Terms of agreement meant that there was no exclusive possession

In Westminster City Council v Clarke ([1992] 2 A.C. 288, HL) the council and C entered into an agreement that gave C the right to occupy a room in a hostel for homeless, single men. Some of the occupants had personality disorders or physical disabilities. The agreement provided that C did not have exclusive possession. The council could change the accommodation or require C to share his room. C had to be back in his room by 11 pm and any visitors had to leave by then. C had to comply with the directions of the warden or his staff. The question was whether C had exclusive possession of his room (and, therefore, a tenancy).

The House of Lords held that he did not have exclusive possession. It looked at the purposes underlying the agreement: these could not be achieved if C had exclusive possession. The restrictions imposed on C were incompatible with exclusive possession.

Lord Templeman said:

‘From the point of view of the council the grant of exclusive possession would be inconsistent with the purposes for which the council provided the accommodation at Cambridge Street.’ (300 – 01)

and later:

“The conditions of occupancy support the view that Mr. Clarke was not in exclusive occupation of room E. He was expressly limited in his enjoyment of any accommodation provided for him … These limitations confirmed that the council retained possession of all the rooms of the hostel in order to supervise and control the activities of the occupiers, including Mr. Clarke. Although Mr. Clarke physically occupied room E he did not enjoy possession exclusively of the council.’ (301 – 02)

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