Mother and housing association forced to honour promise to make daughter a secure tenant
If someone promises another person that they will give them an interest in land or property, and the person to whom the promise was made relies on that promise to their detriment, the courts will – if the circumstances justify it – step in to ensure that the promise is kept. Under English law, a claim brought to enforce such a promise is known as a claim for ‘proprietary estoppel’.
In a recent case dealt with by Rajea Sultana, a solicitor in our housing team, we were able to successfully use proprietary estoppel to prevent a mother going back on a promise made to her daughter that she would be able to occupy a property for as long as she wanted if she moved in to care for her mother. We were also successful in obtaining an order that the mother should pay the daughter’s legal costs.
This was a long, complex and heavily contested case and the fact that we won is testament to the knowledge and expertise of our housing team.
The facts of the case were as follows.
Mrs Bibi was the tenant of a three-bedroom property in Greater London. The property was owned by Eastend Homes and was subject to an assured tenancy under the provisions of the Housing Act 1988. As an assured tenant Mrs Bibi benefited from the right to remain in occupation of the property for as long as she continued to use it as her only or principal home.
Mrs Bibi was an elderly, fragile lady who had suffered a number of health problems over the years including a stroke and a broken leg.
During 2009 one of Mrs Bibi’s granddaughters moved in to live with her in an attempt to provide her with necessary care and support. This arrangement did not work and from 2010 to 2011 Mrs Bibi was cared for by another relative in Bangladesh. When this arrangement came to an end, Mrs Bibi returned to the UK and asked one of her daughters, Aftajan Bibi, to move in with her to provide ongoing support.
Initially her daughter was reluctant to do this because by moving in with her mother she risked losing her own rented accommodation which was not yet subject to a secure tenancy. This was a valuable right which the daughter guarded very carefully.
The daughter was also conscious of the fact that if she moved in with her mother she would not be alone – she would have to move her daughters in with her too, one of whom was pregnant.
Despite her reservations, the daughter was ultimately persuaded to make the move. This, she said, was because of assurances given to her by her mother that she would be able to live at the property for as long as she liked, and that her mother would take steps to have her added to the tenancy agreement to ensure that this happened. The daughter said that this was a promise her mother made on a number of occasions, and was one that she relied on to her detriment because she did ultimately decide to make the move and in doing so gave up her right to claim secure accommodation elsewhere.
Living with her daughter did not work out and in 2013 Mrs Bibi decided to move out of the property. However, rather than leaving her daughter to continue living in the same place, Mrs Bibi decided to try and force her and her children to leave.
It is because of this the daughter approached Miles and Partners for legal advice.
On the basis of the representations made to the daughter, and the fact she had clearly relied on those representations to her detriment, our advice was that the attempt to force her to leave should be resisted and that instead she ought to seek to enforce the representations made by claiming proprietary estoppel. In other words, our advice was that she should force her mother to do what she had promised to do.
What we wanted to achieve was the transfer of the tenancy from the mother’s name into the daughter’s name in order to give the daughter the security of occupation that she had been promised.
A complicating factor in this case was that as the mother had decided to move out of the property it was open to Eastend Homes to bring the tenancy to an end. If this happened it could spell disaster for our client because if the tenancy was terminated there would be nothing to transfer.
There was also another problem because even if we could stop Eastend Homes from terminating the tenancy, it was still possible that the mother could be stripped of her rights to occupy the property on an assured tenancy because she could not be said to be using it as her only or principal home.
Fortunately, we were able to deal with these issues by persuading the court that Eastend Homes should be forced to abide by whatever ruling the court chose to make on the proprietary estoppel claim.
After a hard fought trial, which saw the case go from the County Court to the High Court and back again, we were able to convince the court that the daughter’s claim for proprietary estoppel should be upheld and that Eastend Homes should be ordered to assign the tenancy from Mrs Bibi to Aftajan Bibi. We were also able to convince the court that Mrs Bibi should pay her daughter’s legal costs and that Eastend Homes should make a contribution as well.
This was an excellent result for the client and a professional triumph for Rajea Sultana Ahmed.
For a confidential discussion about housing law, contact Rajea Sultana at Miles and Partners Solicitors in London on 0207 426 0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.