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Antoniades v Villiers[1988] 3 WLR 139  House of Lords

An unmarried couple occupied an attic flat with one bedroom with a double bed. The owner had insisted they enter separate agreements which were described as licences and they were required to separately pay half the rent. The agreements contained a clause reserving the owner the right to occupy the flat or to nominate another to occupy it. There was a sofa bed in the living room so this may have been physically possible, nevertheless the House of Lords considered the clause to be a sham and the couple were held to be tenants in joint possession.

Lord Templeman:

Parties to an agreement cannot contract out of the Rent Acts; if they were able to do so the Acts would be a dead letter because in a state of housing shortage a person seeking residential accommodation may agree to anything to obtain shelter. The Rent Acts protect a tenant but they do not protect a licensee. Since parties to an agreement cannot contract out of the Rent Acts, a document which expresses the intention, genuine or bogus, of both parties or of one party to create a licence will nevertheless create a tenancy if the rights and obligations enjoyed and imposed satisfy the legal requirements of a tenancy. A person seeking residential accommodation may concur in any expression of intention in order
to obtain shelter. Since parties to an agreement cannot contract out of the Rent Acts, a document expressed in the language of a licence must nevertheless be examined and construed by the court  in order to decide whether the rights and obligations enjoyed and imposed create a licence or a tenancy.

Back to lecture outline on lease or licence in Land Law

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