...real estate disputes expert, Glenn Rhodes, examines a Court of Appeal decision on notices.  This is the ninth in a series of twelve articles in which our real estate disputes team look back over the key decisions of 2020*

SECTION 8 NOTICES: WHOSE ADDRESS TO INCLUDE?

At a time when changing rules and the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic are making it harder for landlords to regain possession of their properties, a recent case in the Court of Appeal stands out.

Where a tenant has accrued substantial rent arrears landlords will often serve a notice on the tenant pursuant to section 8 of the Housing Act 1998. These notices, much like the alternative section 21 notice where a fixed term of a tenancy has ended, have to be in a prescribed form set out in accompanying regulations. Failure to fill the notice out correctly can mean that a claim for possession could fail.

The case of Prempeh v. Lakhany [2020] EWCA Civ 1422 concerned a  section 8 notice served on the tenant. The notice was signed by the landlord’s agent who were a firm of solicitors, and provided their address and phone number, but made no mention of the landlord.

The tenant’s argument consisted of two points:

  • That the section 8 notice was a demand for rent and therefore had to comply with section 47 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (this requires all demands for rent to include the landlord’s name and address); and
  • That the failure to include the landlord’s name and address meant that the section 8 notice was not in the required prescribed form and so was invalid.

Dealing with the first point, Lord Justice Nugee ruled that a section 8 notice is not a demand for rent under section 47. As a section 8 notice can be served for reasons other than just rent arrears, the tenant’s argument would have meant that some section 8 notices would have required the landlord’s name and address and others would not. A section 8 notice served in relation to rent arrears is merely a notice telling the tenant that possession proceedings will be commenced and was not a demand for rent.

In relation to the second point, confusion is caused by the prescribed form by a line at paragraph 6 which says ‘Name and address of landlord/licensor.’  The tenant’s argument seems to be that this line was an instruction for the landlord’s name and address to be included. Failure to include it was not completing the form properly.

Lord Justice Nugee noted that the prescribed form in the regulations did not include a space for the landlord’s name and address to be inserted. The line at paragraph 6 should therefore be interpreted as a ‘heading’ rather than an instruction.

Therefore Lord Justice Nugee ruled that the prescribed form does not require the landlord’s name and address to be included. The form requires it to be signed by the landlord or the landlord’s agent followed by a box for that person’s name, address and phone number. The judge stated that these boxes could be completed with the agent’s details. As such the form served on the tenant was in the prescribed form.

*yes, we know we are enjoying our twelve days of Christmas a bit early, but we just couldn't wait!