Sims v Dacorum Borough Council (Notice To Quit a joint tenancy)
It has long been the case (since the ruling in Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Monk 1992) that one joint tenant can serve Notice to Quit ("NTQ") which will terminate the joint tenancy. This is so even if the remaining joint tenant knows nothing of the notice.
On 12 November 2014, the Supreme Court, in Sims v Dacorum BC confirmed that it remains the position that one joint tenant can end the joint tenancy by serving a NTQ. Mrs Sims left the family home after alleged domestic violence, taking two of the couple's four children with her. She went to another London borough to be re-housed, and after being told that she couldn't be rehoused while she was an existing tenant of Dacorum's, she told Dacorum that she no longer wished to be a tenant. She served a NTQ which ended the joint tenancy. It was also a term of the tenancy agreement that one joint tenant could serve NTQ to end the tenancy. Mr Sims asked to remain in the property as a tenant, but Dacorum refused. Possession proceedings were issued and an order for possession granted. The proportionality of the decision to evict was considered at the hearing.
Mr Sims eventually made it to the Supreme Court and argued that the ruling in Monk should be revisited as it was incompatible with his rights under Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights ("ECHR")(respect for his home) and/or Article 1 (peaceful enjoyment of possessions). The Court dismissed his appeal. The Court decided that the rule in Monk was not incompatible with Article 1 nor had there been a violation of Article 8. As a public sector tenant, Mr Sims had been entitled to, and did, raise a proportionality argument in the County Court, which had been decided in the landlord's favour.
This will be welcome news to social landlords in being able to manage their stock. Who knows whether or not there will be subsequent challenges to the rule in Monk however in its Judgment, the Supreme Court noted that the tenancy agreement allowed for termination by either one of the joint tenants, but went on to state that those terms merely mirrored the common law principle that a NTQ served by one joint tenant effectively terminated the joint tenancy.
Does this mean that a tenant would try and use a term in the tenancy agreement or lack of one, to challenge a notice served by one joint tenant? Who knows? But for now, landlords can be assured that Monk is human rights' compliant and remains a useful tool in managing housing stock.