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Law Notes Land Law Notes

Licenses Notes

Updated Licenses Notes

Land Law Notes

Land Law

Approximately 987 pages

Land Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the LLB land law cases and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London).

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Licenses I: Types

i. Introduction

  • There is a huge variety of rights enjoyable under a license, which makes it difficult to consider them as a single category.

  • Many categories are difficult to enforce which means it’s difficult to accord proprietary status to licenses

  • Cases haven’t differentiated according to license type, but one way forward is to give greater protection to certain types of licenses (eg. those involving exclusive possession)

ii. Types of licenses

How Created How Terminated Definition Effect on Purchasers Example
Bare license Telling the licensee to leave, but granting a reasonable time to leave (perhaps months where the licensee’s home is involved) A simple gratuitous permission to enter land Sale by licensor will likely be treated as implicit termination of the license (analogy with tenancy at will) but at any rate purchaser can terminate it
Licenses coupled with an interest Implied into proprietary interests that require entering onto land Permission to enter another’s land for exercising a proprietary interest (eg. a profit) that can be in a chattel (Webb v Paternoster) or in the land itself Hurst v Picture Theaters Ltd: C was watching a film in D’s cinema and D evicted him in breach of contract and C sued for assault having to prove that he had a right to be on the premises. CoA said there was a license coupled with an interest, though this is controversial because there was no proprietary interest, only a contractual right to watch the film.
Contractual License Failed leases, family living arrangements etc. (no formalities necessary) – can also be assigned without formalities Cannot be revoked by breach of contract. Does not bind purchasers so will terminate on sale. Can also terminate if the other party breached the contract (as Equity will not assist them) A permission to enter land created by contract Probably not binding. Hardwick v Johnson: a mother allowed her son and daughter-in-law to occupy a house for paying 7 a week towards purchase price (though the sum amounted to a mere 3%). CoA held that mother couldn’t regain possession when the son left the daughter-in-law. There is little justification save the contract for the license to continue indefinitely.
Estoppel License As it is equitable and proprietary it must be in writing (s53(1)(a), (c) LPA 1925) A license that arises on the detrimental reliance of the licensee. Binding.

iii. Contractual Licenses

I. Is it revocable by the licensor?

  • If it is to have any chance at being proprietary (binding purchasers), it first has to be irrevocable by the licensor

  • Orthodox 19C approach: Wood v Leadbitter – licensor could always terminate a contractual license even if it would be in breach of contract because the license is seen as separate (Hurst therefore had to use the license coupled with an interest analysis to make it irrevocable)

  • But in Hurst Buckley LJ said that a license with an agreement not to revoke also worked, because Equity will intervene:

    • Specific performance of the contract

    • Or prevent the licensor from revoking the license in breach of contract

    • So because an Equitable remedy is available Equity will treat the licensee as having a right to remain should the licensor evict him

  • Problem with this analysis: Equity is acting retrospectively – Hurst had no opportunity to seek a remedy before eviction. But Equity nevertheless treats him as if he had obtained an injunction preventing eviction, which is the ordinary approach where there has been an interest in land and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be applied to licenses

  • Today’s position: Winter Garden Theatre v Millenium Productions – licensor purported to revoke a license to produce plays in licensor’s theatre.

    • Lord Greene MR (CoA): the license shouldn’t be regarded as an entity separate from the contract but as a contractual right subject to normal contractual rules. On the facts, the license was intended to be irrevocable and thus there was an undertaking not to revoke that the Court will give effect to. It didn’t matter that it had been purportedly revoked by the time the case came to court

    • HL found that on the facts the license was intended to be revocable, but the analysis remains authoritative

  • Next case: Hounslow LBC v Twickenham Garden Developments – C landowner contracted with D to do building work. C was dissatisfied with D’s progress and sought to terminate the contract and applied for an order that D leave.

    • Megarry J: the claim failed. C would succeed if D had broken the contract (but this was disputed and still unresolved), but Equity would not help a landowner to break a contract (though accepting the alternate analysis that specific performance may well be available to assist D)

    • This is a different analysis of why Equity recognizes a license: it declines to assist the licensor

  • Verrall v Great Yarmouth BC: The National Front had contracted to hold their conference in D’s premises, and when Labour took control of the council, the license was purportedly revoked (without having been entered into possession so only possible equitable remedy was specific performance).

    • CoA held that specific performance should be ordered as damages are inadequate because the National Front had been unable to find another venue.

I(b): Are all contractual licenses irrevocable?

  • There are some contrasting 20C decisions:

  • Thompson v Park: two headmasters agreed to share the school of one of them (licensor), the license purported terminating when disagreements arose.

    • CoA held that the license had been revoked (lawfully or not) and licensee had no right to return.

    • Justifications:

      • Goddard LJ: Licensors can revoke licenses in breach of contract subject to having to pay contractual damages (this was decided after Winter Gardens and considered to be inconsistent with it and bad law – Verrall)

      • The court cannot specifically enforce an agreement for two people to live peaceably under the same roof (more defensible)

      • ...

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