Service of Notice to Quit: Whether a notice was valid where the recipient was incorrect but had knowledge of the correct tenant (Turner and others v Thomas and another – 2022)
Where a notice to quit agricultural premises was served on the wrong party, was the notice still valid where the recipient could have reasonably understood the purpose of the notice and had knowledge of, and involvement in, the correct tenant company?
Turner and others v Thomas and another  concerned an oral lease of agricultural land in Wales. Following the deaths of predecessors in title, the freehold reversion vested in O who became the landlord under the lease which had been granted to T.
T established the second defendant company, and was the sole shareholder, officer and secretary of the company. T’s home address was the registered office. T assigned the lease to the company and, during proceedings, both parties agreed that the assignment was effective.
O had not received notice of the assignment and served a notice to quit on T, addressed to T and sent by recorded post to T’s home address. T did not respond to the notice until 11 months later. T, through land agents, argued that the notice was invalid. At first instance, the notice was found to be valid and T brought an appeal in the High Court.
The High Court found in favour of the freeholder, agreeing that the notice was clear to a reasonable recipient, who could not have been misled by the notice. In its judgment, the court stated that it was obvious that, to a reasonable recipient, the notice was intended to be addressed to the company and that T was the person holding the land under the lease.
The court applied Mannai Investment Co Ltd v Eagle Star Assurance Co Ltd , where the reasonable recipient of the notice was aware that the party serving the notice did not know about the existence of the current tenant. Applying the Mannai test, the court considered whether a reasonable recipient would have understood that the notice was addressed to the company tenant.
There was no prescribed form for the notice to quit in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, which could be served in writing or orally with no requirement to name the tenant. Simply giving the notice to T as the tenant was sufficiently valid and effective delivery.
Advice and action for landlords
This decision supports a rational view that, where the recipient of the notice had full knowledge of the correct tenant and indeed was the sole director and shareholder of the correct tenant company, he could be found to reasonably understand the notice and could not be misled by it.
A point to note here for agricultural landlords is that no prescribed notice to quit is set down by statute; the tenant does not need to be named or identified by a notice for it to be valid. Simply addressing the notice to ‘the tenant’ was sufficient, and the notice could be served in writing or orally. We would nevertheless advise serving notice in writing for the purpose of proper record-keeping.
The High Court found in favour of the freeholder, agreeing that the notice was clear to a reasonable recipient, who could not have been misled by the notice. The notice to quit was deemed to be valid.