What Is a Landlord? The Answer Is Not as Obvious as You Might Think

FlatsWhat is a landlord? The answer to that question may appear obvious. However, as a guideline Court of Appeal decision showed, the issue can be far from straightforward in circumstances where a great many homes are occupied under subleases.

The freeholders of a block of flats were intent on regaining possession of the whole property. Their predecessors in title had leased the block to a letting agency. The latter in turn let individual flats to subtenants. In purporting to act as their landlords, the freeholders served notice to quit on the subtenants of one flat, who occupied the premises under assured shorthold tenancies. The freeholders were subsequently granted possession orders by a judge.

In upholding the subtenants’ challenge to that decision, however, the Court found that the agency, not the freeholders, were their landlords on the date that the notice was served. The agency alone, therefore, was entitled to give the subtenants notice under the Housing Act 1988 that their tenancies would be terminated. The Court noted that, because of the agency’s intermediate position as superior tenant, the freeholders would still not have been entitled to possession of the flat even had the subtenancies not existed. The possession orders were overturned.