Licences in Property Law

A licence is permission, making it lawful for a property to be used by a person who is not the legal owner. Therefore, existence of such permission makes lawful what would otherwise be a trespass. It does not create or grant any interest in the land to the licensee.

A licence is normally created where a person is granted the right to use premises without becoming entitled to an exclusive possession of them. In practice, most commonly licences operate as to allow for the property to be used for a specific purpose and for a defined period of time.

The grant of licences

A licence may be express or implied in accordance with the way the permission was granted. An everyday-life example of implied licence is in the case of a shopkeeper in the invitation to customers to enter his premises to do business.

In contrast express licences govern more specific situations where the permission has been expressly directed towards a particular individual. An example is where owner invites guests for dinner or to stay in a room on his property. The licence governs only the specified period of the stay and any re-entry after that period without further permission would constitute trespass.

It is important to note that a person cannot grant a licence to himself nor to himself jointly with another. Therefore, it must be granted by an owner of the property who is different from the licensee.

The effect of a licence

Whenever a licence is granted, it will be expected to give minimal rights to the licensee. Therefore, he has no interest in the land and the licence establishes no way of accruing such. It merely prevents him from being a trespasser and no more.

However, in certain situations where the licence is contractual as granted under a contract, the agreement could identify certain rights given to the licensee. Further, in some cases difficulties exist in determining whether a person is a contractual licensee or a lessee. Whenever, such issue arises, those are resolved through looking at the substantive terms of the agreement and not by looking at labels or terminology used. If a contractual licence is established it provides considerably smaller rights to the licensee were a lease to be found in place.

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For more information on:

  • Contractual licences
  • Revocation of licences
  • Irrevocable licences
  • Effect of a licence on the land