The map so far:

Welcome to the London Law Map!

Many people think they are familiar with legal London - the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court, the Old Bailey etc. But the streets of London are also home to a huge amount of case law. Here is just a selection:

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bruton v. London and Quadrant Housing Trust [1999] UKHL 26

What's the case about?
In 1975 Lambeth Borough Council acquired a row of properties on Rushcroft Road in Brixton.  The Council planned to demolish the properties and replace them with new housing.  The plans ran into delays and in 1986 the Council decided to allow London and Quadrant, a housing association, to use the properties as temporary accommodation for people who were homeless.

In 1989 London and Quadrant agreed to let Mr Bruton live in one of the properties.  The agreement was worded as follows:
"Occupation of Short-Life Accommodation at 2 Oval House, Rushcroft Road, SW2 on a temporary basis.     "As has been explained to you, the above property is being offered to you by [the Trust] on a weekly Licence from 6 February 1989. The Trust has the property on licence from [the council] who acquired the property for development. . . and pending this development, it is being used to provide temporary housing accommodation. It is offered to you on the condition that you will vacate upon receiving reasonable notice from the Trust, which will not normally be less than four weeks. You understand and agree that while you are living in the property, you will allow access at all times during normal working hours to the staff of the Trust, the owners and agents for all purposes connected with the work of the Trust."
After a number of years, Mr Bruton brought a claim against London and Quadrant, arguing that they had not met their obligations in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to repair the property.  In reply, London and Quadrant argued that Mr Bruton was a licensee rather than a tenant and therefore they had no obligations to him vis a vis the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Where is it on the map?
At point G.

Who won?
Mr Bruton won.  The House of Lords held that even though the agreement had been described by both parties as a licence, it was in fact a tenancy and therefore London and Quadrant had an obligation to repair the property.

What's the principle of law?
A licence is a less secure form of tenure than a tenancy.  It is often in a landlord's interests to describe an agreement as a licence rather than a tenancy.  For example, if in the present case Mr Bruton had been a licensee, London and Quadrant would not have had an obligation to repair the property.

The case of Street v. Mountford [1985] A.C. 809 had established that an agreement with the characteristics of a tenancy (such as exclusive possession of the premises) could be a tenancy notwithstanding the fact that both parties had described it as a licence.

In the present case, counsel for London and Quadrant argued that Street v. Mountford should be distinguished because the housing association had no power in law to create a tenancy with Mr Bruton.  London and Quadrant were themselves only licensees of Lambeth Borough Council.  The terms of their licence specifically forbade them from creating tenancies.  However, the House of Lords were not persuaded by this argument.  Lord Hobhouse said that London and Quadrant should have realised that their agreement with Mr Bruton was in fact a tenancy, regardless of how it was described, and that their agreements with Mr Bruton and others probably meant that they were in breach of their agreement with the Council.

What's it like now?
The properties never were demolished.  But as a consequence of this House of Lords judgment, Lambeth Borough Council ended their arrangement with London and Quadrant.  Lambeth then sought to evict Mr Bruton and the other residents from the properties.  The evictions were themselves the subject of a House of Lords case (Kay and others v London Borough of Lambeth and others [2006] UKHL 10). 

The final residents of Rushcroft Road were evicted in 2013.  This Daily Mail report provides a graphic account of the evictions.

Lambeth Council have since sold some of the properties on Rushcroft Road, and are redeveloping the rest as social housing.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Ellen Street Estates Ltd v Minister of Health [1934] All ER Rep 385

What's the case about?
Mr Lithman held leases on properties in Ellen Street and Berner Street, Stepney. 

In 1920 the Minister of Health attempted a compulsory purchase of the properties. The properties were described as "by reason of their bad arrangement, or the narrowness or bad arrangement of the streets, dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the area." Mr Lithman did not object to the compulsory purchase as he believed he would be entitled to compensation from the Minister of Health, as per the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919.

Some five or six years passed, during which time an arbitrator was appointed to assess the compensation due to Mr Lithman under the 1919 Act. The arbitrator held that Mr Lithman was not entitled to any compensation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as this point Mr Lithman began to raise objections. His solicitors discovered that under the law at the time, the compulsory purchase was unenforceable as it had not been concluded within three years. Rather than fight this out with Mr Lithman, the Minister of Health abandoned the compulsory purchase - but immediately started a fresh one, using powers in the newly enacted Housing Act 1930.

Ellen Street Estates Ltd, who by this time had taken ownership of the properties from Mr Lithman objected to the renewed attempt at a compulsory purchase. They argued that it was unlawful because the powers in the Housing Act 1930 were incompatible with provisions in the 1919 Act. 

Where is it on the map?
At point F.

Who won?
The Minister of Health won. The Court of Appeal held that the 1930 Act did not have to expressly repeal the 1919 Act in order to have precedence over it. Rather, the 1930 Act impliedly repealed the 1919 Act to the extent that it was incompatible with it. 

What's the principle of law?
Parliamentary sovereignty is a fundamental principle of UK constitutional law. Parliament is the highest source of law in the UK. No Parliament can pass a law that a future Parliament cannot change or repeal altogether.  

Whilst the 1919 Act stated that "any provisions of any Act... [that are] inconsistent with this Act... shall not have effect" this should not be read as an attempt to influence Parliament's ability to change the law in the future.  Parliament simply does not have that ability.

What's it like today?
The properties on Ellen Street were replaced with the Berner Estate in the mid-1930s. The parts of the estate built in the 1930s are particularly attractive, and clearly very well maintained.

The excellent St George in the East parish website has some photographs of the area as it looked prior to the compulsory purchase.  

Berner Street was renamed Henriques Street in the 1960s after the Jewish philanthropist Basil Henriques. It is also (in)famous as the place where Elizabeth Stride's body was found in 1888, in a murder attributed to Jack the Ripper.

It looks like the Henriques Street sign is covering up the old Berner Street sign on the side of this building.

Thanks to Michael Doherty at UCLAN for the inspiration for this post. His OpenLawMap project is well worth a look.