The Supreme Court has ruled that a daughter cannot succeed to a tenancy after the death of her mother because the right of succession belongs to her estranged father.
The woman’s parents became tenants in 1967 and the freehold of the property they rented was transferred to the local authority in 1980. Shortly after that, they became secure tenants of the authority. Their daughter lived with them in the property.
In 1980, the father left and the mother and daughter remained, continuing to rent the property until the mother’s death in 2007.
The father had never been removed from the tenancy, so it devolved to him by operation of common law. The local authority therefore served a notice to quit on him and began proceedings against the daughter for possession of the property.
She argued that the Housing Act 1985 operated so that the tenancy vested in her, not her father. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
The basis of the woman’s argument was that the 1985 Act gives someone in her position the right to the tenancy where:
- the secure tenant dies;
- the secure tenant is not a ‘successor’ to another tenant who predeceased them;
- the tenancy is a ‘periodic tenancy’; and
- the person claiming the tenancy has occupied the premises as their principal or only home for the 12-month period ending with the death of the secure tenant.
The Court concluded (by a majority of 3 to 2) that the woman’s father had succeeded to the tenancy by operation of common law and was therefore the sole tenant. Since he did not occupy the property, there was no longer anyone occupying the property as a principal or only residence.
Whilst the father could claim the property by returning to it and using it as his residence, the daughter did not have that right.