Was the First-tier Tribunal correct to find that service charges were not payable where a tenant argued that statutory prescribed information was not supplied?
In Westlake Estates Ltd v Yinusa , Westlake was the freeholder landlord of a block of flats within which the respondent was a tenant of one flat held under a 125-year lease. The tenant was required by the terms of the lease to pay service charges and ground rent, but sums demanded remained unpaid for the years 2012-2017. Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 s.27A, the landlord applied to the First-tier Tribunal for a determination as to whether the service charges were payable.
The FTT found that service charges were not payable because demands did not comply with s.47 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 and did not contain the information prescribed by s.21B of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
S.47 requires a demand to set out the name and address of the landlord where notices may be served on the landlord by the tenant. S.21B requires a service charge demand to be issued with a summary of the rights and obligations of tenants in relation to service charges. The landlord appealed.
The Upper Tribunal found in favour of the landlord. The landlord argued that there is no legal requirement in case law for it to state that the name and address given in a demand is the name and address of the landlord. The tenant however argued that simply giving the landlord’s name and address was insufficient. The Upper Tribunal disagreed and held that where only one name and address is given, the information is clear.
Regarding the summary required by S21B, the tenant argued that the covering letter sent with demands did not state that the summary was contained, although the summary was to be found in the bundle of evidence presented by the landlord. The UT upheld the landlord’s appeal.
Advice and action for landlords
This case is a caution for landlords to ensure that the correct prescribed information required by statute is supplied to tenants when making service charge demands, or issuing other notices, under a lease.
The Upper Tribunal here gives reassurance to landlords that information contained in a header and/or footer of a document such as a covering letter is sufficient provided that only one name and address is contained. Where landlords employ managing agents, it is recommended that an express statement is included in the demand clearly indicating the landlord’s name and address for service.
The Upper Tribunal found in favour of the landlord, holding that the required information was supplied by the landlord and that, where only one name and address is given, this information is clear.