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Definition of a subtenancy

This content applies to England

Definition of a subtenancy.

Many tenants rent accommodation from landlords who are themselves tenants of higher landlords. For example, a local authority may rent a house to a tenant who then sublets a room to a subtenant. In these cases the middle tenant is known as a 'mesne' tenant (pronounced 'mean'). In this section, the terms 'head landlord', 'mesne tenant' and 'subtenant' will be used to identify the different parties.

A subtenancy arises when a tenant creates a tenancy out of her/his interest, but remains in the position of tenant against a higher landlord. The relationship between the parties is shown below:

Head landlord > Mesne Tenant > Subtenant

This ladder of letting does not have to be restricted to three parties; there can be any number of subtenancies of a dwelling. There may also be several joint tenants or joint landlords at each level in the ladder. In the case of a fixed term tenancy, the subtenancy can only be granted for a shorter period of time than the remainder of the mesne tenancy, such that the subtenancy must expire a day, or an hour, or some other period before the mesne tenancy. [1]

[1]  Jameson v London and Canadian Loan Agency Co (1897) 27 SCR 435.

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