Can a tenancy agreement be signed as an agent on behalf of a tenant?
In London Borough of Haringey v Ahmed and Another  EWCA Civ 1861 the London Borough of Haringey (the Authority) appealed against the decision not to grant it possession of a property.
Mr Ahmed was a successful homeless applicant as a result of which three different tenancy agreements were signed:
- The first, although drafted as a joint tenancy with his wife ("A") was signed by Mr Ahmed alone.
- 9 days later, an agreement was signed by Mr Ahmed and his mother, Mrs Ahmed. Mr Ahmed left the property in 2002 and he and Mrs Ahmed asked the Authority for the Tenancy to be transferred to Mrs Ahmed and A. This was never done.
- In 2006 a further Tenancy Agreement was signed by Mrs Ahmed alone.
Mrs Ahmed left the property in 2010 initially requesting that the tenancy be transferred to A. She then changed her mind. As Mrs Ahmed was not living at the property as her only principle home, the Authority served a Notice to Quit and subsequently began possession proceedings.
In the High Court it was found that:
- Mr Ahmed had acted as an agent for A in signing the first tenancy agreement, therefore a joint tenancy existed that had never been terminated. A therefore remained a tenant.
- If a possession order had been made it would not have interfered with A's Article 8 Human Rights.
The Authority appealed and the Court of Appeal found that there was no agency agreement. For this argument to have succeeded there must have been a course of conduct from which this could be implied. It was found that on the facts, rather than A accepting Mr Ahmed could so act and trusting him to do so, Mr Ahmed had in fact never informed A about any accommodation decisions and she was totally unaware of his actions. He was therefore the sole tenant.
Therefore, when Mr Ahmed signed a second tenancy agreement he had surrendered the first one and entered into a joint tenancy with Mrs Ahmed.
A's cross appeal that it was not proportionate to make a possession order was dismissed and the Court of Appeal upheld the principle that the test in deciding whether or not the making of a possession order was proportionate is whether an eviction is "necessary in a democratic society".
This is an example of a rare case where the Court of Appeal has interfered with the discretion of the Trial Judge where, in essence, the judge has made an error of law in finding that Mr Ahmed had acted as an agent for his wife.