London Borough of Brent v Sharma and Vyas: CA 1992

A tenancy of a flat was granted to Miss Vyas. She occupied it with Mr Sharma. They later married. She moved out and was given the tenancy of a council house elsewhere. She then wrote to Brent, the landlords, to say she was no longer sharing with Mr Sharma, that she had moved out and had no objection to the transfer of the flat into his name. Brent stopped charging rent to Miss Vyas, posting a notice to quit through the letter box of the flat requiring her to give up possession on 16 January 1989. The judge held that the notice was invalid as never having been properly served on Miss Vyas. She continued to live in Milton Keynes until September 1989. Mr Sharma continued to occupy the flat. Brent never transferred the tenancy to him and never treated him as a tenant. Brent took proceedings for possession against both Miss Vyas and Mr Sharma on 14 September 1989. The judge made an order for possession, taking the view that Miss Vyas’ notice of November 1988 was an unequivocal act by her and evincing an intention to surrender the tenancy, which he held had been accepted by Brent. The judge relied on the fact that Brent’s internal records showed that they no longer debited any rent to Miss Vyas. He therefore made the possession order. The defendants appealed, arguing that there was no evidence of any unequivocal act by Brent showing that it had accepted that there was no longer a continuing tenancy and that Brent’s service of the notice to quit in December 1988 showed that it regarded the tenancy as then still continuing.
Held: The appeal was dismissed. Miss Vyas’ conduct in leaving the flat, moving to Milton Keynes and living there with her two children and sending her November 1988 notice to Brent amounted to unequivocal representations that she was treating her tenancy of the flat as at an end. Lord Justice Scott: ‘Of course, unilateral conduct by one of the parties to a tenancy cannot by itself bring to an end the tenancy. Surrender by operation of law requires unequivocal conduct by both landlord and tenant. The landlord council, it seems, was not entirely clear as to the legal effect of the conduct of Miss Vyas. So the council did three things. On December 19, 1988, it ceased to charge rent as from December 12, 1988; thereafter no rent was charged to Miss Vyas in respect of the tenancy at 33, Donovan Court. Second, the council served a document, purporting to be a notice to quit, terminating the tenancy as at the end of January 1989; and, third, by any number of internal memoranda, the council showed that it regarded Miss Vyas’s tenancy of 33, Donovan Court as having come to an end. I refer, in particular, to the comments describing the occupation of Mr Sharma, who had been living with Miss Vyas at 33, Donovan Court, as in ‘unlawful occupation’.
The council’s conduct in December 1988 may, correctly viewed, have been equivocal. But, in my judgment, by February 1989 at the latest the council’s conduct had become entirely unequivocal. If both tenant and landlord are unequivocally treating a tenancy as at an end, the law has no business to insist on its continuance.’
Lord Justice Scott
(1992) 25 HLR 257
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedSanctuary Housing Association v Donald Campbell CA 18-Mar-1999
The claimant had granted a secure weekly tenancy of a maisonette to Mrs Campbell, which she occupied with her husband and children. Mrs Campbell then left the maisonette, leaving the husband in occupation. The husband made a proposal to the claimant . .
CitedEaling Family Housing Association Ltd v McKenzie CA 10-Oct-2003
The defendant and his wife separated when she left the flat they shared. She accepted a new tenancy of other premises. The landlord claimed possession of the flat, saying that the tenancy had ended.
Held: There was no express surrender within . .
CitedBellcourt Estates Ltd v Adesina CA 18-Feb-2005
The landlord sought to recover arrears of rent. The tenant said that she had surrendered the lease of the properties. The judge had held that she ceased to occupy the premises from November 2000, after which the landlord did not send a demand for . .
CitedArtworld Financial Corporation v Safaryan and Others CA 27-Feb-2009
The parties disputed whether the landlord had accepted the surrender of a lease. The tenant had handed in the keys. The landlord claimed rent for the subsequent period. The court had found surrender by operation of law, the landlord taking several . .

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Updated: 05 May 2021; Ref: scu.235947