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Upper Tribunal ruling on student accommodation

Upper Tribunal rules that student accommodation that shares communal areas is not a dwelling for
the purposes of section 27A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Section 27A of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 provides that an application may be made to the
First Tier Tribunal for a determination as to whether a service charge is payable, if so by whom, the
amount payable and the date by which it is payable.

Under section 18(1) of the said Act a service charge is defined as being an amount payable by a
tenant of a dwelling for services of various kinds. Dwelling is defined by the Act as a building or part
of a building occupied or intended to be occupied as a separate dwelling, together with any yard,
garden, outhouses and appurtenances belonging to it or usually enjoyed with it.

In JLK Ltd v Emmanuel Chiedhu Ezekwe and others (2017) UKUT 277 (LC) the Upper Tribunal (Lands
Chamber) has concluded that student accommodation in which the students had the right to share a
kitchen, lounge, shower and w.c. with every other tenant on the same floor did not amount to a part
of a building which was occupied or intended to be occupied as a separate building.

The specific facts are that the property comprised 93 units of accommodation of which all but six
had en suite facilities (the remainder sharing communal showers and toilets). Each unit was let on a
long lease comprising the unit plus the right to use communal kitchens, bathrooms, showers and
other areas. The lease included a covenant to pay a maintenance charge in respect of the sums
spent by the landlord in the maintenance of the building. A dispute arose and an application was
made by a number of the students to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) for determination of the sums
payable.

The FTT concluded that the units were dwellings and that it therefore had jurisdiction to determine
the applications. The landlord appealed this decision on the basis that the units could not be a
dwelling as they were not a home and that they were not separate dwellings because of the
communal facilities.

The Upper Tribunal rejected the argument that to be a dwelling, a unit of accommodation must be
someone’s home. Then Act did not require this, however the Upper Tribunal accepted the argument
in respect of the units not being a separate dwelling. In reaching this decision it concluded that it
must have regard to the meaning given to the phrase “as a separate dwelling” for the purpose pf the
Rent Acts and the Housing Act 1988.

Accordingly the Upper Tribunal decided that the FTT did not have jurisdiction to deal with the
students’ applications.

This is a decision that could have ramifications for other types of property where similar
circumstances exist in relation to section 27A of the 1985 Act and for other areas of the law in
relation to long leasehold residential property which depend on the same or a similar definition of
dwelling.

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