Why boatowners say CYBC is using dry-docking as an unreasonable means to evict boats

In March 2017, CYBC wrote to boatowners asking when each boat had last been dry docked, and stating that those that not been dry-docked in “the relevant period” must do so as a matter of urgency. It was the first time CYBC had made such a request, and as the letter made no reference to in-situ surveys boatowners replied asking for clarification.

CYBC didn’t reply until October, over six months later, when it stated in a general letter to boatowners that they were changing the company’s long-standing practice and were no longer prepared to accept in-water surveys as a means of confirming hull safety. Many of those who had for years been relying on in-water surveys, in accordance with the requirements of their insurers, wrote to CYBC requesting use of the company’s dry dock.

CYBC didn’t respond until late November, when it wrote to 26 boatowners explaining that the company’s dry dock would be unavailable until August 2018. It added that if confirmation of dry docking at an alternative site was not provided within seven days, boatowners would be considered in breach of their licence.

On 5th December 2017, CYBC served notice on 18 boatowners requiring them to have their boats surveyed out of the water within 30 days or have their licences terminated.  Given the Christmas period, the fact that boats are only able to be moved on specific tides (particularly limited for boats on the inner mooring), the difficulty of finding a towing company, and the general lack of availability in Thames boatyards, it’s not surprising that only one boat was able to be surveyed during this short notice period. Three further boatowners managed to have their boats surveyed in January 2018.

On 8th February, CYBC served 30-day termination notices on the 14 boatowners who’d been unable to arrange surveys over Christmas and New Year. Each of these boatowners had explained to CYBC on 13th December that they had confirmed bookings at boatyards for the earliest available dates, which in every case was before the end of July 2018. All were insured and up to date with their payment obligations to CYBC. On average, those facing eviction have owned their boats for 22 years: several of them are pensioners and are finding the current situation extremely distressing.

Since the termination notices were served, at least six of the boats served notice have been to and returned from dry-dock, having had their hulls certified as safe by surveyors.  Others are booked in over the next few weeks – the earliest dates available when bookings were made in late November/early December. Despite boats returning with a clean bill of health from their surveyors, CYBC has not rescinded the termination notices and has referred to their owners as “trespassers”.

We ask: is this a fair way to treat people who have lived peacefully in their homes for over twenty years, and who always understood that they’d have a right to remain for so long as the company was able to accommodate them?

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