One out, all out!

Possession claim by Landlord based on notice to quit served by one of two joint tenants does not breach human rights of the other, rules Supreme Court

In November the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Sims v Dacorum Borough Council to uphold the pre-existing rule from the 1992 case of Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Monk by which one tenant can terminate a joint tenancy for all tenants by serving a unilateral notice on the landlord.

Mr & Mrs Sims enjoyed a secure joint tenancy from the local authority. When their relationship broke down and they separated, Mrs Sims served a unilateral notice to quit on their landlord, the Council, seeking to terminate the tenancy.

Their tenancy agreement expressly provided that one tenant could terminate the tenancy for both, and that if they did then the Council would consider whether or not to offer a new tenancy to any remaining party. In this case, upon receipt of Mrs Sims' notice, the Council decided not to offer a fresh tenancy of the property to Mr Sims alone and began possession proceedings, in which they were successful.

Appealing that decision, Mr Sims sought to rely on the European Convention on Human Rights citing Article 1 (right to peaceful enjoyment of his possessions) and Article 8 (right to respect of his private and family life, his home and correspondence).

However, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected his arguments, finding that in respect of Article 1, Mr Sim had lost his property as result of the deal that he himself had made with the landlord (referring to the provisions in the tenancy agreement).  The Court was persuaded that the Council had properly considered whether or not to offer a new tenancy to him, and had good reasons for deciding not to. The Court held that the only other bases to overturn the possession under Article 1 would be that the clauses in the lease were irrational, or had not been properly implemented, neither of which they felt was the case.

In considering his claim under Article 8, the Court again referred to the provisions in the tenancy agreement, and held that Mr Sims was sufficiently protected by operation of law through the requisite court procedure under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 having been followed, and by the terms and nature of the very tenancy agreement to which he was a party.

So in one sense the status quo ante remains intact, but landlords and particularly social landlords should take note of the heavy reliance placed by the Supreme Court in this decision on the particular terms of the tenancy agreement to which Mr Sims was a party in finding that his human rights were not infringed, and would therefore be well advised to review the need for, or the drafting of, equivalent provisions in their own tenancy agreements and the importance of being able to document adherence to their implementation.

It is difficult to say with certainty whether, had those clauses not been present, or had the landlord not been able amply to demonstrate that it had properly implemented them in considering and rejecting the offer of a fresh tenancy to Mr Sims, the outcome would have still been the same.

Posted on: 10/12/2014

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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