Ending social housing joint tenancy

  • According to recent case law, a social tenant is able to end a joint tenancy with the council, without the other tenant's knowledge.

    The Court of Appeal has recently ruled it is compatible with Human Rights law that a tenant can end the joint tenancy of their home, without the knowledge of the other joint tenant.

    Via: Inside Housing

    In a key case in 1991 involving a cohabiting couple, Hammersmith & Fulham Council v Monk, the House of Lords found that Ms Powell had the right unilaterally to end the joint tenancy of a flat she shared with Kenneth John Monk, by serving the council with notice to quit.

    In the recent case Sims v Dacorum Council, Michael Sims faced a similar situation. He argued that the law, which allowed his wife to end their joint tenancy of a three-bedroom house in Hertfordshire, without his knowledge, breached his right to respect for his home under article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights and to freedom from interference with his possessions under article 1 of the ECHR's first protocol.

    Mr Sims argued that service of the notice should be treated as a release of his wife's interest in the tenancy to him, leaving him the sole tenant of the house, or that he should be able to set the notice aside under legislation governing trusts of land.

    But the Court of Appeal rejected Mr Sims' argument. His right to occupy the house had, to his knowledge, always been limited by his wife's right to end their joint tenancy by notice to quit. That was the nature of their bargain with the council, as it was the bargain of all joint tenants with their landlords. The exercise by Mrs Sims of her right to end the tenancy could not, therefore, amount to an interference with Mr Sims' rights, qualified as they were.

    Giving the lead judgement on 24 January, Lord Justice Mummery concluded that ‘there is no incompatibility between the rules of English property and contract law relating to the termination of a joint tenancy by one joint tenant and the ECHR. I cannot think of a sensible purpose that would be served by the expenditure of yet more public funds...on a repeat of this debate before five (or even more) justices of the Supreme Court'.

    For many landlords, this judgement will bring a welcome end to speculation about Monk's compatibility with the ECHR. County courts should now be able to lift the stay of possession claims awaiting the outcome of Mr Sims' case. His legal advisors may apply to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal, but as matters stand, any change to this law will have to be made by parliament.




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