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Secure tenancies and succession

Was the decision of a local authority, in refusing the partner of a pre-April 2012 secure tenant the right to succeed to his tenancy because she had not resided with him for a continuous period of 12 months before his death, unreasonable or disproportionate?

In a decision that brings welcome relief to local authority landlords who have refused succession applications in similar circumstances., Knowles J held in R (on the application of Turley) v Wandsworth London Borough [2014] EWHC 4040 (Admin) that the 12 month period set out in s.87 of the Housing Act 1985 (unamended) was neither unreasonable nor disproportionate. 

Mr Doyle held a secure tenancy of a flat granted by the local authority. He and Ms Turley who were in a long-term relationship, but unmarried, lived together in Mr Doyle’s flat with their children. There had been a breakdown in their relationship and the couple only reconciled 3 months before Mr Doyle’s death with him moving back into the flat.

Under s.87 of the Housing Act 1985 (unamended), where two people are unmarried or civil partners, but live as if they are, the person who is not a secure tenant can only succeed to their partner’s secure tenancy if: (a) he or she occupies the property as his or her only or principal home at the time of the tenant’s death, and (b) they resided together for a continuous period of 12 months before the tenant’s death.  Ms Turley challenged by way of judicial review the validity of the 12 months period for unmarried couples. She grounded her challenge on Articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR. It was accepted by the parties that both Articles 8 and 14 were engaged.

Knowles J shied away from deciding whether couples who were living together but unmarried or not in a civil partnership were in an analogous position to married couples or those in a civil partnership. He found that requiring a state of affairs to be demonstrated over a period of time served a legitimate aim. The aim being the reliable assessment of whether two people were living together as if they were spouses or civil partners. The additional requirement was therefore objectively and reasonably justified. A 12 month period was a proportionate length of time and not unduly long.

Elizabeth Dwomoh / 1st Feb 2015


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