Stairway to an Overriding Interest

09-12-2011 09:12

The Claimant in the case of Chaudhary v Yauvuz had built an external stairway in the alleyway which belonged to his neighbour and had in fact removed the internal stairway at his property. A formal deed of easement, which would have granted rights of access over the alleyway, was not entered into and the Claimant took no further action to protect the right to access over the neighbour’s alleyway to the stairway.

The owner of the alleyway sold the property, including the alleyway, to the Defendant in this case and the Defendant then proceeded to remove the ability for the Claimant to access the stairway. The Claimant could have registered a unilateral notice at the Land Registry to protect his rights and in that case the Defendant would have bought the property subject to those registered rights, however the Claimant did not take such action to register the rights.

In the absence of registered rights a person’s interest in land will override the registered sale of a property from the current owner to a new owner if the person is in actual occupation of the land which the is subject to the rights. 

The Court of Appeal held that the Defendant had purchased the property free from the Claimant’s right to access the stairway, because the construction of an external staircase in the alleyway was not sufficient to amount to actual occupation for the purposes of creating an overriding interest which would have been binding on the buyer of the alleyway. The Court of Appeal noted that actual occupation requires physical presence and the act of going up and down the stairway was not enough to constitute occupation.

The case highlights the courts attitude towards the importance of using the system of registration in order to protect rights over land. 

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