No no she’s not dead, she’s, she’s restin’!
Syndicated from Nearly Legal » FLW case note OLD
Newport City Council v Charles  EWCA Civ 1541, The Times, 11 Aug 2008
The transcript for this (factually remarkable but legally straightforward) case has only just been produced, hence the delay in covering it.
The appellant, Mr Charles, lived at 1B Marlborough Rd, Newport. That property had been granted to his mother on a secure tenancy some years previously. She died in January 2003 and, upon her death, Mr Charles made anonymous enquiries of the local housing authority to try and discover what was likely to happen. He discovered that it was unlikely that he would be permitted to remain in occupation and, therefore, simply did not tell the local authority (or, indeed, any other relevant governmental body) that his mother had died. He continued to pay the rent in her name and even forged a letter from her giving him authority to deal with the tenancy.
In 2007, the local authority became aware of the deception and instituted proceedings for possession on the basis of Ground 16 (under occupation). The only problem with that was that Ground 16 requires the NSP to be served within a year of the death of the tenant.
Both the District Judge and the Circuit Judge did not see this as a problem. In their view, Mr Charles was estopped from contending that his mother died in January 2003 and time only started to run from when the local authority became aware of her death. Mr Charles appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal – with evident distaste – allowed the appeal. Whilst the conduct of Mr Charles may have been sufficient to give rise to an estoppel, the problem was that the local authority sought to use the estoppel as a sword and not a shield and, unless the estoppel was a proprietary estoppel, that was impermissible.
The estoppel was not proprietary. The estoppel did not give rise to any interest in land. The local authority was already the landlord and freehold owner and did not need an estoppel to establish those propositions. The estoppel was an estoppel by representation and that was insufficient to found a claim under Ground 16. To hold otherwise would have involved re-writing the law of estoppel and this was a matter for Parliament and not the Court of Appeal.
(with apologies to Monty Python for the title)