You can run but you can't hide
A case which shows the importance of providing your tenants with an up to date address for service of notices.
In the case of Levett-Dunn v NHS, the court was asked to determine whether break notices served by a tenant had been validly served where they were served at an address at which none of the landlords resided.The notices had not therefore come to the attention of the landlords.The landlords argued that they had not therefore been validly served.
The tenant in this case, the NHS, served break notices on its landlords to exercise a break clause in its lease.The lease incorporated the usual statutory provision that the service of notices would be effective if served at “the last known place of abode or business in the United Kingdom”.
The lease in this case had been granted by four landlords and all were stated in the lease to be “of 75 Tyburn Road, Erdington, Birmingham”.The NHS tenant therefore served the break notices at that address. But in fact, none of the landlords resided there and none of the current landlords had
a business connection with that address.
The issue for the court to decide was whether the address named in the lease (75 Tyburn Road) could be treated as “the last known place of abode or business in the United Kingdom” given that none of the landlords resided at that address or had any business connection with that address.
The court held that service of the notices on the landlords at 75 Tyburn Road was indeed sufficient.The court ruled that where an address for a landlord is given in a lease, a reasonable person will understand that address to be a place of abode or business, even if in fact the address is not the landlord’s place of abode or business.
The address stated in the lease remains an effective address for the purpose of service of notices until either the landlord nominates some other address for service or the tenant acquires actual knowledge that the stated address is not one at which the landlords can be reached.
The case illustrates the importance of both landlords and tenants providing clear addresses for the service of notices and ensuring that those designated addresses can only be replaced by other addresses notified to the other party in writing.The danger here is that if you as a landlord do not notify your tenant of your change of address, there is a risk of important notices being deemed to have been served on you even if you have not in fact seen or received those notices.
The lesson from this NHS case is that the onus is on landlords to update tenants and not for tenants to check whether an address is current.That being said, a well advised tenant should continue to take reasonable steps to establish the landlord’s current address to minimise the risk of disputed service.
Andrew Turner, Director - 01242 586 841 - firstname.lastname@example.org