Definitions

Chattel house

Chattel house

Chattel House is Barbadian slang for a small wooden house that working class people would occupy. The term goes back to the plantation days when the home owners would buy houses designed to move from one property to another. The word "Chattel" means movable property so the name was appropriate. Chattel houses are set on blocks rather than being anchored into the ground. In addition, they are built entirely out of wood and assembled without nails. This allowed them to be disassembled (along with the blocks) and moved from place to place. This system was necessary historically because home "owners" typically did not own the land that their house was set on. Instead, their employer often owned the land. In case of a landlord tenant (or employer/employee) dispute, the house could be quickly moved to a new property.

Although the term is strongly associated with Barbados, it is also used as a legal term in Trinidad (e.g. CHAPTER 59:54 LAND TENANTS ACT and Maharaj v. Constance 1981) and other islands.

Chattel houses are still in use on several West Indian islands.

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