A recent case has highlighted the importance for all parties of ensuring that address details stated in a lease are valid and kept up-to-date.
Under the Law of Property Act 1925, notices served on either party are validly served if they are left at ‘the last-known place of abode or business’ of the recipient party. Notices may also be served by registered post, now effectively superseded by Recorded Delivery, to the recipient party, again to their last-known place of abode or business.
In the Levett-Dunn case, the landlord in fact comprised 4 separate parties. The lease provided that service of a notice on any one party comprising the ‘landlord’ was sufficient to constitute notice on all of them.
The tenant served a break notice by recorded delivery on the landlords’ address as stated in the lease. The landlords pursued a claim that the break notice was not binding, as the address used did not constitute the ‘place of abode or business’ of any of the landlord parties. In addition, one of the landlord parties had transferred his interest in the property and was no longer a ‘landlord’, although notice of this had not been given to the tenant.
The court held in favour of the tenant. Under the LPA 1925, the landlord’s ‘last-known place of abode or business’ could reasonably be understood as being the address stated in the lease and being that ‘of’ the landlords’. The landlords should have notified the tenant of any alternative address(es); as they failed to do so, they must bear the risk.
The tenant was not under any obligation to clarify whether the address stated is that of an ‘abode or business’ of the landlords. Regardless of the activities carried out there, the tenant can reasonably assume that, as a specified address, it is suitable to be used for the service of notices.
Are your address details fit for service?
Parties will be bound by the addresses and contact details as stated in leases. Both landlords and tenants are therefore urged to review their address details; in view of the Levett-Dunn case, if an address is cited specifically in a document, it must be suitable for the receipt of notices and can be relied upon by others without any obligation on them to check that it is valid.
An address does not need to be a place of ‘abode or business’ but a party must be satisfied that any notices received at it will be properly handled and capable of being actioned. It is each party’s own responsibility to make sure that others are notified of any change of address.
Where the parties to a lease are no longer the original contracting parties, it follows that the specified addresses for service for each party will be the addresses stated on the property register of the title held at the Land Registry. Therefore, parties should ensure that details inserted on Transfers are correct and appropriate, changed and updated when necessary.
To discuss any points raised in this article, please contact Phil Parkinson.