Renting boats may at first instance seem the same as letting property which is part of land, such as a house. However, the problem some landlords have faced is the determination of whether renting a boat creates a tenancy or a license.
A tenancy creates interest in land, as the courts have found, a boat cannot constitute land even where the boat is permanently moored.
The leading authority is the case of Chelsea Yacht & Boat Company Ltd. v Pope  EWCA Civ 425 (06 April 2000). In this case, the boat was called “Dinty Moore” and the Dinty Moore was secured by ropes and an anchor. Sometimes, the Dinty Moore would rest on the river bed and the occupant argued this made the Dinty immobile and therefore was part of the land.
However, the court found that the Dinty Moore did not form part of the land which would be required for the creation of a tenancy; therefore no tenancy could have been created. The occupant of the Dinty Moore was accordingly a licensee and not a tenant.
Lord justice Tuckey stated:
“…the houseboat rested periodically on the river bed below it and was secured by ropes and perhaps to an extent the services to other structures. It is difficult to see how attachments in this way to the pontoons, the anchor in the riverbed and the rings in the embankment wall could possibly make the houseboat part of the land. One is bound to ask “which land?” There is in my judgment no satisfactory answer to this question.”
Lord Justice Morritt stated:
“The proper test is that laid down in Holland v Hodgson as approved in Elitestone & Morris. The Court has to consider both the degree and object of annexation. The Dinty Moore is attached to the river wall and the river in the manner described by Tuckey LJ ultimately by ropes and service connections. Those ropes and services may be untied and disconnected without any undue effort to enable the Dinty Moor to be towed away by a barge. Thus the degree of annexation does not require recognition of the Dinty Moore a part of the land.”
In a more recent case, Mew & Anor v Tristmire Ltd  EWCA Civ 912 (28 July 2011), the court had to consider whether “houseboats” formed part of the land. The houseboats in this case were situated on wooden platforms. The court applied the test laid down in the case Elitestone v Morris  1 WLR 687 in which a two-fold test was established:
- What is the degree of annexation; and
- What is the purpose of the annexation?
The court found that the houseboats did not form part of the land as they could be removed without being dismantled or destroyed. Accordingly, the occupants of the houseboats were licensees and not tenants.
In majority of cases were a boat is let, the boat will be let on a license agreement.