Statutory tenancies, often dating back many years, can give protected residents the right to occupy homes at a fraction of market rents. However, such rights are forfeited if the property ceases to be the tenant’s primary residence. In one striking case, an elderly man was ordered to move out of a Central London mews house which he claimed had been his family home for more than 50 years.
The pensioner, who paid about a fifth of the rent which the property would otherwise have commanded, claimed that he had been a statutory tenant of the house since the mid-1960s. His landlord, however, presented evidence that, since 1968, his and his family’s main residence had been a cottage outside London.
Ruling in favour of the landlord, a judge found that the pensioner had decamped to the country after his first child was born and his wife became pregnant with his second. The small house would have been too small for the couple, their children and their au pair. He had deliberately chosen not to attend the court hearing so as to avoid having to tell the truth about his occupation of the property.
The pensioner was given 28 days to vacate the property and was ordered to pay £290,000 in interim legal costs. He must also pay commercial rent on the house going back to 2011, which would add about another £250,000 to his bill.