Q&As

Is a tenancy agreement (which was due to start in April 2020) frustrated if it is impossible and illegal for an individual to travel to the UK from abroad due to the lockdown following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

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Produced in partnership with Elizabeth England
Published on LexisPSL on 23/04/2020

The following Property Disputes Q&A produced in partnership with Elizabeth England provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Is a tenancy agreement (which was due to start in April 2020) frustrated if it is impossible and illegal for an individual to travel to the UK from abroad due to the lockdown following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?
  • Capacity to hold the tenancy
  • Supervening illegality
  • Common purpose
  • Whether English Law is required to provide a remedy where a party cannot perform the lease

Is a tenancy agreement (which was due to start in April 2020) frustrated if it is impossible and illegal for an individual to travel to the UK from abroad due to the lockdown following the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

The doctrine of frustration is applied by the courts rarely and narrowly. The High Court took the view in March 2019 that, in similar circumstances presented by Brexit, the doctrine could not be applied. 

The leading case was determined in March 2019, Canary Wharf (BP4) T1 Ltd v European Medicines Agency. The facts of that case were that in 2011, the parties had signed an agreement for lease for the then unbuilt premises. They signed a 25-year lease in 2014. In 2017, the UK notified the EU of its intention to withdraw from the EU. The European Medicines Agency was the tenant. 

Capacity to hold the tenancy

One of the difficulties in Canary Wharf was that if the tenant were to remain in London then it would lose its protections and immunities granted under EU Law. However, it remained capable of holding the lease under EU provisions to deal with property in a third country. In this Q&A, a foreign national is still capable of holding a residential tenancy in the UK and therefore the tenancy would not be frustrated. 

Supervening illegality

The law of England and Wales as it touches on

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