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By J
21/01/2009

No no she's not dead, she's, she's restin'!

Newport City Council v Charles [2008] EWCA Civ 1541, The Times, 11 Aug 2008 [now on bailii]

The transcript for this (factually remarkable but legally straightforward) case has only just been produced, hence the delay in covering it.

The appellant, Mr Charles, lived at 1B Marlborough Rd, Newport. That property had been granted to his mother on a secure tenancy some years previously. She died in January 2003 and, upon her death, Mr Charles made anonymous enquiries of the local housing authority to try and discover what was likely to happen. He discovered that it was unlikely that he would be permitted to remain in occupation and, therefore, simply did not tell the local authority (or, indeed, any other relevant governmental body) that his mother had died. He continued to pay the rent in her name and even forged a letter from her giving him authority to deal with the tenancy.

In 2007, the local authority became aware of the deception and instituted proceedings for possession on the basis of Ground 16 (under occupation). The only problem with that was that Ground 16 requires the NSP to be served within a year of the death of the tenant.

Both the District Judge and the Circuit Judge did not see this as a problem. In their view, Mr Charles was estopped from contending that his mother died in January 2003 and time only started to run from when the local authority became aware of her death. Mr Charles appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal – with evident distaste – allowed the appeal. Whilst the conduct of Mr Charles may have been sufficient to give rise to an estoppel, the problem was that the local authority sought to use the estoppel as a sword and not a shield and, unless the estoppel was a proprietary estoppel, that was impermissible.

The estoppel was not proprietary. The estoppel did not give rise to any interest in land. The local authority was already the landlord and freehold owner and did not need an estoppel to establish those propositions. The estoppel was an estoppel by representation and that was insufficient to found a claim under Ground 16. To hold otherwise would have involved re-writing the law of estoppel and this was a matter for Parliament and not the Court of Appeal.

(with apologies to Monty Python for the title)

J is a barrister. He considers housing law to be the single greatest kind of law known to humankind and finds it very odd that so few people share this view.

14 Comments

  1. simply wondered

    so what will they do? get him charged with fraud and forfeit as the property is sufficiently connected with the crime?

    Reply
    • J

      I doubt it. That sounds like far too much work ;-)

      Reply
    • Marcin Tustin

      Claim in deceit for loss of rent?

      As to the ambit of estoppel, I find the decision surprising. I thought the “shield” doctrine simply meant that it could not be used on its own to found a cause of action. Shows how much I know.

      Reply
      • NL

        But the rent was paid, apparently…

        Reply
  2. Marcin Tustin

    It’s not on Bailii or Westlaw. Where did you get the transcript?

    Reply
  3. Marcin Tustin

    I just found it on Lawtel.

    Reply
  4. Michael

    None of the court of appeal’s “evident distaste” seems to be shared on here. If you were to find out he worked for the council, would he be on the naughty step?

    Reply
    • NL

      I’m genuinely bewildered at how you came to that view.

      Reply
  5. Michael

    Because you missed out the “I’ve been put on the naughty step until I stop it” logo of course.

    Reply
    • NL

      But it is a case note. We don’t do naughty step on case notes.

      Reply
  6. simply wondered

    i think the CA has handed down judgment(Newport City Council v Charles [2009] 1 WLR 1884). as i lack the subscription databases, i have yet to read it. arrrrrgh!

    Reply
  7. mark pummell

    great piece J; lively and well written… makes memorisation for LLB so much easier!!!

    Reply

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