Southward Housing Cooperative Ltd v Walker [2015] EWHC 1615

Key point

  • An agreement of uncertain term is not converted into life tenancy if the terms of the agreement and circumstances show contrary intention and will therefore not be a 90-year lease under s149(6) LPA 1925


  • The cooperative (C) granted to D a weekly tenancy
  • Tenancy provided that:
    • Rent was payable weekly
    • C would only terminate the tenancy with notice on specified grounds which included non-payment of rent
    • Notice to quit must be given one month before termination
  • D fell into arrears and C served notice to quit and then sought possession order
  • D argued that pursuant to Mexfield, although the agreement was for uncertain term, at common law it was to be treated as a tenancy for life and under s149(6) LPA1925 it took effect as a 90-year lease, which therefore cannot by notice and was not otherwise forfeit

Held (High Court)

  • The agreement was a contractual licence
  • The terms allowing notice to quit show that it was not the intention of the parties to grant D a life tenancy

Hildyard J

Creation of a life tenancy: rule of law or presumption of intention?

  • It is true that in Mexfield the court was unanimous that the transformation of a uncertain agreement to a life tenancy operated as a rule and had nothing to do with the parties intentions: [85], [89]
  • However, the Supreme Court leaves open the possibility that the rule may be disapplied where it is contrary to the parties’ intentions and contains fundamental terms that simply cannot be carried over into a 90 year lease: [87], [91]
  • The rule should not destroy the essence of the parties’ bargain and foist on them a long term relationship against their and which one of them may not be able to terminate: [92]

Current case

  • In the present case, based on the terms of the agreement, there was clear contrary intention against the grant of a life tenancy: [72]
  • The terms are more consistent with a periodic tenancy than a tenancy for fixed term, inter alia:
    • The lease is stated as a ‘weekly tenancy’
    • Rent is payable weekly
    • The agreement is repeatedly expressed as determinable by a ‘notice to quit’ which is a hallmark of a periodic tenancy, in contrast, the tenancy in the Mexfield case had a conventionally-drafted right of re-entry, which is consistent with a fixed term: [72]
Leases cases
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