The taxpayer appealed against a rating assessment on a barge permanently moored at a riverbank. He claimed that as a chattel, it should not be rated.
Held: The vessel was a chattel, but its occupation could be an occupation of the riverbed. The licences were stated to be non-exclusive, but the law of rating looks to the reality of the circumstances. Given the authorities, the occupier was rateable by virtue of it soccupation of the land by the boat.
Potter LJ reviewed the authorities and said: ‘The four conditions of rateable occupation as set out in John Laing and Son Ltd v Kingswood Assessment Committee  1 KB 344, 357 and approved in London County Council v Wilkins  AC 362 are (i) actual occupational possession (which involves actual as opposed to intended user of the land in question); (ii) occupation or possession which is exclusive (i.e. if the occupier can exclude all other persons from using the land in the same way as he does); (iii) occupation or possession which is of some value or benefit to the occupier/possessor; (iv) occupation or possession which has a sufficient quality of permanence; see generally Ryde on Rating and the Council Tax, loose-leaf ed, Division B, paras 61-62.
The cases culminating in London County Council v Wilkins and Field Place Caravan Park Ltd v Harding  2 QB 484, which developed the principle that chattels may be rateable if enjoyed with the land and enhancing its value, have also made clear that the placing of a valuable chattel in or on land may itself be all that is required by way of occupation of the lands to render the chattel and the land together a rateable hereditament.
Assuming for a moment that condition (i) can be satisfied, in the sense that the Lands Tribunal was entitled to hold that the vessel could properly be regarded as occupying the riverbed beneath (see further below), there seems to me no room for doubt that conditions (ii)-(iv) were satisfied in this case.
So far as condition (ii) is concerned, when a person occupies land in respect of which he has no title to the exclusive occupation or possession but his occupation is exclusive in fact, then he is rateable in respect of that occupation. It seems to me that the question is identical to that enunciated by Lord Russell in Westminster City Council v Southern Railway Co  AC 511, 532, namely whether the person sought to be rated has the enjoyment of the land ‘to the substantial exclusion of all other persons’. As made clear in that case, at p 533, the relevant question is: what in fact is the occupation in respect of which the person is said to be rateable and, in that respect, it is immaterial whether the title to occupy is attributable to a lease or a licence. The substance of the document granting the right of occupation is highly material; however, what is material is not so much the precise terms of the grant but whether the occupation is in fact greater or lesser than the terms convey. It is also the position that the reservation by the grantor of a right which is never exercised and could not be fully exercised without destroying the grant is to be disregarded: per Lord Wright at p 567.
The factual position in this case, as already indicated, was that the vessel between 1990 and 1999, under successive licences from the Crown Estate Commissioners, occupied a fixed position in the river, immediately above the area of the foreshore and riverbed the subject of the licence. While the licence stated that its terms were not to be construed as giving exclusive use of the disputed area to the appellants, the liberty of the commissioners to grant elsewhere any rights or easements over the relevant land was limited by the proviso that it should not thereby prevent the placing and maintenance of the vessel in accordance with the licence. Nor, as the agreed facts stated, were any other or ‘rival’ rights granted by the commissioners during the entire period that the vessel was moored in position under the terms of the licence. In these circumstances it is clear that if the vessel could be properly regarded in occupation of the riverbed beneath, it was de facto in exclusive occupation.
So far as condition (iii) is concerned, it is plain that the occupation was of great value and benefit to the appellants as occupiers. Equally, so far as condition (iv) was concerned, there was a period of occupation of some nine years with a single brief interruption on some unspecified date when the vessel was temporarily removed from its moorings by tugs. I therefore return to consider condition (i).
Throughout a period of nine years, the vessel was placed in position over the licensed area of riverbed beneath. While the principle stated in London County Council v Wilkins  AC 362 and Field Place Caravan Park Ltd  2 QB 484 dealt with structures which were physically placed upon dry land, and there were not in this case any moorings within the riverbed by which the vessel could be said to occupy the riverbed (cf Cory v Bristow App Cas 262), it does not seem to me that the interposition of water between the vessel and the riverbed of itself acted in any significant manner to deprive the appellants of occupation of the area of the riverbed the subject of the licence. The ‘permanent’ presence of the vessel was sufficient to constitute de facto exclusive occupation of that part of the riverbed. That view seems to me entirely consistent with the observations of Lloyd and Mann LJJ in Westminster City Council Woodbury  Ran1, 8-9, 14, quoted at paragraphs 30 and 31 above.’
Potter, Chadwick, Tuckey LJJ
 EWCA Civ 529, Times 23-Apr-2003,  1 WLR 2423
Local Government Finance Act 1982 64(1)
England and Wales
Cited – Field Place Caravan Park Ltd v Harding CA 1966
The Court considered the rateability of a residential caravan site. The caravans were on wheels and retained their mobility although they were jacked up to keep them stable.
Held: Although a chattel is not a rateable hereditament by itself, it . .
Cited – Sir Anthony Earby’s case 1633
The liability to be rated rests upon the occupier of the property concerned. Assessments under the Act ought to be made according to the visible estate of the inhabitants there, both real and personal. . .
Cited – Smith’s Dock Co Ltd v Tynemouth Corporation 1908
A floating dock fixed in position on a long-term basis over moorings on the riverbed could for rating purposes be treated as being in occupation of the mooring and the part of the riverbed in which it was situate. . .
Cited – Cory v Bristow HL 1877
The owner of a vessel used for commercial purposes while fixed in position on a long-term basis over moorings on the riverbed could for rating purposes be treated as the occupier of those moorings and the part of the riverbed in which they were . .
Cited – Thomas v Witney Aquatic Co Ltd LT 1972
A clubhouse floated upon a lake over which the ratepayer had rights of use for sporting and boating activities and to maintain a floating clubhouse which was moored to three steel barges in turn moored to the land, made fast to the land by two wire . .
Cited – London County Council v Wilkins (Valuation Officer) HL 1957
Four builders’ moveable huts, which had been erected as temporary structures on a site for 18 months, only one of which was moved from one part of the site to the other during that period, were claimed chattels and therefore not rateable.
Cited – Westminster City Council v Southern Railway Co HL 1936
Subject to special enactments, people are treated as occupiers of land, land being understood as including not only the surface of the earth but all strata above or below. The occupier, not the land, is rateable; but the occupier is rateable in . .
Cited – Felgate (Valuation Officer) v Lotus Leisure Enterprises Ltd LT 2000
The Valuation Officeer had entered in the rating list a moored but floating restaurant ‘dock bed, floating restaurant, moorings and premises’. The Tribunal had to decide whether such rateable hereditament had been correctly identified. The vessel . .
Cited – John Menzies and Co v The Assessor for Edinburgh 1937
When asking whether a structure on land was rateable, the court should ask first whether the subject structure belonged to a class or genus which was prima facie heritable. Scottish courts places great emphasis upon the general character of the . .
Appeal from – Valuation Officer v Cinderella Rockerfellas Ltd LT 13-Jun-2002
LT RATING – hereditament – occupation – whether former ferry permanently moored and used as nightclub rateable – held that it was rateable . .
Approved – John Laing and Son Ltd v Kingswood Assessment Committee KBD 1949
The appellant building contractors had been engaged by the Air Ministry to execute works at an aerodrome. They erected on the site, for the purpose of carrying out the contract, offices, garages, canteen for workmen and other structures. Although . .
Cited – Reeves (Listing Officer) v Northrop Admn 6-Mar-2012
The respondent occupied a tugboat with his family as his home. The appellant authority had sought to charge council tax, saying that it was a dwelling. The boat was not a houseboat but a live-aboard seagoing vessel, registered in the Small Ships . .
Cited – Reeves (Listing Officer) v Northrop CA 17-Apr-2013
The taxpayer had successfully challenged the entry of his houseboat in the rating list at the Valuation Tribunal, but this had been re-instated at first instance. He said that the boat, as a registered seagoing vessel was not a houseboat, and that . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 January 2021; Ref: scu.180733