Welcome back to the "Decoding Judgements" series! Our goal is to simplify complex English law cases using structured summaries with CaseSnappy. This time, we turn our attention to the landmark land law case of Street v Mountford  AC 809, which clarified the critical distinction between a lease (tenancy) and a license.
A Dispute Over Legal Status: Facts of the Case
The case of Street v Mountford revolves around a disagreement between a landlord (Street) and a tenant (Mountford) over the legal status of their arrangement. Mrs. Mountford entered into an agreement with Mr. Street to occupy two rooms in his house under an 'exclusive possession' agreement for a weekly sum. Despite referring to the agreement as a 'licence' and including a clause stating it was not intended to create a tenancy, Mrs. Mountford argued that the arrangement was, in fact, a tenancy.
Tenancy or License: Issues in the Case
The central issue before the court was whether the agreement constituted a tenancy or a license. Mr. Street argued that it was a license because the parties had explicitly agreed to that label. Mrs. Mountford, on the other hand, contended that the agreement actually constituted a tenancy due to the elements of exclusive possession and periodic payment.
A Tenancy Prevails: The Decision
The House of Lords ruled that the agreement was a tenancy rather than a license. The court found that the parties' intentions could not override the objective reality of the legal relationship. The test for a tenancy is exclusive possession for a term at a rent, which the agreement met in substance despite the labels attached by the parties. The House of Lords emphasized that the distinction between a license and a tenancy holds great practical importance concerning statutory protection for tenants.
In a key passage, Lord Templeman explains, "An occupier of residential accommodation at a rent for a term is either a lodger or a tenant. The occupier is a lodger if the landlord provides attendance or services which require the landlord or his servants to exercise unrestricted access to and use of the premises. A lodger is entitled to live in the premises but cannot call the place his own."
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Street v Mountford serves as a crucial case in understanding the intricacies of property law and the distinction between a lease (tenancy) and a license. CaseSnappy breaks down these seminal cases into easily digestible summaries, providing law students, lawyers, and legal enthusiasts with the essential information they need.Get started
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