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Summarised by Mo Yee Nam (Associate)
Mr Mendoza (Mendoza) lived with his same-sex partner Mr Wallwyn-James (HWJ) in a flat, of which HWJ had a statutory tenancy. On HWJ's death, Mr Ghaidan, who is the landlord, sought possession. Mendoza claimed that he was entitled to succeed to the tenancy as a surviving spouse of the deceased under the Rent Act 1977(RA).
House of Lords:
The House of Lords upheld the decision in the Court of Appeal which reversed the County Court’s decision of regarding same-sex relationship as not equivalent to a spousal relationship and ruled in favour of Mendoza.
Two issues were raised for determination: Firstly, whether the definition of “spouse” under Schedule 1, paragraph 2 to the Rent Act in Fitzpatrick v Sterling Housing Association Ltd  1 AC 27 amounted to unjustified discrimination between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples in the enjoyment of the right to respect for the home (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights). Secondly, whether it was possible to construe paragraph 2(2) of RA as including persons in a same-sex relationship which is compatible with Convention rights.
Both issues are responded in the positive. The Court of Appeal considered necessary for interpretation of RA to be compatible with EU Convention and Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) as HWJ had died after the HRA came into force. Relying on HRA, the meaning of the word ”spouse” should be extended to connote a relationship not only between a man and a woman but also the same-sex couple.
The leading judgement concluded that the exclusion of same-sex partners by RA paragraph 2(2) would violate the convention rights to respect for a person’s home without discrimination. Therefore, Mendoza had met the condition of being treated as the spouse of the deceased for the purposes of the legislation and was entitled to become a statutory tenant.
The case stands as a clear illustration of court’s positive interpretive obligation to interpret national legislations, past and future, to be in line with the Convention rights, promoting values safeguarded by the Convention. The case is regarded as the most important judgment of HRA to date and such welcoming judgement should be regarded as a huge step towards the pursuit of obtaining equal rights in the society.