Council house succession case divides judges

Wednesday 25 July 2012

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A dispute over who succeeded a council tenant on her death has divided the judiciary and culminated in a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court.

When the late Mrs Hickin died, the only other occupier of her council house was her daughter who had lived there for over 40 years. The council said that the tenancy could not pass to the daughter because her father, who had left the home 20 years earlier, was still named on the tenancy agreement.

In proceedings to evict the daughter, a judge granted a possession order. A different judge overturned that on appeal. Then the Court of Appeal reversed his decision. Finally, by the narrowest of majorities (3:2) the Supreme Court has decided that the daughter's succession claim fails. That was because a common law rule provides that when a joint tenant dies the other joint tenant - even if no longer resident or interested in the house - takes the property by survivorship.

Miss Hickin was represented in the Supreme Court by barristers Jan Luba QC and Nicholas Nicol. Her solicitor was Sean Gilmore.

Both the full judgment and the Supreme Court's press release summarising the case are available online.

Jan Luba QC is a senior member of the Garden Court Housing Team.

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