Ruling could grant some neighbours a right to play on golf courses

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire December 3, 2018 15:05

A Supreme Court ruling that visitors to a timeshare complex in Kent have a legal right to play golf on the golf course next door could have major consequences for the industry, an expert has warned.

It means that people who have been allowed to play golf on a course because their house is located near to it may be able to make a claim that they are entitled to permanent access to the facility, says Alastair Frew, partner in the Real Estate practice at law firm Lodders.

Recently, Supreme Court judges ruled in the case of Regency Villas vs Diamond Resorts that visitors to a luxury timeshare complex have a legal right to play on the golf course next door without having to pay a maintenance charge.

“The key outcome of this case is that people who have previously been allowed to use sporting facilities because they live in a certain house may now be able to claim a permanent legal easement to use those facilities,” said Frew.

“The owners of sporting facilities such as tennis courts, swimming pools and golf courses like in this case, who allow visitors to use them, will need to proceed with caution, as the Supreme Court’s decision would suggest that they could inadvertently have given away valuable rights to their neighbours.”

Regency Villas owns the 26-apartment timeshare in Kent. The neighbouring Broom Park mansion house is owned by Diamond Resorts and along with 18 luxury apartments, has facilities including gardens, a swimming pool, squash and tennis courts, and a golf course.

“This case hinges upon easements,” explained Alastair, “which exist when there is a benefit to land. In this case, the issue at hand was whether residents of the timeshare complex had the right to play golf on the neighbouring land belonging to Broome Park, without having to pay a maintenance charge.”

A group of owners, who all had holiday villas as part of the Regency Villas timeshare, claimed that their rights to access and use leisure facilities at Broome Park should be recognised as easements. They stated that, in fact, these rights of use and access were set out in the documents recording the transfer of the land upon which the holiday villas had been built.

Alastair Frew

The Supreme Court had to consider the appeal in the context of easements, whether an easement must provide ‘utility and benefit’, and whether a right to recreation can be a legal easement. In other words: ‘If I play golf on your land, does this improve my land next door?’

“The court decided that in this case, the right to play golf on the neighbouring golf course is an easement. So, the timeshare visitors and residents at Regency Villas can play golf without having to pay a maintenance charge, in the knowledge that they have an easement which is a legal right,” explained Frew.

“Land owners and owners of private leisure and sporting facilities must take note of this Supreme Court decision and be mindful of this new characteristic of an easement.”

 

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire December 3, 2018 15:05
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