Conduct required for surrender by operation of law

A lease is surrendered by operation of law when the conduct of the parties amounts to an unequivocal acceptance that the tenancy has ended.

In Bellcourt Estates Ltd v Adesina ([2005] EWCA Civ. 208, CA (Eng)) the tenant had vacated the property and stopped paying rent. The question was whether the landlord’s delay in taking any action in response to this situation amounted to an acceptance that the lease had come to an end. The English Court of Appeal decided that it did not. It suggested that the law can be stated thus:

‘The conduct of the parties must unequivocally amount to an acceptance that the tenancy has ended. There must either be relinquishment of possession and its acceptance by the landlord, or other conduct consistent only with the cesser of the tenancy, and the circumstances must be such as to render it inequitable for the tenant to dispute that the tenancy has ceased or such as to render it inequitable for the landlord to dispute that the tenancy has ceased.’ (see Woodfall para 17.020 but the Court of Appeal suggested that the final phrase should be added to the passage).

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