Tenancy void for illegality

In Li Wing-Sun v Wu Man ([1978] HKLR 575, CA) L was a licensee of the Government. The licence prohibited any ‘transfer’. In breach of the licence terms, L granted a lease to T. The question was whether the lease was valid (the proceedings were L’s claim for rent arrears and mesne profits). The Court of Appeal pointed out it had been admitted that there was a tenancy so, on the face of it, the decision could not rest on the contention that there was not.

At the time that the tenancy agreement was entered into, however, it was an offence to occupy Government land without a permit. The lease clearly envisaged that T would occupy the land (even though it had no permit) and so was illegal. The tenancy was void and L could not recover rent or mesne profits.

Michael Lower

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