Willis v Association of Universities of the British Commonwealth: CA 1965

The landlord resisted renewal of the business tenancy saying that he intended to occupy the premises himself. The Court was asked whether the landlord could show the necessary intention under section 30(1)(g) where it intended to occupy the premises for the purposes of its business, but had passed a resolution to enter liquidation for the purposes of reconstruction and to transfer its assets to a successor company in order to convert from a limited company into a chartered company.
Lord Denning MR said: ‘The answer to [the point that the landlord did not intend to occupy the premises itself] is, I think, that the landlords did in fact intend to occupy the premises themselves even if only for the short time that should ensue before the transfer. Section 30(1)(g) of the Act of 1954 does not say for how long the landlord must intend to occupy himself, and the courts must fill the gap. It seems to me that in some cases even a short time may suffice. Take the case where the landlord intends to occupy the premises and to carry on business himself there for six months, and then transfer the business to his son as a family arrangement. I should have thought that the father would have sufficient intention to satisfy section 30(1)(g). But suppose the intention was after six months to transfer to a purchaser for cash, I should not expect that intention to suffice. Just as a purchaser within the previous five years cannot defeat the tenant (see section 30(2)), so also a purchaser shortly afterwards should not be able to defeat him. The matters that influence me are these. It is open to the landlord to complete the transfer before the day of hearing, in which case it is the successor’s intention which counts – see section 30(1)(g) – save only that if that successor falls foul of section 30 (2) his intention does not count. Hence I would say that if the landlord intends to occupy the premises and carry on business himself there for a time, and then to transfer to a successor, his intention is sufficient to satisfy section 30(1)(g), unless the intended transfer is one which, if it had been made before the hearing, would have fallen within section 30(2) so as to render section 30(1)(g) unavailable.
Applying those principles to this case it seems to me that the intent of the landlords is sufficient to satisfy section 30(1)(g). They intend to occupy the premises and to carry on their activities therein (by providing the detailed administration for the Universities Central Council on Admissions) and then to transfer their activities to their successors, the chartered company, without any payment in money or anything in the nature of sale or purchase.
The landlords have established, therefore, the statutory ground of opposition. The tenants are not entitled to a new lease.’
Pearson LJ said that the landlord and its successor company were in practice and substance the same: an intention to carry out a sale after taking possession would mean that the landlord had not shown the necessary intention: ‘This case falls within the literal meaning of section 30(1)(g) as the landlords do intend to occupy the premises for the purposes of a business to be carried on by them therein, though only for a short time until transfer of the occupation and the business to the chartered corporation. The transfer will not be by way of sale. and there will be only a formal change of identity. In form the landlords are a limited company which is being wound up, and a new chartered corporation has been created. In substance, however, there is continuity. The phrase alter ego undoubtedly lacks precision for most purposes, but for the present purpose it is a fair description of the landlords in their new guise of the chartered corporation as successors of the landlords in their old guise of the limited company.
There must, however, be some qualification of the literal meaning of section 30(1)(g) of the Act of 1954. A landlord should not be allowed to succeed under section 30(1)(g) in a case where his intention is only to start a business at the premises and carry it on for a few weeks and then sell his interest in the premises and the business. If the sale took place before the hearing the purchaser would be precluded by section 30 (2) from relying on section 30 (1) (g). It should not be possible to evade section 30 (2) by postponing the intended sale until after the hearing. There is, therefore, an implied limitation on the operation of section 30 (1) (g); it is not applicable if the landlord’s intention is to occupy for only a short time and then make a sale. The implied limitation should not be any greater than is necessary to secure consistency between section 30 (1) (g) and section 30 (2). Probably section 30 (1) (g) can be allowed to apply according to its terms without implied limitation in any case where no sale is intended. Certainly it should be allowed to apply according to its terms in a case such as the present where there is no intended transaction even resembling a sale and there is to be complete continuity of operation, and the only transfer is to be a formal transfer to an alter ego of the transferor.’
Salmon LJ said that: ‘The argument runs that, at best, the period during which the landlords will carry on business there before the transfer is so short that the landlords’ real purpose in occupying the premises is to effect the transfer. It is pointed out that in the ordinary case a landlord could not defeat the tenant’s right to a new lease if he intended to occupy the premises and carry on business there for only a few days or weeks before selling them. In such circumstances his real purpose would be to sell the premises, not to carry on business there. No doubt that is so.
If, however, a landlord not being a company, intended to occupy the premises and carry on business there as long as he lived or was physically capable of doing so, his rights under the Act of 1954 could not, in my judgment, be defeated by showing that his expectation of life or of retaining his strength happened to be very short. The tenant could not successfully argue that the landlord’s real intention was merely to transfer the premises to his heirs. If the landlord died before the termination of the tenancy, or indeed at any time before the hearing, his heirs would stand in his shoes and succeed to his rights. They could not be defeated because they had inherited only recently; Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, ss. 30 (2) and 41 (2). So, too, if a landlord transferred otherwise than for money or money’s worth at any time, his transferee would succeed to his rights against the tenant; H. L. Bolton Engineering Co. Ltd. v. T. J. Graham and Co. Ltd.
Here the circumstances are somewhat analogous. The landlord association will be dissolved, for all practical purposes, as soon as the transfer to the new chartered association is complete. It intends to carry on its activities, inter alia, in the three rooms on the top floor of No. 29, Tavistock Square, virtually for the rest of its life, short as that may be. Moreover (and this is of crucial importance), it is quite plain that the transfer to the new chartered association will be by way of gift, and not for any financial consideration. In these circumstances there seems to me to be no reason on principle or authority why the probable brevity of the landlords’ occupation of the three top rooms should confer any benefit upon the tenants, and in my view it does not do so. If the transfer to the chartered association had been completed before the county court hearing, the tenants would clearly have had no right to a new lease. I am glad to think that the law does not make the rights of the parties depend upon the fortuitous circumstance as to whether the transfer is executed sooner rather than later.’


Denning MR, Pearson, Salmon LJJ


[1965] 1 QB 140, [1965] 2 All ER 393


Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 30(1)(g)


England and Wales


CitedHL Bolton (Engineering) Co Ltd v TJ Graham and Sons Ltd CA 1957
The landlord asserted that a tenancy should not be renewed and claimed to have held the freehold for more than 5 years.
Held: The Landlord had only become the reversioner to the lease after accepting a surrender of the head lease. The Act . .

Cited by:

CitedPatel and Another v Keles and Another CA 12-Nov-2009
The landlord objected to the renewal of the lease, saying that he intended to occupy the premises for his own business. The court had found that he intended to sell the property.
Held: The landlord’s appeal failed. Parliament has not laid down . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant, Company

Updated: 27 November 2022; Ref: scu.379555