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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:
- To identify property which attracts private residence relief (relief from capital gains tax on the sale of a private residence).
- To identify the extent of property affected by listing (any object or structure within the curtilage of the building which, although not fixed to the building, forms part of the land and has done so since before July 1, 1948).
- To identify the extent of relief from VAT on works to protected buildings (such as listed buildings).
- In relation to permitted development which can be carried out within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse, but not within the planning unit outside the curtilage.
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.’
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Article 4 direction.
- Brownfield land.
- Building boundary.
- Lateral drain.
- Listed building.
- Permitted development.
- Prescriptive rights of way.
- Site of a building.
- VAT - protected buildings.
 External references
- HMRC, Private residence relief: the entity of the dwelling house: curtilage.
- Martin Goodall's Planning Law Blog. Curtilage.
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