Supreme Court gives Preliminary Ruling on Monk Evictions

Ref. Sims v Dacorum Borough Council [2014]

The Supreme Court is reputedly set to reject a challenge to the rule in Monk on notices to quit given by joint periodic tenants. The case referenced above saw a seven-judge panel hear a challenge to the 1992 ruling of Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Monk. The rule, long accepted in the industry, states that – absent a term of the tenancy to the contrary – a notice to quit given by one of a number of joint periodic tenants is effective to terminate the tenancy.

During Sims, the question was raised as to whether this rule was still compatible with Article 8 and Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights which state respectively:

  • Article 1 – Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.  The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties. 
  • Article 8 – Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.  There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. 

If it wasn’t compatible, should the rule in Monk be reversed, so that a joint tenant’s notice to quit is not effective to determine the tenancy?

Michael Sims (the appellant) and his wife were joint periodic secure tenants of a three-bedroom house owned by Dacorum. When they separated, Mrs Sims left the property and gave notice to quit to the council which – following the Monk ruling – had the effect of terminating the tenancy.

Dacorum obtained a possession order against Mr Sims, who was still in occupation. He appealed, but lost at both Watford County Court and the Court of Appeal. Now it appears that he has lost again in the Supreme Court.

According to Cornerstone Barristers, one of whose employees appeared for Dacorum, Lord Neuberger announced on the third day of the Supreme Court hearing that the judges were minded to grant Mr Sims permission to appeal but then to dismiss the appeal itself.

The reasons for the Supreme Court’s decision are to be given at a later date, but for the moment the ruling in Monk seems to be safe.

SRJ / LCB                                                                                                                              03.07.14

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