One test for establishing succession to a secure tenancy by a gay partner (not being a civil partner) has been established since Nutting v Southern Housing Group Ltd  EWHC 2982 (Ch). This test is “that the relationship must be openly and unequivocally displayed to the outside world”.
In a possession claim heard at Central London County Court on, I think, 23 January 2014, Brent Council took what one might call a solipsistic approach to the meaning of ‘outside world’.
It is, so far at least, just a County Court case, but is very interesting in terms of approach and issues arising. The Defendant has requested that his name is not used in reports. While a court case is a matter of public record unless an anonymity order is made, given the circumstances of the case, we shall call him Mr P.
Mr P was the partner of the secure tenant of Brent LBC for some 5 years before the tenant died. Both Mr P and the tenant were gay and deaf, Mr P being profoundly deaf and unable to speak. Both lived at the property.
On the death of the tenant, Mr P asserted his succession to the tenancy. Brent refused to acknowledge the succession and brought a claim for possession. Mr P defended on the basis that he was the late tenant’s partner and had succeeded.
This is where it gets a little odd. Brent claimed that the late tenant and Mr P could not have been living together as partners because they had not been open with the Council about their sexuality and their relationship. Therefore they had not displayed their relationship to the outside world, pace Nutting
This interesting definition of ‘the outside world’ did not go down well with HHJ Lochrane. There were witnesses from the community Mr P and his partner spent most of their time in to the effect that they were open about their relationship. Being open and unequivocal about a relationship did not require being open with the entire world and certainly not with a landlord or local authority.
There was no need to enter into an ‘unedifying’ examination of Mr P’s private life. It was clear that Mr P and the late tenant had been open and there were external witness to that. They were not required to be ‘open’ with the landlord/council. Moreover, Brent had failed to show the required delicacy and sensitivity that was required, both in regard to the devastating effects of homelessness on a vulnerable individual and in failing to make proper inquiries. Instead, Brent had imposed inflexible criteria which were inappropriate for lesbian or gay relationships.
Brent sought permission to appeal (yes, really) and were refused. Will they try again?