Legal Principles and Key Points
- In the case of Binions v Evans 1972 Ch 359 it was found that a constructive trust of a licence will arise whenever the transferee of the licensor has notice of the licence.
Facts of the Case
- D’s husband was employed by an estate and lived in a cottage owned by the estate, paying no rents or rates. The husband died in 1965 when D was 73 years old. She continued living in the cottage.
- In March of 1968, the trustees of the estate entered into an agreement with D to provide a temporary home for her and agreed to permit her to reside in and occupy the cottage as a tenant at will of them free of rent for the remainder of her life or until determined as hereinafter provided.
- Clause 2 provided that the tenancy “may be determined at any time” by the defendant giving to the trustees no less than four weeks’ notice in writing.
- By clause 3, D undertook to keep the cottage in good condition and repair and not to re assign or sublet or part with possessions of the cottage or any part thereof and… upon ceasing personally to liv there, to give vacant possession to the trustees.
- By clause 5, it was agreed that the tenancy shall unless previously determined forthwith determine on the death of the defendant.
- In Ma of 1970, the trustees agreed to sell the cottage to the claimants and they gave them a copy of the agreement and inserted a special clause in the contract for sale to protect D; s occupation.
- As a result of the provision, the C’s paid a reduced price.
- On February 11th, 1971, the claimants gave D notice to quit on MRCH 17th.
- They applied to the county court seeking possession claiming that D was a tenant at will and as the tenancy had been determined she was a trespasser.
- The judge decided that the claimants held the cottage on trust to permit D to reside there during her life or as long as she wished.
- The claimants appealed.
Issues in Binions v Evans 1972 Ch 359
- The issues in this case concern whether C could assert her contractual licence to remain on the land against the defendants who were not party to that licence.
Held by Court of Appeal
- Appeal dismissed.
Lord Denning MR
- The appeal was dismissed in that the words “tenancy at will” in the agreement were inconsistent with the terms “for the remainder of her life or until determined as hereinafter provided” and to provide a “temporary home” for D did not create a tenancy at will.
- “I prefer to regard the defendant as a tenant for life and not a licensee. Again, I need not express, and prefer to follow Sir Raymond Evershed M.R. in Foster v. Robinson  1 K.B. 149, 156 and Somervell L.J. in Errington v. Errington and Woods  1 K.B. 290, 293 in not expressing, a final view about the alternative possibility that the defendant became a ten ant at will with a promise that the tenancy at will would not be determined.
- The introduction of the words “as tenant at will of them ” and the old doctrine set out in Coke on Littleton, 55A, that a tenancy at will expressed to be at the will of one party only is by implication of law to be at the will of the other party also create a difficulty in the defendant’s way; but all the rest of the document is inconsistent with the defendant being a tenant at the will of her landlords. If those six words are inconsistent with the rest of the document, I agree that we should disregard them. If they make the document ambiguous, then any ambiguity in the language of the agree- ment resulting from the attempt of the landlords’ lawyers to have the best of different worlds ought clearly to be resolved against those who drew up the agreement and put it forward. To give it the meaning for which Mr. Pugh persuasively contends would be to turn it into a trap for the defendant. The successors in title to the owners who put forward this agreement took the cottage subject to the agreement and ought to be in no better position to turn her out than their predecessors who agreed not to.
- I am happy to find that the law is what it ought to be and to agree that this appeal cannot succeed “p. 14 pp. B-E.