A widow aged 75 had developed a platonic relationship with a young man aged 24. He lived in her flat for nearly 20 years until she died. They treated themselves as aunt and nephew. The trial judge held that through their relationship this elderly lady and young man achieved a familial nexus, meaning thereby a nexus such as one would only find within a family. The Court of Appeal reversed the judge’s decision, and held that on the facts the relationship was not within the permissible limits of the meaning of the phrase ‘a member of the . . . tenant’s family’.
Held: The term ‘family’ where it is used in the Rent Acts is not a term of art. Its interpretation is a question of law, and and ‘family’ is not the same as ‘household’. ‘The facts of the instant case, if they are not unique, are certainly most unusual, and for that reason they do not, in my opinion, provide a suitable occasion for this House to undertake a general consideration of what persons may be included in the expression ‘a member of the original tenant’s family’ where at the time of the tenant’s death there did exist between him and the claimant to a statutory tenancy by succession a relationship of one or other of the various kinds to which I have referred above. In particular, the difficult question posed by Dyson Holdings Ltd. v. Fox  Q.B. 503 as to the extent, if any, to which changed social attitudes towards cohabitation between unmarried couples and the offspring of such liaisons may have enlarged the meaning of the expression ‘family’ in the Rent Act 1968 does not arise in the instant case and is best left for consideration in the light of the actual facts of a case in which it does arise.’
Lord Diplock, Viscount Dilhorne
 1 WLR 928,  2 All ER 1084
England and Wales
Approved – Ross v Collins CA 1964
The defendant had acted as the original tenant’s housekeeper in return for which he remitted her rent. They had never addressed each other by their Christian names and there was no question of an intimate personal relationship. After his death she . .
Cited – Dyson Holdings Ltd v Fox CA 17-Oct-1975
The defendant had lived with the tenant for 21 years until his death. They were unmarried and had no children. Reversing the County Court judge, the Court of Appeal ruled that she was a member of his family. It was absurd to distinguish between two . .
Appeal from – Carega 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 . .
Cited – Fitzpatrick 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 . .
These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 July 2021; Ref: scu.215876