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 a spouse someone living with the tenant as husband or wife.
Held: The claim to inherit as a spouse failed. However, the meaning of ‘member of a family’ could include a same sex partner who had been involved in an established monogamous relationship. Such a person could not be a ‘spouse’ within the meaning of the Act, but the family provision was more widely framed and allowed the court to take account of changes in society. Thus a same sex partner coud take a succession of a property from that partner on death on the basis of his being a member of the family. ‘The hall marks of the relationship were essentially that there should be a degree of mutual inter-dependence, of the sharing of lives, of caring and love, of commitment and support. In respect of legal relationships these are presumed, though evidently are not always present as the family law and criminal courts know only too well. In de facto relationships these are capable, if proved, of creating membership of the tenant’s family.’
Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead asked ‘can the expression ‘family’ legitimately be interpreted in 1999 as having a different and wider meaning than when it was first enacted in 1920?’. He answered Yes’: ‘ A statement must necessarily be interpreted having regard to the circumstances when it was enacted. It is a fair presumption that Parliament’s intention was directed to that state of affairs. When circumstances change, a court has to consider whether they fall within the parliamentary intention. They may do so if there can be detected a clear purpose in the legislation which can only be fulfilled if an extension is made. How liberally these principles may be applied must depend upon the nature of the enactment, and the strictness or otherwise of the words in which it was expressed.’
Lord Slynn of Hadley explained that when interpreting some statutes: ‘It is not an answer to the problem to assume . . that if in 1920 people had been asked whether one person was a member of another same-sex person’s family the answer would have been ‘No’. That is not the right question. The first question is what were the characteristics of a family in the 1920 Act and the second whether two same-sex partners can satisfy those characteristics so as today to fall within the word ‘family’. An alternative question is whether the word ‘family’ in the 1920 Act has to be updated so as to be capable of including persons who today would be regarded as being of each other’s family, whatever might have been said in 1920: see R v Ireland [1998] AC 147, 158, per Lord Steyn; Bennion, Statutory Interpretation, 3rd ed (1997), p 686 and Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th ed reissue, vol 44(1) (1995), p 904, para 1473.’

Lord Slynn of Hadley, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Clyde, Lord Hutton, Lord Hobhouse of Wood-borough
Times 02-Nov-1999, Gazette 10-Nov-1999, [1999] 3 WLR 1113, [2001] 1 AC 27, [1999] UKHL 42, [1999] 4 All ER 705
House of Lords, Bailii
Rent Act 1977 Sch 1 para 3(1)
England and Wales
Appeal fromFitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association CA 23-Jul-1997
A homosexual partner of a deceased tenant was not a member of that tenant’s family so as to entitle him to inherit the Rent Act tenancy on the death of his partner. . .
CitedRoyal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom v Department of Health and Social Security HL 2-Jan-1981
The court was asked whether nurses could properly involve themselves in a pregnancy termination procedure not known when the Act was passed, and in particular, whether a pregnancy was ‘terminated by a medical practitioner’, when it was carried out . .
CitedIn Re Wakim 1999
(High Court of Australia) Changes in attitudes and perceptions may require a wider meaning to be given to a word such as ‘marriage’, at any rate in some contexts. . .
ApprovedHarrogate Borough Council v Simpson CA 1985
The claimant (defending proceedings for possession by the local authority) had lived with the deceased secure tenant in a lesbian relationship for some years and was so living at the date of her death. She sought to defend her occupation saying she . .
CitedRegina v Burstow, Regina v Ireland HL 24-Jul-1997
The defendant was accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm when he had made silent phone calls which were taken as threatening.
Held: An assault might consist of the making of a silent telephone call in circumstances where it causes . .
CitedCarega Properties SA (formerly Joram Developments Ltd) v Sharratt HL 1979
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 . .
CitedRoss 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 . .
CitedPrice 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 . .
CitedBrock 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 . .
CitedHawes v Evenden CA 1953
The claimant had lived with the deceased tenant for 12 years and had had two children with him. They had not married.
Held: There was evidence that the claimant and the tenant and the children had lived together as a family and she was . .
CitedChios Property Investment Ltd v Lopez 1987
When asked to consider whether a person cohabiting with a tenant before his death, and seeking a statutory tenancy after his death, the court stressed the importance of a ‘sufficient state of permanence and stability’ having been reached in the . .
CitedHelby v Rafferty CA 1979
The court declined to hold that a man who had lived with a woman tenant for five years before her death were part of the same family because they had deliberately opted to retain their formal independence and they had not been recognised as being . .
CitedWatson v Lucas CA 1980
A woman who had lived with a man, although he remained married to his wife, was a member of his family for the purpose of Schedule 1 to the Act of 1977 because of the lasting relationship between them. . .
CitedGammans v Ekins CA 1950
The plaintiff had lived with a woman tenant for over 20 years and they had been regarded in the neighbourhood as man and wife.
Held: He could not thereby be deemed a member of her family for the Act of 1920. If their relationship was sexual . .
CitedJones v Whitehill CA 1950
The plaintiff, a woman, out of love and kindness, went to live with her aunt and uncle. On the uncle’s death, she claimed to be entitled to succeed to their tenancy.
Held: On the uncle’s death she was found to be a member of his family. The . .
CitedSalter v Lask 1925
A tenant’s husband came within the statute which provided for a surviving spouse to take over a tenancy on the death of the former tenant, even though a widower of the tenant was not expressly mentioned in the legislation, . .
CitedRegina v Ministry of Defence Ex Parte Smith and Others QBD 7-Jun-1995
An MOD ban on employing homosexuals was not Wednesbury unreasonable, even though it might be out of date. Pannick (counsel for the applicant, approved): ‘The court may not interfere with the exercise of an administrative discretion on substantive . .
CitedBraschi v Stahl Associates Co 1989
(New York: Court of Appeals) The issue was as to the meaning of the New York City Rent and Eviction Regulations which provided that a landlord might not dispossess ‘either the surviving spouse of the deceased tenant or some other member of the . .
CitedLangdon v Horton 1951
First cousins, sharing a residence for purposes of convenience, were held not to qualify as a family so that one could inherit the tenancy on the death of the other. . .
CitedDyson 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 . .
CitedStewart v Mackay 1947
In relation to the phrase ‘the needs of the tenant and his family’ it was considered that domestic servants and even lodgers might fall within the description if they had a sufficient degree of permanence and the general relationship. . .
CitedCrake v Supplementary Benefits Commission; Butterworth v Supplementary Benefits Commission 1982
The claimants lived in the same house. The woman had severe injuries, and her male friend had at one time moved into the house to assist her care. She later moved to live with him, leaving her husband. There was no sexual relationship. The . .
CitedStandingford v Probert 1950
. .
CitedCampbell College, Belfast v Commissioner of Valuation for Northern Ireland HL 1964
The rule of contemporary exposition should be applied only in relation to very old statutes. . .
CitedSefton Holdings Ltd v Cairns 1987
When considering whether a stautory succession was to take place, the question is whether the person was a member of the family, not whether he was living as a member of the family. . .
CitedGrant v South West Trains Ltd ECJ 17-Feb-1998
A company’s ban on the provision of travel perks to same sex partners of employees did not constitute breach of European sex discrimination law. An employer’s policy was not necessarily to be incorporated into the contract of employment. The court . .
CitedT Petitioner OHCS 20-Aug-1996
A homosexual sought an adoption order. He intended to raise the child with his male partner. The relationship was readily described as constituting a family. But as for an heterosexual couple the existence of children was not a necessary factor for . .
CitedIn Re W (A Minor) (Adoption: Homosexual Adopter) FD 21-May-1997
There is no rule of law against adoption of a child by a single person living within a homosexual relationship. The court must always look to the best interests of the child in question. The court recognised the couple as constituting a family: ‘The . .
CitedRees v The United Kingdom ECHR 17-Oct-1986
The applicant had been born and registered as a female, but later came to receive treatment and to live as a male. He complained that the respondent had failed to amend his birth certificate.
Held: The court accepted that, by failing to confer . .
CitedCossey v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-Sep-1990
A male to female transsexual who had undergone full gender reassignment surgery wished to marry. The court held that despite the Resolution of the European Parliament on 12th September 1989 and Recommendation 1117 adopted by the Parliamentary . .
CitedS v United Kingdom ECHR 1986
The applicant was not entitled in domestic law to succeed to a tenancy on the death of her partner. The aim of the legislation is question was to protect the family, a goal similar to the protection of the right to respect for family life guaranteed . .
CitedRees v The United Kingdom ECHR 17-Oct-1986
The applicant had been born and registered as a female, but later came to receive treatment and to live as a male. He complained that the respondent had failed to amend his birth certificate.
Held: The court accepted that, by failing to confer . .
CitedX, Y and Z v The United Kingdom ECHR 22-Apr-1997
The court refused to find that the failure of United Kingdom law to recognise a female to male trans-sexual as the father of a donor insemination child, born to his partner and brought up as their child, was a breach of their rights to respect for . .
CitedCossey v The United Kingdom ECHR 27-Sep-1990
A male to female transsexual who had undergone full gender reassignment surgery wished to marry. The court held that despite the Resolution of the European Parliament on 12th September 1989 and Recommendation 1117 adopted by the Parliamentary . .
CitedCarega 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 . .
CitedSalgueiro da Silva Mouta v Portugal ECHR 1-Dec-1998
A homosexual claimed that an award of custody of his daughter to her mother was an unjustified interference with his right to respect for family life, and also with his right to respect for his private life since he was required in respect of his . .
CitedRegina v Howe etc HL 19-Feb-1986
The defendants appealed against their convictions for murder, saying that their defences of duress had been wrongly disallowed.
Held: Duress is not a defence available on a charge of murder. When a defence of duress is raised, the test is . .

Cited by:
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A cloned cell, a cell produced by cell nuclear replacement came within the definition of embryo under the Act. The Act required that fertilisation was complete.
Held: The act could be applied in a purposive way. The legislative policy was that . .
DoubtedGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza CA 5-Nov-2002
The applicant sought to succeed to the tenancy of his deceased homosexual partner as his partner rather than as a member of his family.
Held: A court is bound by any decision within the normal hierachy of domestic authority as to the meaning . .
Cited1 Pump Court Chambers v Horton EAT 2-Dec-2003
The chambers appealed a finding of discrimination, saying that a pupil was not a member of the set so as to qualify under the Act.
Held: The barristers set or chambers was a trade organisation, but the position of a pupil barrister was not . .
ReconsideredGhaidan v Godin-Mendoza HL 21-Jun-2004
Same Sex Partner Entitled to tenancy Succession
The protected tenant had died. His same-sex partner sought a statutory inheritance of the tenancy.
Held: His appeal succeeded. The Fitzpatrick case referred to the position before the 1998 Act: ‘Discriminatory law undermines the rule of law . .
CitedRegina (Smeaton) v Secretary of State for Health and Others Admn 18-Apr-2002
The claimant challenged the Order as regards the prescription of the morning-after pill, asserting that the pill would cause miscarriages, and that therefore the use would be an offence under the 1861 Act.
Held: ‘SPUC’s case is that any . .
CitedNational Westminster Bank plc v Spectrum Plus Limited and others HL 30-Jun-2005
Former HL decision in Siebe Gorman overruled
The company had become insolvent. The bank had a debenture and claimed that its charge over the book debts had become a fixed charge. The preferential creditors said that the charge was a floating charge and that they took priority.
Held: The . .
CitedVictor Chandler International v Commissioners of Customs and Excise and another CA 8-Mar-2000
A teletext page can be a document for gaming licensing purposes. A bookmaker sought to advertise his services via a teletext page. His services were not licensed in this country, but the advertisements were. It was held that despite the . .
CitedSecretary of State for Work and Pensions v M HL 8-Mar-2006
The respondent’s child lived with the estranged father for most of each week. She was obliged to contribute child support. She now lived with a woman, and complained that because her relationship was homosexual, she had been asked to pay more than . .
CitedWilkinson v Kitzinger and others FD 31-Jul-2006
The parties had gone through a ceremony of marriage in Columbia, being both women. After the relationship failed, the claimant sought a declaration that the witholding of the recognition of same-sex marriages recoginised in a foreign jurisdiction . .
CitedRaissi, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department Admn 22-Feb-2007
The claimant sought judicial review of a refusal to make an ex gratia payment for his imprisonment whilst successfully resisting extradition proceedings. Terrorist connections had been suggested, but the judge made an explicit finding that at no . .
CitedBellinger v Bellinger CA 17-Jul-2001
Transgender Male may not marry as Female
Despite gender re-assignment, a person born and registered a male, remained biologically a male, and so was not a woman for the purposes of the law of marriage. The birth registration in this case had been correct. The words ‘male and female’ in the . .
CitedYemshaw v London Borough of Hounslow SC 26-Jan-2011
The appellant sought housing after leaving her home to escape domestic violence. The violence was short of physical violence, and the authority had denied a duty to rehouse her. She said that the term ‘domestic violence’ in the Act was not intended . .
DistinguishedSheffield 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 . .
CitedNML Capital Ltd v Argentina SC 6-Jul-2011
The respondent had issued bonds but in 2001 had declared a moratorium on paying them. The appellant hedge fund later bought the bonds, heavily discounted. Judgment was obtained in New York, which the appellants now sought to enforce against assets . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Housing, Human Rights, Discrimination, Family

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.159026