In a recent appeal case before the High Court, Stodday Land Limited And Ripway Properties Limited V William Marsland Pye, the court considered the validity of notices served on a tenant during ‘the registration gap’, this is the period between when the legal process of transferring the title to the plot is completed as between seller and purchaser, and when the transaction was entered on the register of title at HM Land Registry.
The tenant was a Mr Pye and since 1950 he had had an oral agricultural tenancy under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 of land at Ashton-on-Stodday (the holding).
In November 2006 Stodday Land Ltd (“Stodday”) became the registered proprietor of the land and by a contract which completed on 19 June 2013 Stodday sold a small plot the of the holding occupied by Mr Pye (about 0.114 acres) to Ripway Properties Ltd (“Ripway”). Ripway became the registered proprietor of this plot of land on 16 July 2013.
The case was concerned with what happened between 19 June and 16 July 2013.
On 1 July 2013 Mr Pye was served with two sets of notices. The first was a notice to quit served by Ripway (under Case B in Schedule 3 to the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986) seeking possession of the plot on the basis that the land was required for other uses.
The second was a set of notices to quit served by Stodday (under Case D) seeking possession of the remainder of the holding other than the plot sold to Ripway on the grounds of rent arrears.
Mr Pye argued amongst other things firstly that the notice to quit relating to the small plot had not been given by the legal owner of the reversionary estate (Stodday) but by Ripway (before it had become the registered proprietor). Secondly, since no valid notice had been given in relation to the plot, the second notice served by Stodday had not been given in relation to all of the land comprised in his holding and was therefore invalid.
The Court confirming the earlier decision of the County Court, decided that Ripway’s notice to quit was invalid, having been served before it had become the registered proprietor. It followed then that the second notice was ineffective as it had not been given in relation to the entire holding and that Mr Pye’s tenancy continued.
Although this was a decision relating to agricultural land it has implications for all and serves as a reminder of the importance of conducting proper due diligence, including confirming the identity and status of all parties, prior to service of notices in order to avoid costly mistakes.
For legal advice relating to a farm or agricultural business, call our team of Agriculture and Landed Estate Solicitors or for more general advice about commercial property issues, including commercial property disputes, speak to one of our commercial property lawyers on 0330 404 6394.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.