Hammersmith & Fulham LBC v Monk [1991] UKHL 6 (05 December 1991) 

Though old, this case concerned the effect of a notice to quit  given by one joint tenant without consent of the other joint tenant in relation to a periodic tenancy.

Mr Monk and Mrs Powell held a periodic tenancy as joint tenants at a flat in London. In 1988 Mr Monk and Mrs Powell fell out and Mrs Powell left the flat. She consulted with the local authority, who agreed to
re-house her if she would terminate the tenancy of the flat by giving an appropriate notice, which she did.

The notice was given without Mr Monk’s knowledge or consent, but the local authority immediately notified him that the tenancy had been terminated and the local authority issued a claim for possession of the property. Judge Roger Cooke held that Mrs Powell’s notice to quit was ineffective to determine the tenancy and dismissed the claim. The local authority appealed to the Court of Appeal in which the court held the notice to quit given by Mrs Powell was valid and made an order for possession of the flat.

Mr Monk appealed to the House of Lords (now the Supreme Court).

Before 1925 property belonging to two or more persons concurrently under a tenancy could be held by them in undivided or divided shares. The Law of Property Act 1925 changed this and requires that, even in the case of joint tenants, they hold the legal estate as joint tenants on trust for themselves as joint tenants in equity.

This meant that that when Mrs Powell gave a notice to quit to the landlord without consent or knowledge of the other tenant, it was a breach of trust and Mr Monk could have taken action against Mrs Powell for breaching such trust.

The House of Lords held the breach of trust between the tenants could not affect the landlord and the court accordingly held that the notice to quit given by one of 2 joint tenants was valid and upheld the possession order.

It should be noted in passing, that the court did mention that unless the terms of the tenancy agreement require all joint tenants to give a notice to quit, any one joint tenant can give a valid notice to quit to terminate the tenancy without concurrence of any other joint tenant.

This will at least provide some clarity to landlords who are uncertain as to the effect of a notice to quit given by any one of joint tenants.