Landlords should have given tenant new address for service

Many cases concern the validity of notices served by tenants where they seek to exercise a contractual break clause.

Leases frequently incorporate the regulations as to service of notices contained in section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925.

Section 196 provides:

…(3) Any notice required or authorised by this Act to be served shall be sufficiently served if it is left at the last-known place of abode or business in the United Kingdom of the lessee, lessor, mortgagee, mortgagor, or other person to be served…

(4) Any notice required or authorised by this Act to be served shall also be sufficiently served, if it is sent by post in a registered letter addressed to the lessee, lessor, mortgagee, mortgagor, or other person to be served, by name, at the aforesaid place of abode or business…”

The principal purposes of a service provision are:

– to set out a practicable method by which a party serving a notice can be reasonably sure how he should do so, and

– that the party to be served can be reasonably sure he will receive it.

The address given by a party as his own address serves both these purposes- it gives clarity to the party serving.

In giving that address, the party to be served has made his own decision as to the likelihood of documents sent to that address actually coming to his attention.

If circumstances change, he has the capacity to inform the other party of any new address.

If he does not do so, it is not unreasonable that any risk that the documents do not actually reach him falls on him.

He cannot be heard to object that an address might not be considered to be a “place of abode or business”.

Terms like that are to be construed in the context against which they are used. “Abode” may include premises at which an individual carries on business but does not reside, so it is not necessarily resticted to residential premises.

Where the intended recipient is a company, it cannot mean a residential address.

There is no reason why that term should not extend to an address nominated by a person.

If a party nominates a residential property to receive a notice, it is then a matter for him and not his contractual counterparty whether he in fact lives there.

If a party nominates non-residential property, it is equally a matter for him what connection he has with it, and whether it relates to any business of his or not.

Nor can he be heard to object that he in fact carries on little or no business there. If he chooses to describe it as his address, the nature or quality of his business activity is a matter for him and not the other party.

He may for instance elect to nominate a particular address not because he himself lives or goes there for business purposes, but because he has confidence that those who do will pass on any communication they receive.

In the High Court case of Levett-Dunn & Ors v NHS Property Services Ltd [2016] the leases named three people and a professional pension trustee company “all of 75 Tyburn Rd Erdington Birmingham B24 8NB” to be the Landlord. The Tenant served break notices on them individually at that address. To be valid the notice would have had to be “given” before 11 January 2013, ie six months before the break date. The notices were expected but did not come to the Landlords’ attention until after 10 January 2013. The Landlords sought declarations that the notices were not properly served on them so that the relevant leases still existed.

The leases incorporated the regulations as to service of notices contained in section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925 and said service on any one of the parties comprising the Landlord should be deemed to be service on all of them.

By the date of the break notice Simon Levett-Dunn had ceased being a Landlord and had transferred the freehold to the complainant Landlords in this case but had continued with a new company at 75 Tyburn Road.

Of the three continuing Landlords Frederick Levett-Dunn had not operated from 75 Tyburn Road since 1999. Mr Evans did not run a business from that property and the professional trustee company had never run a business from that property. At the date of the leases in 2010 Simon Levett-Dunn was the only one of the persons comprising the Landlord with any ongoing business connection with the premises at 75 Tyburn Road. If Frederick Levett-Dunn and Mr. Evans were prepared to continue to give 75 Tyburn Road as their address after they ceased to attend there, they must have assumed or been content that Simon Levett-Dunn would pass them anything addressed to them.

Had they wanted the notices to be served at another address they should have informed the tenant. So the break notices were validly served on them.

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not replace the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.