Maunsell v Olins: HL 1975

The House considered whether a sub-tenant could claim protection under the 1968 Act. This depended on the interpretation of the word ‘premises’ in the context of a sub-tenancy of a cottage on a farm let under an agricultural tenancy.
Held: (majority) ‘premises’ in section 18(5) include any premises which, as a matter of fact, applying accepted principles, would be held to be a dwelling-house for the purposes of the Act. The word ‘premises’ was less narrow than ‘dwelling-house’: ‘. . A less narrow view would be to say that ‘premises’ not only dwelling-houses in the normal popular sense, but premises, which, for the purposes of the Rent Act, are treated as dwelling-houses. Everybody knows, and the draftsman must be taken to have known, that protection under the Rent Acts is given not merely to single, identifiable, pure dwelling-houses or dwelling units, but also to units of a mixed character – houses let with a garden or a yard or a garage or a paddock, houses part (even a substantial part) of which is used for business purposes. This is, of course, an untidy situation and it means that no clear definition of a dwelling-house entitled to protection can be given. (We note that a distinction is made between a house let together with land and land let with a house.) But it reflects the reality of life, and the County Courts are used, and skilful, at solving what are inevitably questions of degree. We should recognise this and, as between the narrow and the less narrow meaning, I would apply to premises the latter which would include any premises which, as a matter of fact, applying accepted principles, would be held to be a dwelling-house for the purposes of the Act.’
Lord Simon of Glaisdale invoked the ‘golden rule’ of statutory construction, namely that in technical legislation, a word is normally to be given its appropriately technical meaning (if it is has one), or (if it does not have one) its ordinary meaning. There was no good reason for departing from that rule so that ‘premises’ meant the property comprised in the headlease, whether it was open land, buildings, parts of buildings or a combination.
Lord Reid said that the literal, golden and mischief rules are not ‘rules in the ordinary sense of having some binding force. They are our servants not our masters. They are aids to construction, presumptions or pointers. Not infrequently one ‘rule’ points in one direction, another in a different direction. In each case we must look at all relevant circumstances and decide as a matter of judgment what weight to attach to any particular ‘rule’.’ Viscount Dilhorne: ”Premises’ is an ordinary word of the English language which takes colour and content from the context in which it is used. A reference to Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary shows this to be the case.’
Lord Wilberforce said: ‘From this it has passed into the vernacular, at least a quasi-legal vernacular, as referring to some sort of property, but not without any precise connotation. A reference to Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary shows that a number of different meanings have been acquired of which the most central appears to be buildings or some kinds of buildings, but it would be far too much to say that there is any prima facie, still less any grammatical, meaning from which one should start.’
Lord Simon of Glaisdale said: ‘Consolidation is not nowadays limited to mere re-enactment. Under a procedure recommended by the Law Commissions in 1965 under the Law Commissions Act of that year, even substantial amendments may be made in the pre-existing law, where such are deemed by the Law Commissions to be desirable in order to secure satisfactory consolidation. Such amendments are subject to full and traditional parliamentary control. But, even short of this, by section 2 of the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act 1949 a consolidation Act may embody such corrections and minor improvements as are confined to, and may be judged expedient with a view to
‘resolving ambiguities, removing doubts, bringing obsolete provisions into conformity with modern practice, or removing unnecessary provisions or anomalies which are not of substantial importance, and amendments designed to facilitate improvement in the form or manner in which the law is stated,’ . .
including ‘any transitional provisions which may be necessary in consequence of such amendments.’ Moreover, the very purpose of consolidation is to enact a compendious code standing on its own and making it unnecessary to scrutinise the consolidated legislation (which is, indeed, repealed in a Schedule to the consolidation Act). For all these reasons it is, in our respectful submission, an incorrect approach to the construction of a consolidation Act (even one limited to re-enactment) to try to interpret it by reference to the repealed statutes which are consolidated. And . .
‘It has been generally accepted in the past that there is a presumption that Parliament does not intend by a consolidation Act to alter the pre-existing law: see Maxwell, pp. 20-25, and Beswick v. Beswick [1968 ] A.C. 58, 73. How far this rule may need modification in the case of some types of consolidation under the Act of 1949 or of consolidation under the 1965 procedure, and how the courts should inform themselves of the manner in which Parliament has proceeded, may have to be considered in some future case. But in any event such a presumption has no scope for operation where the actual words of the consolidation Act are not, as a matter of legal language, capable of bearing more than one meaning. The docked tail must not be allowed to wag the dog. It is only where the actual words used in the consolidation Act are ambiguous (in the sense of being fairly susceptible of bearing more than one meaning in their context and register) that recourse may be had to any difference in phraseology of the corresponding provision in the repealed enactment as an aid to their construction. Even in such a case the corresponding provision of the repealed enactment is capable of being an aid to the construction of the consolidation Act only if its own wording is unambiguous and its sole meaning is one of those which the words in the consolidation Act can fairly bear.’


Lord Wilberforce, Lord Reid and Viscount Dilhorne, Lords Diplock and Simon of Glaisdale dissenting


[1975] AC 373, [1975] 1 All ER 16


Rent Restriction Act 1968 18(5)


England and Wales


CitedEpsom Grand Stand Association Ltd v Clarke CA 1919
Premises on a racecourse were let to the defendants in part as a public house, and to occupy the other part themselves. The court was asked whether this was a letting of ‘a house or a part of a house let as a separate dwelling . . and every such . .

Cited by:

CitedWellcome Trust Ltd v Hamad; Ebied and Another v Hopkins and Another; Church Commissioners for England v Baines CA 30-Jul-1997
There was a tenancy for mixed residential and business purposes and, with the landlord’s permission, the tenant sublet one of the residential flats within the premises to the defendant, who enjoyed protection under the Act of 1977.
Held: . .
CitedPirabakaran v Patel and Another CA 26-May-2006
The landlord had wanted possession. The tenant said that the landlord had been harassing him. The landlord said that the tenancy was a mixed residential and business tenancy and that the 1977 Act did not apply.
Held: The 1977 Act applied. A . .
CitedPittalis v Grant CA 1989
A point was raised for the first time on appeal.
Held: Though an appellate court could exclude a pure question of law which had not been raised at first instance from being raised on appeal, the usual practice was to allow it to be taken where . .
CitedDesnousse v London Borough of Newham and others CA 17-May-2006
The occupier had been granted a temporary licence by the authority under the homelessness provisions whilst it made its assessment. The assessment concluded that she had become homeless intentionally, and therefore terminated the licence and set out . .
CitedMajorstake Ltd v Curtis CA 8-Aug-2006
The tenant had given notice under section 42 requiring a new lease. The landlord said it wished to redevelop the apartment by combining it with a neighbouring one. The issue was as to what constituted ‘any premises in which [Flat 77] is contained’ . .
CitedNational Trust for Places of Historic Interest Or Natural Beauty v Knipe and Knipe CA 15-May-1997
The tenancy was of an agricultural holding, with protection under the 1986 Act. It had 350 acres of pasture, and two farmhouses. The tenants covenanted not to use the holding for any purpose other than agriculture, to farm it in accordance with the . .
CitedTan and Another v Sitkowski CA 1-Feb-2007
The tenant claimed Rent Act protection for his tenancy. He had been rehoused and began his tenancy in 1970 with the ground floor used as a shop, and the first floor as living accomodation. He later abandoned the business use. He appealed a finding . .
CitedMajorstake Ltd v Curtis HL 6-Feb-2008
The tenant had served a notice under the 2003 Act to acquire a new lease. The landlord in replying that he wished to redevelop the site, sought himself to define the extent of the ‘estate’ to include only the tenant’s apartment and a neighbouring . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and the Regions and another, ex parte Spath Holme Limited HL 7-Dec-2000
The section in the 1985 Act created a power to prevent rent increases for tenancies of dwelling-houses for purposes including the alleviation of perceived hardship. Accordingly the Secretary of State could issue regulations whose effect was to limit . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant

Updated: 19 May 2022; Ref: scu.200613