Artist proves that her caravan may float but it’s not a boat

Floating caravans - Champion News
Floating caravans - Champion News

An artist has stopped an eviction after a court agreed the floating caravan she lives in is not a houseboat.

Crochet artist Janet Jaffe's unusual home is a static caravan floating on a specially constructed platform in a flooded former gravel pit in Cambridgeshire.

Ms Jaffe, who sells hand-crocheted toys and clothes online and in craft shops, moved into her floating home at Hartford Marina, Wyton, Huntingdon, in 2017.

But last year she became locked in a landmark legal fight after the owner of the lake and the surrounding land tried to evict her.

Ms Jaffe, 58, claimed the landowner was not permitted to throw her out of her home without good reason, citing protections for permanent residents in caravans in the Mobile Homes Act.1983.

But Tingdene Marinas Limited, the landowner, argued that she was not entitled to claim protection as her caravan is floating on water and not on land.

Lawyers argued that the Willerby-branded caravan is now technically a houseboat and the landowner is free to evict her when it wished.

Janet Jaffe - Champion News
Janet Jaffe - Champion News

But Ms Jaffe has now won a ruling from a judge confirming that her caravan has not stopped being a caravan just because it is floating on a lake.

"I do not agree that a structure is not 'on land' merely because it is placed there with another physical structure between it and the surface of the earth or of the water covering the earth," said Judge Elizabeth Cooke.

Vicky Jaffe, Janet's daughter, said the floating caravan was her mother's "dream home".

"My mum has worked hard her entire life and, at the age of 58, she deserves to have the home she’s always dreamed of," she wrote online.

Stephen Cottle, for Ms Jaffe, told the Upper Tribunal in London that his client had an agreement which gave her permission to station a mobile home on the site and to live in it as her sole residence.

The law states that people who live in caravans cannot be evicted without good reason as long as they are on land licensed for permanent residents in caravans, have signed a written agreement with the landowner, and have not breached any terms drawn up.

Formed a houseboat

But Michael Ruddy, for Tingdene Marinas, argued that the caravan and the floating platform should be taken together as forming a houseboat.

He said that the caravan was not technically "on land" and to classify it as a caravan instead of a boat went against planning laws.

But Judge Cooke, upholding a decision made by the First-tier Tribunal in Ms Jaffe's favour, said: “'Caravan' means any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another – whether by being towed or transported on a motor vehicle or trailer – and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted.

"The Willerby caravan is clearly identifiable, it is not fixed to the float and can be moved on and off.

"Therefore as a matter of fact, Ms Jaffe lives in a structure which is a statutory caravan.

"It happens to be on a float and to form part of a houseboat, but the fact remains that she lives in a Willerby caravan."

She added: "Many caravans on dry land have a base, and that does not mean they are not placed on the land. I fail to see that the presence of a float between the caravan and the water means that the caravan is not on land. In the legal sense, that includes land covered by water."

She went on to find that the floating caravan was also permitted under local planning laws, concluding, "therefore the site is a protected site.

"It is helpful to note that this is consistent with the policy of the legislation, which is to give some security to those who live in caravans as their home," she concluded.