Q&As

What duty does the owner of a residential property owe to a person occupying the property as licensee in respect of their health and safety?

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Produced in partnership with David Sharpe of 12 King's Bench Walk Chambers
Published on LexisPSL on 01/06/2017

The following Property Q&A produced in partnership with David Sharpe of 12 King's Bench Walk Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What duty does the owner of a residential property owe to a person occupying the property as licensee in respect of their health and safety?
  • Distinction between license and tenancy
  • Duties owed

Distinction between license and tenancy

A licence is a personal right or permission given by the land owner (the licensor) for the licensee (the person being granted the right) to do something on the licensor’s land. The licensee is given permission to use the land for the authorised purpose and effectively prevents that act from being a trespass. Unlike a lease, a licence does not create an estate in land.

A lease gives tenants a range of statutory protections which include various forms of 'security of tenure', compensation for improvements and protection from eviction and the regulation of costs such as service charges.

In contrast licensees will generally not enjoy those protections afforded to tenant. However, where there is any doubt about its legal effect the court will lean towards finding that an agreement is a lease rather than a licence so that the occupier has statutory rights and protections. The court will determine whether an agreement is a lease or a licence by looking at its substance, not the label attached to it by the parties. In Street v Mountfor

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