Despite the name of the appellant, the appeal in The Propane Company Ltd v Bunyan (VO) [2022] UKUT 0237 (LC) relates to property alleged to be “appurtenant” to a dwelling.

The case concerned stables, a mess room, and hay stores near Bodiam, in Sussex. This was part of an equestrian operation, and was similar to the circumstances considered by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) in Corkish (VO) v Bigwood [2019]; but with the difference here being that the ratepayer accepted that part of its equestrian operation was non-domestic. The appellant ratepayer accepted that an arena and some other facilities were non-domestic, but submitted that the stable blocks, mess room, and stores, were appurtenant to a dwelling, known as The Oast House.

The respondent Valuation Officer submitted that these buildings were not appurtenant to the dwelling, because they were not in the same ownership as the dwelling, and because their function was to support the non-domestic equestrian operation carried on at the arena.

The Upper Tribunal reviewed the case law from Bigwood and elsewhere, and concluded that an appurtenance did not have to be in the same ownership as a dwelling; merely that it had to be “enjoyed with” the dwelling concerned. The Tribunal set out that when considering appurtenance, three matters were relevant considerations – physical layout, ownership (past and present) and use or function (past and present). These three matters were not determinative tests, but were, rather, relevant criteria. Applying these criteria, the Tribunal concluded that one of the stable blocks and the mess room were appurtenant to the dwelling, but the other stable block and the stores were not appurtenances, and formed part of the non-domestic hereditament.

This is an unusual case, turning on very specific circumstances, and probably of limited interest to most practitioners. But the Valuation Office does seem to be active in seeking to bring into assessment for non-domestic rates, equestrian properties across the country. This activity is turning up some unusual case material, and some rather recherche areas of the law. The increasing disparity between Council Tax and non-domestic rates liabilities means this question can be financially significant.