Long v Tower Hamlets London Borough Council: ChD 29 Mar 1996

The landlord’s agents wrote to the proposed tenant offering a quarterly tenancy of the premises. The tenancy was to commence at a future date. The defendant endorsed the letter and returned it to say he would abide by the terms, and he was allowed into possession. He ceased to pay rent, and eventually came to claim that he had acquired the freehold by adverse possession.
Held: The appropriate limitation period of twelve years ran from the date of the accrual of the right of action. The landlord said that, as a lease in writing, time ran only from the date of a notice to quit. The tenant said no lease in writing existed unless it was dispositive, ie a document creating a leasehold estate. The document was not executed as a deed, and could only create a legal estate if it fell within s54(2) of the 1925 Act. Since it did not take affect in possession, it was reversionary and could not fall within the exception. A tenancy for less than three years but without immediate possession being taken must be by deed: ‘there was no ‘lease in writing’ for the purposes of paragraph 5(1) if the writing, however comprehensively set out and clearly referable to the existence of a new lease, was merely evidential. If there was to be a ‘lease in writing’ the writing itself had to ‘pass an interest’ and ‘operate a lease’ or ‘create an estate.’ and ‘Reversionary lease conferring no immediate right to take possession were altogether excluded form the ambit of section 54(2) of the 1925 Act. Such reversionary leases could take effect only if made by deed. Therefore the tenancy which undoubtedly came into existence was not one created by the tenancy document but rather one which arose by operation of law, by the payment and receipt of rent.’ The action was arguable and should be allowed to proceed.


James Munby QC


Times 29-Mar-1996, [1996] 2 All ER 683


Law of Property Act 1925 54(2), Limitation Act 1980 Sch1 p5(1)


CitedDoe d. Landsell v Gower 1851
The tenant was let into parochial property by the parish officers making an entry in the vestry book ‘We the churchwardens and overseers of P., do hereby agree to let to JB of . . . The newly erected cottage . . Situate . . . At the rent of 1s 6d . .
CitedMoses v Lovegrove CA 29-Apr-1952
The tenant had gone into possession under an oral agreement with a rent book. He ceased to pay rent or acknowledge the landlord’s right in 1938. In 1952 the landlord sought to recover possession, and now appealed a finding that the tenant had . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant, Limitation

Updated: 09 April 2022; Ref: scu.83180