On 22 May Doughty Street Chambers held a seminar on succession and assignment of tenancies. The materials from the seminar are available on the Doughty Street web site. Jim Sheppard outlined the law on statutory succession. Ben Chataway considered the issues arising in relation to non statutory succession. One reason for this post is to publicise the fact that Doughty Street are publishing the materials from their seminars on line for free so that anyone can read them even if they did not go to the seminar. Unfortunately most people who hold these kinds of seminars do not like the idea of making their materials freely available in this way. I appreciate that these organisations have bills to pay but it seems a great shame to me for the materials which are often extremely well produced are left to gather dust and go out of date without being read by a large potential readership . It is therefore very good news that Doughty Street have bucked the trend and made the materials available. I should add that there are lots of other materials from other Doughty Street seminars in the Knowledge Centre on their web site.
The issue of succession crops up fairly often in my case work. People regularly ask for help in defending possession proceedings which have been taken against them following the death of the member of their family who was the tenant of their home. Landlords are often highly suspicious of people claiming to be successors and tend to treat claims by family members to be entitled to succeed as try-ons which should be left to a judge to decide on. I had not yet got my head round the important changes to the law on succession which were introduced in April 2012 by the Localism Act 2010 so the seminar was very useful for me. Here is my attempt to summarise the seminar in a few lines:
There are different sets of rules for secure tenancies (ie council tenancies) and assured tenancies (ie housing association and private tenancies) and both sets of rules changed in April 2012.
For secure (ie council tenancies) tenancies created before 1 April 2012
A person can succeed to a secure tenancy is he is the tenant’s spouse or civil partner or he is another member of the tenant’s family and has resided with the tenant throughout the period of 12 months ending with the tenant’s death. They must have been living there as if it was their home and not just staying there temporarily.
For assured tenancies created before 1 April 2012
A person can only succeed to a periodic assured tenancy if they were the spouse or civil partner of the deceased or living with them as if they were a spouse and occupied the property as their only or principal home at the date of the tenant’s death. The person cannot succeed if the deceased was themselves a successor.
For secure tenancies created after 1 April 2012
Family members nolonger have automatic succession rights. It is now only the spouse or person living as spouse with the deceased tenant who can automatically succeed provided they occupied the property as their only or principal home at the time of the tenant’s death. Other people such as family members can succeed if the tenancy agreement provides for this.
For assured tenancies created after 1 April 2012
Assured tenancies created after 1 April will now have the same succession rights as secure tenancies granted after 1 April 2012.
Assignment of Tenancies
A secure tenancy can only be assigned to someone who could have succeeded to the tenancy on the death of the tenant, or via a property transfer order or mutual exchange.
An assured tenancy can only be assigned with the consent of the landlord.
Grey Areas and Challenges
All of the above rules leave grey areas and scope for challenges especially now that we have legal issues such as human rights and equality requirements which mean that particular individuals may be able challenge the application of the rules to them so that they can continue to live in their homes. This is unfortunately too complex to summarise here.
Please correct me if you see any mistakes here.