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Gateway Housing Association Ltd v (1) The Personal Representatives of Mr Ali (Deceased) (2) Mrs Begum
[2020] EWCA Civ 1339
Master of the Rolls, Lewison, Carr LJJ

Where an assured or secure tenant dies, the statutory security of tenure is lost (because the tenant is no longer occupying the property as his only or principal home – s.81, Housing Act 1985; s.1, Housing Act 1988) but the contractual tenancy will remain in existence. If the deceased tenant has left a will, the tenancy will vest in his executors. If he has died intestate, the tenancy vests in the Public Trustee (Administration of Estates Act 1925). In that latter case, a landlord who wishes to serve a notice in respect of the land (e.g. a notice to quit) must serve the notice at the last known address of the deceased, addressed to his Personal Representatives and must also serve a copy on the Public Trustee (s.18, Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1994).

Gateway Housing Association Ltd was the owner of a property of which Mr Ali was the tenant. In August 2018, Mr Ali died. Mrs Begum was left in occupation but had no statutory or contractual right to succeed to the tenancy. The housing association considered that s.18, 1994 Act applied and, on 17 October 2018, served notice to quit at the property on the Personal Representatives of Mr Ali. A copy of the notice was served on the Public Trustee on 30 October 2018. In each case, the notice purported to expire at the end of a period of the tenancy four weeks from service of the notice.

Mrs Begum did not vacate the property and Gateway issued possession proceedings. Mrs Begum contended that the notices to quit were defective: the one served on the Personal Representatives expired on 18 November 2018 whereas the one served on the Public Trustee expired on 2 December 2018; the effect of s.18, 1994 Act was that they had to expire at the same time; they did not and so were defective. The county court judge accepted that submission and dismissed the claim.

The Court of Appeal allowed an appeal. The notices under the 1994 Act were not of equal importance. The key notice was the one served on the Personal Representatives: the notice to the Public Trustee was a mere copy. There was compliance with s.18 so long as notice was served on the Public Trustee before the expiry of the notice served on the Personal Representatives.

Justin Bates led Nick Bano of Garden Court Chambers and was instructed by Osbornes Solicitors on behalf of Mrs Begum.

Click here for the judgment.

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