Possession proceedings – joint tenancies, agency, ratification, surrender and Art.8

Thursday 30 November 2017

Haringey London Borough Council v Ahmed [2017] EWCA Civ 1861, 21 November 2017

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Haringey London Borough Council v Ahmed [2017] EWCA Civ 1861, 21 November 2017

On 10 October 1988, Mr Ahmed was granted a secure tenancy by Haringey LBC. The tenancy had been granted as a result of an application for rehousing made by Mr Ahmed some time previously. Mr Ahmed’s household at the time included his mother (Mrs Ahmed), his wife (Ms Ahmed) and their three children.  The tenancy described itself as a joint tenancy and listed Ms Ahmed as the joint tenant. However, the tenancy was signed by Mr Ahmed alone. The space for Ms Ahmed’s signature was left blank.

A second tenancy agreement was signed shortly after on 19 October 1988. This time Mr Ahmed and his mother signed the agreement, and the agreement described itself as a joint tenancy with Mr Ahmed and his mother comprising the joint tenant. The household moved into the property on 31 October 1988.

Mr Ahmed left the property in 2002. He and his mother both wrote to Haringey at the time asking for the tenancy to be transferred into the names of Ms Ahmed and Mrs Ahmed, though this request was never effected. The following year, on 11 September 2003, Mrs Ahmed signed a notice terminating the tenancy. Then, some considerable time later, on 9 January 2006 she signed a further tenancy agreement. This third agreement was signed by Mrs Ahmed alone and described itself as a sole tenancy.

In or around 2010 Mrs Ahmed moved out of the property and did not return. By the time of court proceedings, she was living with Mr Ahmed once more who, by this time, had remarried.

In July 2012, Haringey purported to determine the tenancy by means of a notice to quit, on the footing that the tenancy was no longer secure as the tenant was not occupying the property as her only or principal home.

Haringey then brought possession proceedings. At first instance, the judge dismissed the possession claim finding that there had been a relationship of agency between Mr Ahmed and Ms Ahmed at the time of the first tenancy agreement: Ms Ahmed had only limited English at that time and trusted her husband to deal with lettings and the like. Mr Ahmed had signed the first agreement on Ms Ahmed’s behalf and in doing so they had become joint tenants. The implied authority granted by Ms Ahmed to her husband at that time, the judge found, did not extend to the surrender of the first tenancy. With the effect that the second and third tenancies were void, that Ms Ahmed remained a joint tenant and Haringey were not entitled to possession.

The Court of Appeal allowed Haringey’s appeal. There was insufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that Ms Ahmed had granted Mr Ahmed authority to enter into legal relations on her behalf, as opposed to simply trusting him to find accommodation for the family. And Ms Ahmed had no opportunity to subsequently ratify Mr Ahmed’s actions as the first tenancy only existed for around 9 days.

Ms Ahmed’s alternative argument for upholding the decision – that the first tenancy had not been properly surrendered as there had been no cessation of occupation by Mr Ahmed – was rejected. The act of entering into the second agreement had been sufficiently clear and unequivocal that a surrender of the first agreement could be implied.

A further alternative argument based on Art.8 ECHR was also dismissed. The judge at first instance in dismissing this limb of Ms Ahmed’s defence has taken account of the length of her residence, her disability, the impact of eviction on her and assurances said to have been made to her by Haringey some years previously. In doing so the judge made no error in his approach to proportionality.

The full judgment is available here: Haringey London Borough Council v Ahmed [2017] EWCA Civ 1861

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