Red alert - Winter 2022 – 4 / 6 观点
Global 100 Limited v Maria Laleva  EWCA Civ 1835
The Court of Appeal has provided further guidance on various issues of possession claims and the lease/licence distinction.
Crucially, it has been held that occupiers must establish that they have a realistic prospect of successfully defending a possession claim to avoid a summary possession order being made against them. Furthermore, even if exclusive possession is enjoyed by the occupier, this alone will not be enough to establish a tenancy as all the circumstances must be considered, including the purpose of the original agreement with the landowner.
The NHS own the office building known as 14-16 Stamford Brook Avenue, London. In March 2016 the property was vacant, so the NHS entered into an agreement with an agency that would find individuals to occupy the property as ‘property guardians’. According to the agreement, the purpose of the guardianship would be to secure the building ‘against squatters, vandals and dereliction’. Global 100 Limited (G100) selected Maria Laleva (Ms Laleva) to be one such guardian.
Under the terms of the agreement with the NHS, guardians would be appointed to occupy the property as licensees on a non-exclusive basis, sharing communal amenities. But, each guardian would have a lockable space to live in to ‘create an orderly environment’. The licences would be granted on a weekly basis only, each containing wording confirming that no relationship of landlord and tenant would arise. The written agreement entered into between G100 and Ms Laleva followed these parameters.
After some time the NHS terminated the guardianship agreement. To facilitate the return of the property with vacant possession, G100 was granted a right to possession of the property but only to the extent necessary to enable it to evict the guardians, if required. Ms Laleva refused to vacate, claiming that her licence was in fact an assured shorthold tenancy with all the associated statutory rights. Alternatively, she argued that the arrangements were a sham that should be ignored in favour of the ‘reality’, ie that she lived at the property as a tenant. A point also arose about whether the claim could be decided on a summary basis.
After conflicting decisions in the lower Courts, the following points fell to be considered by the Court of Appeal:
The Court found in favour of G100, giving the following reasons for each point:
This case clarifies some important points of law and will likely help in preventing similar arguments from being used by licensees in the future. It is not uncommon for occupiers to claim that they have tenancies just because they have exclusive possession. While this may be convincing in many cases, it is not determinative by itself. Landowners will also welcome the finding that a summary decision can be made in a possession claim, even if the proceedings are defended. If this was not the case, it would be almost impossible to avoid a full trial in any defended case, however poor the defence.
作者 Emma Archer