Last edited 16 Mar 2021


The word ‘curtilage’ is generally used to refer to a parcel of land attached to a dwellinghouse and forming one enclosure with it, where their relationship is such that they constitute an integral whole.

The exact definition of this term is important as it is used:

It may also be relevant in determining the extent of a property that is being sold, and was referred to in the definition of previously developed land (brownfield land) in Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3).

Buildings within the curtilage must be geographically close to the main property and be an integral part of it. However, the particular facts of each case must be carefully considered. Small houses will tend to have a smaller curtilage, but a large estate may be beyond the curtilage of the main house on the estate.

The existence of a wall or fence between buildings may demonstrate they are not within the same curtilage, however this is not always the case, for example where there is a walled garden. Similarly a public road or stretch of tidal water will tend to define the limit of the curtilage of a building, however, it need not be an area that is marked in any way.

More important than physical boundaries is the matter of interdependence, whereby the curtilage serves the main property in some useful way. In the case of Lewis v Rook, the Court of Appeal suggested that “For one corporeal hereditament to fall within the curtilage of another, the former must be so intimately associated with the latter as to lead to the conclusion that the former in truth forms part and parcel of the latter.”

Typically, the 'front curtilage' is the land forward of the principal elevation. The rear curtilage is the curtilage behind the principal elevation. This may not be consistent with physical division, such as fences or walls.

NB The Scottish Building Standards, Part I. Technical Handbook – Domestic, Appendix A Defined Terms, defines curtilage as: ‘…land area within the same occupation.’

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