Street v Mountford (1985) UKHL 4 is a significant decision in English property law that clarified the distinction between a tenancy agreement and a licence agreement. The case involved a dispute between Mountford, the occupier of a property, and Street, the owner of the property.
Mountford occupied a room within Street's property and paid rent for her accommodation. The agreement between them was characterised as a licence agreement, expressly indicating that Street had a licence to occupy the premises. However, Mountford argued that her arrangement with Street was actually a tenancy agreement, providing her with more extensive rights and protections as a tenant.
The key issue in the case was whether the agreement constituted a genuine license or a tenancy. The distinction was crucial because, under English law, a tenancy grants the tenant exclusive possession and various statutory rights, while a licence gives the occupier permission to use the premises without exclusive possession.
The House of Lords examined the terms of the agreement and the factual circumstances. It held that despite the use of the term licence, the agreement between them was, in substance, a tenancy agreement. The court emphasised the importance of looking beyond the label or terminology used and focusing on the true nature of the agreement.
The case established the principle that the court will consider the substance of an agreement rather than its form. If an occupier has exclusive possession of the premises, paying rent and having control over the space, it is more likely to be classified as a tenancy agreement, regardless of the label used in the agreement.
Street v Mountford (1985) clarified the distinction between licences and tenancies, providing a framework for analysing similar arrangements in property law. The decision has been widely cited and remains an influential precedent in determining the legal status of occupiers and the corresponding rights and obligations under different types of agreements.
You can learn more about this topic with our Property Law notes.