Is a small shared house a "single private dwellinghouse" for covenant purposes?

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    Is a small shared house a "single private dwellinghouse" for covenant purposes?

    I am thinking of buying a house (in England) which I would let as a small shared house to a pre-formed groups friends on a single joint and several AST.

    It is an ex-council house and is subject to the standard restrictive covenant "...not to use the property otherwise than for the purpose of a single private dwellinghouse..." which gets slapped on to all council properties upon their sale via right to buy.

    My understanding from a quick Google is that this would prevent me from letting the property to groups of strangers on a room-by-room basis, but letting to a small group of friends on a single joint and several AST does fall within the definition of a "single private dwellinghouse" in the context of a restrictive covenant (and other contexts in which the term "single private dwellinghouse" might appear, for example in relation to C3/C4 planning use class or the Housing Act 2004, are not necessarily relevant to the interpretation of this covenant). Am I correct?

    (In case it makes any difference, it has been let by the previous owner as a small shared house for at least 10 years without any enforcement taking place, and the council is aware of this as it has issued both an HMO licence under an additional licensing scheme and a Certificate of Existing Lawful Use or Development showing it has C4 use class status).

    (PS I just realised this is more a conveyancing question than a planning question -- any mods around should feel free to move the thread)


      I think I've found my answer: in Roberts v Howlett [2002] 1 P&CR 19 letting a house to a pre-formed group of four students was held not to be a breach of an identical covenant. This still appears to be the leading case on this question. If I've missed something, however, I'd be keen to hear it.


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