the reasoning being that for the Act to apply agreements have to relate to ‘protected sites’, that is caravan sites for which there is planning permission, and if there is no such permission at the start of the tenancy then even if the owner and occupier agree that a mobile home can be stationed on the site and a permission is obtained this does not amount to a variation of the original agreement so as to bring it within the Act.

(2) Can the 1983 Act apply to a letting of land that was more than just the pitch on which the mobile home was sited? The answer was again ‘No’, the Court making it clear that the scheme of the Act was intended to apply to caravan sites where each caravan has a designated pitch; nor could the tenant’s problem be solved by hiving off the pitch from the remainder of the land.

The effect of the decision in Murphy v Wyatt is clear – the 1983 Act regime is principally concerned with agreements made between the owners and occupiers of caravan parks where mobile homes are sited on a designated pitch with a small amount of garden ground and perhaps a parking space. Relatively informal arrangements which come into being where there is no planning permission or where the tenancy comes first and the mobile home comes later are unlikely to be protected – with the result that the occupier can be evicted at perhaps only a month’s notice.