Stockholm Finance Ltd v Garden Holdings Inc [1995]

Stockholm Finance Ltd v Garden Holdings Inc [1995] is a notable English land law case that delved into the nuanced interpretation of actual occupation concerning overriding interests in registered land. The dispute arose when the claimant lender, having followed the correct procedures, sought possession of the property due to the stipulation in its secured loan agreement requiring actual occupation.

In this case, the property was occupied by a Saudi Princess under an arrangement with the defendant company. The Princess argued that she met the criteria of actual occupation, pointing to retained clothing, furniture, and caretaking arrangements on the premises. The legal proceedings unfolded as the claimant contended that the Princess had, in fact, admitted to not being in the home for over a year, having only been intermittently resident.

The judgment, rendered by the court, hinged on the determination of whether intermittent presence, even in a fully furnished house ready for immediate use, could constitute actual occupation. The judge acknowledged the complexity of this matter, emphasising that it was a perception-based issue that defied deep analysis. Factors such as the length of absence and the reason for it were deemed relevant, with holidays or business trips potentially being more easily reconciled with continuous occupation than a move to a second home.

The judge underscored a crucial point in the interpretation of actual occupation—there comes a threshold where a person's prolonged absence from their house renders the notion of continuous occupation insupportable. In this specific case, the judge concluded that the Princess had crossed this threshold, as she had not set foot in the property for over a year. The fact that she had been living with her mother in Riyadh for an extended period further solidified the determination that she was not in actual occupation of the London house.

In essence, this case set a precedent highlighting that actual occupation requires more than occasional or intermittent presence. Prolonged absences, especially when accompanied by a clear reason for the absence, could negate the claim of continuous occupation and impact the application of overriding interests in registered land.
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