Reasonable notice and excluded licences


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In the recent case of Thomas Gibson v Ian Douglas and Another [2016] EWCA Civ 1266, the Court of Appeal considered whether the Appellant, Mr Gibson, had a right to claim damages against Ian Douglas, and his mother Mrs Douglas, in respect of a claim for unlawful eviction. However, the observations on the question of what termination notice period an excluded licensee is entitled to are of more interest.

Insofar as the decision in the case is concerned, it is sufficient to say that the appeal by Mr Gibson failed.

However, the Court of Appeal then went on to make some helpful observations in respect of notice requirements for licences excluded from protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977:

"Leaving on one side the question of whether notice, written or oral, is required  to terminate a licence … 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: see Minister of Health v Bellotti [1944] KB 928… [It] is impossible to define the principle with any greater precision and undesirable that we attempt to do so."

The Court of Appeal confirmed it was clear law that an excluded licensee is usually entitled to reasonable notice before being compelled to leave a property. In the absence of contractually specified periods, there was a spectrum of notice periods which could apply depending on the nature of the licence, and that these ranged from minutes where, for example an unwanted visitor presents himself at the front door, to years where, for example, a licensee has occupied premises for 10 years.

In the case before the court, where the licensee had occupied the premises for about five years, the court doubted the period could be measured in minutes, hours or days but thought weeks rather than months or years would be more appropriate.

This case provides interesting observations on the approach to take when deciding what a "reasonable" notice period could be for an excluded licensee. It also serves as a reminder that a notice period should be specified where possible in order to give certainty and to hopefully avoid litigation on that point.

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