Litigation Recent Decisions 21/10/97

Tenant's acts do not amount to surrender of tenancy

Zionmor v Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Islington (1997)

Court: CA (Chadwick LJ gave judgment) 10/10/97

Appearances: Jonathan Manning for the appellant. Anne Seifert for the respondent.

Summary: Appeal on preliminary issue whether the tenant surrendered his tenancy to the landlord, thereby losing his right to buy a property at a discounted price.

Appeal against the decision of Judge Simpson on the preliminary issue of whether the respondent, Zionmor, had surrendered his secured tenancy of a flat of which the appellant was the landlord. The respondent signed a weekly tenancy agreement in April 1992. By virtue of Part V of the Housing Act 1985 the respondent had a right to buy the property at a discount on the open market price. By the autumn of 1995, the flat was in such a deplorable condition as a result of vandalism that the respondent left the flat in the hope that the vandalism would stop. He put a notice on the communal notice board to the effect that he no longer resided at the premises. The appellant became aware of the respondent's departure and, in December 1995, had the locks changed and closed the respondent's rent account. Notwithstanding that the flat was vacant, the appellant sent the respondent notice of his right to buy a long lease on the flat at a discount. The respondent accepted the offer and instructed solicitors to deal with the execution of his right to buy. The appellant claimed that the respondent had abandoned the property. The judge, ordering the respondent's re-admittance, held that while the implied surrender did not depend on the respondent's intentions, the circumstances subsequent to the respondent's departure were relevant in determining whether he had surrendered his tenancy to the landlord. The facts that the respondent had instructed solicitors to deal with the conveyancing and had made mortgage arrangements supported his contention that he had not surrendered the tenancy. On appeal, the appellant argued that the judge had misdirected himself in law and submitted that surrender took place as a matter of estoppel, thereby making it irrelevant to consider the intention of the person surrendering the tenancy.