No tenancy where there is no intention to create legal relations or where the landlord is not excluded

In Heslop v Burns ([1974] 1 WLR 1241, CA) T allowed a family (Mr and Mrs Burns) to live rent-free in a house he owned for many years. He covered all of the outgoings. This action was inspired by sympathy and affection for them. When T died, his executors argued that they were licensees and sought to evict them. Mr and Mrs Burns argued that they had been tenants at will. If this succeeded, they would be able to rely on the Limitation Act 1939 to resist eviction.

The Court of Appeal found that they were licensees and not tenants. There was no intention to create legal relations; the arrangement was an instance of ‘generosity on a very large scale’ (Roskill LJ at 1249). Roskill LJ observed:

‘a licence will be more readily inferred than a tenancy at will first where the advantage given to the suggested “tenant” is obviously intended to be personal to him, and secondly, following what Denning L.J. subsequently pointed out in Facchini v. Bryson [1952] 1 T.L.R. 1386 , 1389, where there has been something in the circumstances, such as a family arrangement, an act of friendship or generosity, or such like, to negative any intention to create a tenancy.’ (at 1248 – 9)

Further, the evidence showed that T felt entitled to come and go to the property as he pleased; there was no intention that his right to possess should be excluded by the arrangement.

Michael Lower


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