The purely contractual lease: Bruton v London and Quadrant Housing Trust

The traditional understanding is that you cannot have a purely contractual lease. So, for example, Lord Greene MR said in Milmo v Carreras:

‘I myself find it impossible to conceive of a relationship of landlord and tenant which has not got that essential element of tenure in it, and that implies that the tenant holds of his landlord, and he can only do that if he has a reversion. You cannot have a purely contractual tenure. Tenure exists by reason of privity of estate.” ([1946] KB 306 at 311).

It seems, however, that there can be a purely contractual lease granted by a ‘landlord’ who has no ownership interest in the land at all.

In Bruton v London & Quadrant Housing Trust ([2000] 1 AC 406, London and Quadrant had a licence to use some property as temporary accommodation for homeless people. It offered a licence of one of the units to Mr Bruton. Mr Bruton claimed that the ‘licence’ was in fact a lease since it had the essential elements of a lease identified by Lord Templeman in Street v Mountford.

The House of Lords, with Lord Hoffman giving the leading judgment, agreed. Lord Hoffman said that the term ‘lease’:

‘ .. is not concerned with the question of whether the agreement creates an estate or other proprietary interest which may be binding upon third parties.’ (at 415).

This clearly endorses the idea of the purely contractual, non-proprietary lease. It is difficult to know how like, or unlike, the proprietary lease the purely contractual lease will be. Will the law of forfeiture (with the elaborate procedural requirements and the ability to apply for relief from forfeiture) apply to the purely contractual lease?

The purely contractual lease seems to be functionally similar to the contractual licence and it is not clear how one would distinguish them from each other.

One Response to “The purely contractual lease: Bruton v London and Quadrant Housing Trust”

  1. Street v Mountford | Land Law Says:

    […] Templeman’s express understanding, then, is that the lease is always an estate in land. In Bruton v London & Quadrant Housing Trust ([2000] 1 A.C. 406), however, the House of Lords decided that the lease need not be an estate in […]

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