Brock v Wollams: CA 1949

A child had been adopted in fact and lived with the tenant for many years, but had not been formally adopted under the Act claimed to inherit the tenancy on his death.
Held: He was to be considered to be a member of the former tenant’s family living with him at his death within the meaning of the Act of 1920. Both de facto adopted and illegitimate children were included as family. CohenLJ: ‘The question the county court judge should have asked himself was this: Would an ordinary man, addressing his mind to the question whether [the daughter] was a member of the family or not, have answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’? To that question I think there is only one possible answer, and that is ‘yes’.’ (‘the ‘Cohen Question’) and ‘It seems to me that ‘members of the tenant’s family’ within section 12 sub-section 1(g) of the Act of 1920, include not only legitimate children but also step-children, illegitimate children and adopted children, whether adopted in due form of law or not.’ (Denning LJ) The test was that the ‘trial judge should ask himself this question: would an ordinary person, addressing his mind to the question whether the defendant was a member of the family, have answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’? ‘ The narrow meaning of relations by blood or marriage was rejected, so also was the idea that ‘family’ could be equated with ‘household.’ A bond which goes no further than the fact that the group are living under the same roof is not enough.


Bucknill LJ, Cohen LJ, Denning LJ


[1949] 2 KB 388


Adoption of Children Act 1926


England and Wales


ApprovedPrice v Gould 1930
In relation to wills and settlements the legislature had used the word ‘family’ ‘to introduce a flexible and wide term’ so that brothers and sisters were to be treated as members of the family. The word was a ‘popular, loose and flexible . .

Cited by:

CitedFitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association Ltd HL 28-Oct-1999
Same Sex Paartner to Inherit as Family Member
The claimant had lived with the original tenant in a stable and long standing homosexual relationship at the deceased’s flat. After the tenant’s death he sought a statutory tenancy as a spouse of the deceased. The Act had been extended to include as . .
ApprovedCarega Properties SA v Sharratt CA 1979
The Court referred to the ‘Cohen’ Question: ‘. . it is for this court to decide, where such an issue arises, whether, assuming all the facts found by the judge to be correct, the question may, as a matter of law, within the permissible limits of the . .
CitedSheffield City Council v Wall (Personal Representatives of) and Others CA 30-Jul-2010
The claimant had been a foster son and was now the administrator of the estate of the deceased tenant. He sought to occupy the property as a successor under the 1985 Act. He said that as a former foster child, he had become a member of the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Housing, Family

Updated: 25 May 2022; Ref: scu.215903