Our attention was drawn to a decision in the Medway County Court, presumably because it considered a proportionality defence. I’m not sure there’s much to see there — one of the team said that he was not “remotely excited about it”.
But it caught my eye. To be fair, one cannot always tell from a short judgment of this kind exactly what happened, but it gives the impression that landlord and tenant law was, at best, misunderstood. So it seemed like a golden opportunity to set the record straight.
The defendant’s father and mother had lived in the property under an assured tenancy. Sadly, the father died. The mother succeeded under s.17 of the Housing Act 1988. Later on her son, the defendant, came to live with her and look after her. The mother died. The landlord eventually decided that the defendant would not be allowed to carry on living in the property and served a notice to quit which duly expired. They claimed possession on the basis that the son was a trespasser.
But why? Assured tenancies are not magic. They have some magical properties given to them by the Housing Act 1988 but underneath they are still perfectly normal tenancies which means they are an estate in land capable of being inherited.
This means that when the defendant’s mother died, her tenancy would pass under her will or intestacy. If the mother had not been a successor, the magic of s17 might have come in to play, but she was so it did not. From the facts of the case it seems overwhelmingly likely that the son was her heir. He would then inherit the tenancy and become the tenant.
As an aside there are some subtleties here which I am not about to delve in to, such as the nature of a heir’s rights under an intestacy and the role of the Public Trustee. Readers will be familiar with the and all the usual rules about giving notice after a tenant has died.
It seems likely that the defendant was a tenant of the property and, since he lived there, almost certainly an assured tenant. You cannot end an assured tenancy by giving notice to quit. It may be that the district judge inquired into this possibility and the matter was dealt with but not mentioned in the judgment, but it really ought to have been.
The right way to evict an heir in these circumstances is of course to use Ground 7 of Schedule 2.