Bruton v London and Quadrant Housing Trust

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Bruton v London and Quadrant Housing Trust
Rushcroft Road, SW2 - - 472852.jpg
Rushcroft Road, Brixton
Court House of Lords
Decided 24 June 1999
Citation(s) [1999] UKHL 26, [2000] 1 AC 406, [1999] 3 WLR 150, [1999] 3 All ER 481
Cases cited Street v Mountford [1985] AC 809;
Legislation cited Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939; Housing Act 1985; Landlord and Tenant Act 1985; Law of Property Act 1925
Case history
Subsequent action(s) Kay v Lambeth London Borough Council [2006] UKHL 10
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Slynn of Hadley; Lord Jauncey of Tullichettle; Lord Hoffmann; Lord Hope of Craighead; Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough
Leases; Licenses; Possession of Land

Bruton v London and Quadrant Housing Trust [1999] UKHL 26 is an English land law case that examined the rights of a 'tenant' in a situation where the 'landlord', a charitable housing association had no authority to grant a tenancy, but in which the 'tenant' sought to enforce against the association under landlord-and-tenant statutes.


The council gave the London and Quadrant Housing Trust, a charitable association, a licence to use land to accommodate the homeless. For a place at Flat 2, Oval House, Rushcroft Road, in Brixton, London, Mr Bruton agreed with the Trust to pay weekly rent for a flat. There was a provision that the council and LQHT had access to the property at limited times. Then he claimed he was a tenant, and the Trust had an obligation to repair the flat under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 section 11. The Housing Trust argued that under orthodox property law principles, nemo dat quod non habet (literally meaning "no one gives what he does not have"), so because they had no lease, they could not grant a lease to Mr Bruton, and therefore they had no obligation to repair the property.


The House of Lords held the agreement did create a tenancy and the trust was therefore under an obligation to repair. Giving the leading judgment, Lord Hoffmann held it did not matter that the landlord did not have a property right in its title. Exclusive possession is the essence of a lease, and irrelevant that the agreement purported to be a licence. The term that Mr Bruton could be told to vacate on reasonable notice was ineffective, as one cannot contract out of statute. LQHT’s lack of legal title was also irrelevant because the character of the agreement, not the nature of the landlord, was the key point for deciding whether a lease existed under the LTA 1985.

Lord Slynn, Lord Jauncey concurred.


Traditionally it has been held that an estate interest can only arise out of another interest. A licence is not an estate interest, and provides essentially only access to another's estate. However, the implication of the Bruton case "controversially confirms the existence in English Law of the phenomenon of the contractual or non-proprietary lease".[1] It has been suggested by some commentators however, that Bruton was driven by policy as established in Street v Mountford, that individuals enjoying exclusive possession should be protected.[2] Others have commented that the decision has led to a large amount of housing stock, which might otherwise have been used for the temporary accommodation of the homeless and vulnerable, being left empty and unused [who?].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gray & Gray, Land Law (OUP 2007) 158
  2. ^ Susan Bright (1998) 114 LQR 345-351


  • S Bright (1998) 114 LQR 345-351

External links[edit]