Abode or Not Abode? That is the Question

The High Court recently considered the oft-vexed question of the validity of notices served by a tenant to exercise a contractual break clause.

In this case, the landlords sought declarations that the notices were not properly served on them and that in consequence the relevant leases continued to subsist.

A large part of the case dealt with the contractual service provision that stated:

“For the purpose of service of all notices hereby or by statute authorised to be served the regulations as to service of notices contained in section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925 […] shall be deemed to be incorporated herein.”

And, of course, section 196 provides:

“196 Regulations respecting notices

(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…”

This means that the landlord may be served at his last known place of abode or business.

However, the issue in this case was whether the description of the landlord in the lease as being “of 75 Tyburn Rd” meant that this was his address for service.

The key word here was “of”.

In giving judgment, the judge found that any reasonable person would understand the lease to mean that the address given “of 75 Tyburn Rd” was the “place of abode or business” for the purpose of the service clause and therefore the landlord had, on construing the lease, clearly designated that address and it didn’t matter whether the landlord actually abided there or carried on any business there.

Levett-Dunn & Ors v NHS Property Services Ltd [2016] EWHC 943 (Ch) (26 April 2016).

Written by James Naylor

Partner, CG Naylor LLP.

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