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Burton v Camden LBC [2000] 2 AC 399

Whether a deed assigning joint tenancy constituted an assignment as prohibited by the Housing Act 1985.

Facts

Burton and another person held a joint tenancy for a property which was protected per statute as a periodic secure tenancy under the Housing Act 1985. The other person wished to vacate the property and terminate her lease but so that Burton would not also be affected, she assigned her portion of the joint tenancy to Burton by deed.

Issue

Was it possible for a person to assign part of a joint tenancy to the other joint tenant so as to enable the continuation of a protected secure tenancy, given that statutory law barred such actions.

Held

The House of Lords found against Burton, deeming that his attempts to rely on the deed purporting to assign the other half of the joint tenancy to him amounted to an assignment of the form prohibited by statute. The Court viewed that the tenants’ own understandings of the nature of property ownership and conveyancing, whilst in line with each other, could not be relied upon to escape statutory limitations. Regardless of the manner in which the other tenant attempted to convey her right in the property to Burton (e.g. assignment, release, surrender, inter alia), the nature of the tenancy remained fundamentally unchanged and such an assignment was illegal and thus invalid. Subsequently, Burton’s rights to the property ceased when the other tenant ended their role in the joint tenancy, and the lease was no longer protected by statute.

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