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BERRISFORD v MEXFIELD HOUSING CO-OPERATIVE LTD

As a matter of contractual interpretation, an occupancy agreement between a mutual housing association and one of its members, which was expressed to be “from month to month until determined” could not be determined simply by a month’s notice to quit. The agreement, although incapable of being a tenancy by virtue of its uncertain duration, was treated as a tenancy for life at common law and therefore took effect as a 90-year lease determinable either on the tenant’s death or in accordance with its express termination provisions.

14 November 2011

The appellant tenant (B) appealed against a decision ((2010) EWCA Civ 811) that an order for possession obtained by the respondent landlord (M) was valid. The parties had entered into an “occupancy agreement” whereby B would live in a property owned by M “from month to month until determined”. Clause 5 of the agreement specified that it was determinable by B on one month’s written notice. Clause 6 stated that M was only entitled to end the agreement in four defined circumstances. M served a month’s notice to quit. It was not in dispute that none of the four termination provisions applied. M’s case was that the agreement was a monthly tenancy at common law and that the only statutory protection to which B was entitled was the right not to be evicted without a court order and the right to at least four weeks’ notice to quit. The court at first instance accepted M’s argument and granted a possession order. The Court of Appeal upheld the possession order. The issues fo...

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