Wolfe v Hogan: CA 1949

An issue arose as to the purpose of the original letting. The defendant was the sub-tenant of a large divided room on the ground floor of a house in Chelsea which she used for business purposes. She eventually decided to live there as well.
Held: The court upheld the decision of the judge that she was not entitled to Rent Act protection. If premises are let for business purposes, the tenant cannot claim that they have been converted into a dwelling-house merely because somebody lives on the premises. ‘The important matter is the rights under the lease, not the de facto use’. ‘If the lease contains an express provision as to the purpose of letting, it is not necessary to look further’ and so ‘if an agreement were to let premises as a barn, the tenant, even though he lived there, could not be heard to say they were let as a dwelling-house. The court will not admit oral evidence to contradict the terms of a written agreement, but such evidence will be admitted to establish that a party entered into the agreement in reliance upon a representation made to him by the other party to the agreement before he signed it that a term of the agreement would not be enforced against him. Such a representation has the force of a collateral contract and will bind the representor. Yet a landlord may at any time rely on a covenant against residing on the premises despite having waived past breaches of it.’
Cumming-Bruce LJ: ‘As to estoppel, I accept Mr Munro’s submission that, on the facts found by the judge, there is no evidence of such a representation express or implied as to found a promissory estoppel, that is to say a promise by the landlord that he would never enforce covenant 2(5) against the tenant. In the light of the evidence given by the defendant when he described how the landlord let him live there while he was looking for a flat, it is certainly very difficult to see how the facts which come under the general description of waiver can be erected into the edifice of a promissory estoppel.’
Denning LJ: ‘In determining whether a house of part of a house is ‘let as a dwelling’ within the meaning of the Rent Restrictions Acts, it is necessary to look at the purpose of the letting. If the lease contains an express provision as to the purpose of the letting, it is not necessary to look further. But, if there is no express provision, it is open to the court to look at the circumstances of the letting. If the house is constructed for use as a dwelling-house, it is reasonable to infer the purpose was to let it as a dwelling. But if, on the other hand, it is constructed for the purpose of being used as a lock-up shop, the reasonable inference is that it was let for business purposes. If the position were neutral, then it would be proper to look at the actual user. It is not a question of implied terms. It is a question of the purpose for which the premises were let.’
Evershed LJ considered whether moving into a property before the lease begins alters the tenant’s status: ‘Again I wish to make it quite plain that I am saying nothing which should be taken as indicating that if a tenant does change the user and creates out what was formerly a shop a dwelling-house, and if that fact is fully known to and accepted by the other party to the contract, whether or not there is a prohibition, the result may not very well be that there will then be inferred a contract to let as a dwelling-house, although it may be a different contract in essentials from the contract which was originally made and expressed.’

Denning LJ, Evershed LJ, Cumming-Bruce LJ
[1949] 2 KB 194
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedAndrews and Another v Brewer and Another CA 17-Feb-1997
Tenants challenged an order for possession, saying the form of notice was defective. The date specified in the notice was clearly a clerical error. It provided that the tenancy would commence on 29 May 1993 and end on 28 May 1993, on the face of it, . .
CitedWagle v Trustees of Henry Smith’s Charity Kensington Estate CA 1990
The tenant had used the premises for both residential and business use. He claimed that, the business use having ceased, he had the protection of the 1977 Act.
Held: The Pulleng case required te court to reject the tenant’s argument. 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 . .
CitedZH and CN, Regina (on The Applications of) v London Boroughs of Newham and Lewisham SC 12-Nov-2014
The court was asked whether the 1977 Act required a local authorty to obtain a court order before taking possession of interim accommodation it provided to an apparently homeless person while it investigated whether it owed him or her a duty under . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Landlord and Tenant, Estoppel

Updated: 17 November 2021; Ref: scu.187734