February 6th, 2024 by James Goudie KC

The issue in RAHIMI v CITY OF WESTMINSTER COUNCIL (2024) EWCA Civ 73 was whether Mr Rahimi was entitled to a secure tenancy on the death of his grandmother.  That, in turn, depended on whether at the date of her death the grandmother was the tenant under a tenancy of the flat granted to her alone.  The tenancy had originally be granted to her and her husband, as joint tenants, but her husband was no longer living there.  Mr Rahimi was a member of his grandmother’s family and had resided with her throughout the period of 12 months ending with her death.

Lewison LJ at paragraphs 17-22 inclusive identified the statutory framework in relation to secure tenancies.  The effect was that if there was a surrender and regrant amounting to the grant of a fresh tenancy to the grandmother alone, a succession was still available, but if the joint tenancy continued in being, Mr Rahimi would not have been entitled to succeed.  The joint tenancy would have vested by right of survivorship in the grandmother’s husband, at which point the tenancy would have ceased to be a secure tenancy, because the husband did not occupy the property as his home.

From paragraph 28 Lewison LJ addressed the principle of surrender and regrant.  Rights held jointly must be surrendered jointly, by both the joint tenants and by the landlord.  Conduct relied upon must be unequivocal.  Individual equivocal acts can however be combined to surmount the evidential threshold.  From paragraph 40 Lewison LJ considered whether there was unequivocal conduct in this case.  What was required was an agreement by the landlord with the assent of the outgoing tenant.  On the facts, there was no such agreement, and no grant of a new sole tenancy to Mr Rahimi’s grandmother.

Newby LJ agreed with Lewison LJ in dismissing Mr Rahimi’s appeal, and Macur LJ dissented.  Newey LJ said, at paragraph 81:-

“No one suggests that there is direct evidence of a fresh tenancy having been granted.  The question is whether there is material from which a grant could be inferred. In that connection, evidence of conduct which is just as consistent with the continuation of the original joint tenancy will not suffice.”

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