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Eviction of lodgers and licensees - what notice?

View profile for Zuzanne Garside
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It is important to firstly establish whether a lodger has a tenancy agreement or whether the lodger simply has a licence to reside at the property. A tenancy agreement is going to put you within the realms of the Housing Act and two months' notice. A licence is altogether more straightforward and easier to terminate.

In the case of Gibson v Douglas & Anor [2016], Mrs Douglas owned the property and agreed for Mr Gibson to live at the property in return for the payment of what amounted to rent. Although this was an informal agreement, it was clear that the parties initially had a relationship as 'landlord and tenant'.

However, a few years later their relationship changed and they subsequently married. Over the years, Mrs Douglas' mental health deteriorated as she suffered with advancing vascular dementia or Alzheimer's of some nature. There were subsequently allegations that Mr Gibson had been violent towards Mrs Douglas. During a stay in hospital, Mrs Douglas decided, with the support of her son, to ask Mr Gibson to leave the property, and to do so before Mrs Douglas came out of hospital.

The police were notified and they attended the property to remove Mr Gibson from the property.

Mr Gibson brought a claim against Mrs Douglas claiming unlawful eviction and on the grounds that he had not been provided with sufficient notice.

The Court dismissed his claim and held that because Mr Gibson was living at the property as a licensee (the arrangement having changed from landlord and tenant to licensor and licensee following his marriage to Mrs Douglas), he was not entitled to a minimum period of statutory notice. The eviction was held to be lawful.

The Court remarked that "it is clear law that, where the relevant period has not been specified by the licence itself, a licensee is entitled, following revocation of the licence, to whatever in all the circumstances is a reasonable time to remove himself and his possessions."

In the Douglas case, there were allegations of violence and indeed there was a fracas at the property when the police arrived. This is no doubt why it was held that Mr Gibson had already had a "reasonable time" to remove himself from the property. Other cases and other circumstances might be approached differently by the Court. But that said, it is clear that in the majority of cases, the notice period will typically be a period measured in weeks rather than months or years. In some cases, the period may be as short as a matter of hours.

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