The Court of Appeal has recently confirmed that existing law relating to the unilateral termination of a joint tenancy, as established in Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council v Monk  1 ALL ER 1, continues to be binding and does not interfere with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect home and family life) or Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions).
If a joint tenant of a secure tenancy granted by a public authority serves a unilateral notice to quit on their landlord, the tenancy will terminate for both tenants, irrespective of whether or not the other tenant had known about or consented to the service of notice to quit (Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council v Monk ). Providing the tenancy is validly terminated, the non-serving tenant becomes a trespasser and the landlord has a right to immediate possession of the property.
In Sims, the appellant lived with his wife. On the breakdown of their marriage, the appellant’s wife unilaterally served notice to quit the secure tenancy on Dacorum Borough Council (DBC), landlord of the property. The appellant’s request to remain in the property as sole tenant was refused by DBC and possession proceedings were initiated. The appellant appealed to the County Court, which found in favour of DBC. The appellant subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing that an error in law had been made, which amounted to a breach of his Article 8 and Article 1 of the First Protocol rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court dismissed the appeal and refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court on the following grounds:
- Monk had established a rule in property and contract law. In Sims, the tenancy agreement gave both tenants an equal right to serve notice to quit without informing the other;
- If the appellant was permitted to remain in the property it would extend the property rights he was granted under the original tenancy;
- Since the appellant had the same right as his wife to end the tenancy, this did not interfere with his Article 8 rights;
- The property and contract rule established by Monk meant that DBC’s right to possession did not interfere with Article 1 of the First Protocol rights; and
- The matter was “unarguable” and so it would be unjustifiable to use public funds to allow the appeal to the Supreme Court.
Many similar cases have been stayed in anticipation of the outcome of Sims. Whilst Monk has been upheld, it is speculated that the appellant may renew his application to appeal to the Supreme Court.
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