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Sims v Dacorum Borough Council [2014] UKSC 23

The Supreme Court reconsidered the rule in Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Monk [1992] AC 478 under which one tenant can terminate a joint tenancy for all tenants by serving a unilateral notice on the landlord.

The court reaffirmed the general principle still applies in the light of the ECHR article 8 and article 1 of the first protocol.

Mr and Mrs Sims had a secure joint tenancy. Their relationship broke down and Mrs Sims moved out. She sought to terminate the tenancy by giving a unilateral notice to quit to her landlord. The tenancy agreement expressly stated that one tenant could terminate the tenancy for both (clause 100) and that if they did, the Council would then consider whether to offer the remaining party a fresh tenancy (clause 101). The Council decided not to offer Mr Sims a fresh tenancy of the property and obtained a possession order. Mr Sims appealed on the basis that evicting him would breach his rights under Article 1 of the first protocol to the ECHR or Article 8.

The Supreme Court dismissed Mr Sims’ appeal unanimously. Regarding Article 1 (protecting his right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions) Mr Sims lost his property as a result of the bargain he himself made, providing for termination of the tenancy by either tenant. The Council had properly considered whether to offer a new tenancy thereafter and had legitimately decided against it. The only arguments that could be raised by Mr Sims were either (i) that clause 100 was irrational, or (ii) that clause 101 had not been properly implemented. Plainly neither was a good argument on the facts.

Further, article 8 had also not been breached. Again the court referred to clauses 100 and 101 and held Mr Sims to them. Mr Sims was sufficiently protected by the requisite court procedure under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 and the very tenancy agreement to which he was a party.

It should be noted that, in relation to both arguments pursued by Mr Sims, the Supreme Court made reference to the express terms of the tenancy agreement as rendering his case unsuccessful. It remains to be seen whether a joint tenancy without a termination clause of this type would be distinguishable.

Helen Turnbull / 1st Dec 2014


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