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Service of notice to quit

The Court of Appeal recently considered the question of whether a document could be served at an address that the landlord knew had been vacated when the tenant had given an alternative address.

The tenancy agreement in the case of Grimes -v- The Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt contained a clause that stated:
Either party may serve any notice (including any notice in proceedings) on the other at the address given in the Particulars [at the beginning of the tenancy agreement] or such other address as has previously been notified in writing.”

Facts
Upon making the first rental payment in December 2006 the tenant sent a cheque and letter to the landlord notifying them of his change address to Maple Way. On July 1st, 2011, the landlord served a notice to quit at the tenant’s previous address. The question for the county court was, was this good service despite the notice being delivered to an address that the tenant vacated some 6 years ago. The county court judge accepted the argument of the landlord that the clause allowed it to serve notices either at the original address in the particulars of the agreement or at the new address notified to it in writing. Accordingly, the county court held that the notice had been validly served and that the tenancy had been validly terminated. The tenant appealed and the county court decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal considered the true construction of the clause quoted above, and considered it in light of the parties’ intentions at the time of entering into the contract and the contract as a whole. The Appeal Court concluded, that the commercial and common-sense point of view, is that the parties “cannot sensibly have intended that the serving party [the landlord] should continue to have the option of serving at the old address once he has been notified of the new one”.

The Court of Appeal found that the correct address for service on the tenant was Maple Way, his new address, and not the one that was noted in the Particulars of the agreement. Accordingly, the Appeal Court held that the notice to quit had not been validly served on the tenant and it followed that the tenancy had not been validly terminated.

Comment
This case stresses the need for landlords and agents to have their documents checked and updated regularly. This case also serves as a reminder for landlords and their agents to keep tenant’s contact details up-to-date and to hand so that they are available when needed.

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