Head landlord’s failure to end periodic tenancy: invalidity of dealings with sub-tenants

In Lew See-Chun v Yu Kin-Keung ([1995] HKDCLR 65, LT) L granted a yearly periodic tenancy to T who granted two sub-leases to ST1 and ST2 respectively. L did not bring the periodic tenancy to an end but invited ST1 and ST2 to enter into new sub-leases with L.T did not acquiesce in this arrangement. L may well have been right in his assertion that T did not have a sufficient title out of which to create the sub-leases. Nevertheless, as L had not given notice to quit, T’s lease remained in existence and so did the sub-leases granted by T.

The judgment is interesting as a Hong Kong authority setting out some fundamental propositions:

‘At common law a periodic tenancy is of indefinite duration determinable by notice to quit.’ (68, HH Judge Cruden).

‘In the absence of express provision to the contrary, yearly tenancies arise where rent measured with reference to a year, is paid and accepted.’ (68, HH Judge Cruden)

‘At common law a yearly tenancy, in the absence of agreement, may be unilaterally terminated upon either party giving to the other one half-year’s notice.’ (68, HH Judge Cruden)

There may even be a hint here of an acceptance of the contractual (non-proprietary) lease later recognised by the House of Lords in Bruton.

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