X, a local authority, gave D a licence to use some buildings due for redevelopment to temporarily house homeless people, but not exclusive possession. P signed an agreement with D, allowing him to stay in a property alone on a temporary weekly basis, but that he would have to vacate upon notice from D. D had the right to enter to make repairs and inspect the premises. When the property was in disrepair, P claimed he was a tenant and therefore that D had a statutory duty to effect repairs, for which he sought an order of specific performance against D. HL held that there was a tenancy, since there was exclusive possession for a definite period in return for consideration. The tenancy would be in personam, since the person purportedly granting exclusive possession (D) did not have exclusive possession himself before granting it to P!
Lord Hoffmann: A tenancy is where “one person gives another the right to exclusive occupation of land for a fixed or renewable period or periods of time, usually in return for a periodic payment in money.” He says it is irrelevant that the trust had no authority to grant leases, since this is not pleaded here. This decision is bad for policy reasons: it is an incentive to leave unused housing stock empty rather than allow the homeless to occupy it, lest the local authority/trust/charity be forced to take on the statutory responsibilities of a tenant. It is also incoherent: How can D give P a right that D itself doesn’t even have?