Anand Beharrylal QC, leading Sian McGibbon, Melissa Ramdial and instructed by Ronald Dowlath (Port of Spain, Trinidad), appeared for an appellant landlord in an appeal involving difficult questions on the law of intestate succession. A land tenant since 1949 died intestate in 2006 without renewing her 30 year lease. Subsequently her daughter issued a notice to renew for another 30 years, but before she had obtained the necessary grant of Letters of Administration to deal with an intestate’s affairs. Following the expiry of the initial 30 year lease, it not having been renewed by any proper person, the landlord re-entered the property. The daughter then issued a claim and injunction for trespass essentially on the basis that the lease had been validly renewed by her and that she was the proper claimant having been appointed by the High Court under the Civil Proceedings Rules (CPR), but again before she obtained Letters of Administration.
The High Court ruled in favour of the tenant’s daughter holding she was a tenant by virtue of the Land Tenants (Security of Tenure) Act and rejecting the application of the doctrine of relation back, the latter which can have the effect of validating actions of administrators before the grant of Letters of Administration. The Court of Appeal disagreed that she was a tenant, but considered that the common law doctrine of relation back applied to validate both the daughter’s renewal of the lease and the claim she had issued against the landlord, hence it dismissed the landlord’s appeal. The Court of Appeal also refused the landlord permission to appeal to the Privy Council.
The landlord successfully applied for permission to appeal directly from the Privy Council. In the appeal the Privy Council heard full argument in examining the common law, the application of the CPR in Trinidad and Tobago and the history and application of the doctrine of relation back, the latter the same as in England. In a reserved judgment containing three separate decisions from Lord Burrows, Lady Arden and Lord Leggatt, the Privy Council comprehensively reviewed the law from 1603 to date and unanimously upheld the landlord’s appeal setting aside the High Court judgment in its entirety essentially on the basis that: (a) the doctrine of relation back could not validate the daughter’s renewal of the lease because that would undermine the landlord’s vested proprietary rights thereby causing unacceptable uncertainty for the landlord, and (b) relation back could not validate a claim that was invalid when it was commenced.
This decision of the Privy Council for Trinidad and Tobago is the most substantial review of the operation and application of the doctrine of relation back by a final appellate court and will have broad application in the development of intestate law in the Commonwealth Caribbean and England and Wales.
Cases | 16 Aug 22