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The Dower House: SDLT and multiple dwellings

/ 22 June 2022

Andrew Levene

Not the sort where Dowager Countesses live, but the house purchased by Mr & Mrs Dower that figured in the First-tier Tribunal case at [2022] UKFTT 170 (TC).

This is another in the line of cases where ‘Multiple Dwellings Relief’ (‘MDR’) from Stamp Duty Land Tax (‘SDLT’) is claimed on buying a house that included additional accommodation in an annexe: in this case, rooms over a detached garage.

As usual, the Tribunal held that in deciding whether the annexe was itself ‘suitable for use as a single dwelling’ (as it had to be if the relief was to be available) a multi-factorial, objective assessment of the attributes of the property had to be carried out (as set out in the Upper Tribunal case of Fiander and Brower).

In the Dowers’ case, the annexe was self-contained in the sense that it had its independently lockable entrance, separate connections to utilities and its own boiler, central hearing and security alarm systems.  It had a shower room, and kitchen facilities of a sort: kettle, microwave, fridge and so on on the landing – the vanity basin in the shower room (which also contained a WC) stood in for a sink.  On the other hand, access to the annexe was via the main house’s drive and past the front and side of the main house; some of the windows overlooked the main house’s rear garden; the planning consent prevented occupation as a separate dwelling; and the annexe had no council tax assessment or postal address separate from the main house.

But the most interesting part of the decision was the emphasis on the importance of a ‘dwelling’ as being somewhere which ‘the occupier can inhabit with a degree of settled permanence so as to form the centre of his existence’ – a home, in other words.  Not all self-contained accommodation is capable of being a ‘dwelling’.

There was evidence that the annexe had been successfully let to Airbnb users – but the fact that a property was suitable for use by ‘short-term temporary occupants’ did not mean that it was suitable for occupants who ‘intend to inhabit the place with a degree of settled permanence’.  In particular, ‘the make-shift arrangements as described from the exhibits, to negotiate the head room restriction in one’s daily movements to use the vanity sink, or the butcher’s block for kitchen functions, or to put up with the proximity of the toilet when washing up dishes’, while possibly tolerable for a week, were not consistent with a long-term occupier’s ‘requirement to have proper facilities to prepare and cook food for daily consumption with sufficient ease and hygiene standards.’

On balance, therefore, the annexe was not ‘suitable for use as a single dwelling’ and MDR was not available.

For more information on SDLT and other property taxes, please get in touch with your usual BKL contact or use our enquiry form.

Andrew Levene

Director of Property Taxes

T +44 (0)20 8922 9394
E andrew.levene@bkl.co.uk

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