Published: Fri, 12 Oct 2018
Westminster City Council v Clarke  2 AC 288
Local authority homeless hostel; whether occupation agreement was a lease or a license
Westminster City Council (WCC) provided hostel accommodation for homeless single persons. The agreement between WCC and Clarke was described as a license to occupy and it included a provision that Clarke could be required to change rooms or share his room with another occupier. Under the agreement, WCC could terminate the license for breach of the rules of the hostel with 7-days notice. Following complaints about Clarke, WCC sought possession. Clarke claimed he was a secured tenant and entitled to the protections of the Housing Act 1985.
WCC claimed the conditions within the agreement were not a sham to avoid conferring statutory protections upon the occupiers of the hostel. The conditions were necessary for the proper effective running of the hostel. Clarke was a licensee and not a tenant and, as such, his occupation could be effectively terminated at 7-days notice for breach of the conditions of his occupation. Clarke argued that he was a secure tenant for the purposes of the Housing Act 1985 and, therefore, the WCC could not secure possession without an order of the court.
Clarke was held to be a licensee and not a tenant. The conditions within the agreement were genuine and necessary for the effective running of the hostel, and not at attempt to avoid the statutory protections afforded to tenants. Granting rights of exclusive possession would be inconsistent with the purposes for which WCC had provided the accommodation, that is, as a hostel for homeless single persons.
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