Proprietary estoppel and time for service of statutory notice by landlord

In Newport City Council v Charles ([2008] EWCA Civ 1541, CA (Eng)) C lived with his mother who had a secure tenancy for the purposes of England’s Housing Act 1985. C learned that it was unlikely that he would be able to take over the tenancy when his mother died. He did not inform the council when she died. For three years he paid the rent and council tax in her name. When the council eventually learned of her death, it served a notice of possession proceedings on C. It relied on ground 16 of schedule 2 to the Act (the dwelling was more extensive than C reasonably required). Such a notice had to be served not less than 6 nor more than 12 months after the previous tenant’s death. C’s deception had made it impossible for the council to serve a notice before the 12 months period had expired. The council sought to rely on proprietary estoppel to allow it to serve the notice outside the time period (because only proprietary estoppel could be used as a cause of action).

The council failed. C’s actions undoubtedly amounted to a representation and the council had detrimentally relied on it by not serving notice earlier. There was, however, no role for proprietary estoppel in the present context (even though an estoppel would promote rather than subvert the relevant statutory policy).

‘What the housing authority seeks to do is no more nor less than to raise a strictly statutory claim to possession in a strictly statutory context. That ambition as it seems to me cannot be fulfilled as the fruit of a proprietary estoppel.’ ([27], Laws L.J.)

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One Response to “Proprietary estoppel and time for service of statutory notice by landlord”

  1. ava Says:

    Feels good to see the Council fails sometimes 🙂

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