The case of Grimes v Essex Farmers and Union Hunt Trustees last year is another reminder to landlords about the importance of dotting the ‘i’s’ and crossing the ‘t’s’ when it comes to serving notices on tenants.

The agricultural holding was at Althorne Lodge, Althorne, near Burnham-on-Crouch, in Essex.

Mr Grimes, and his father before him, had farmed the Holding as tenants of the Hunt for many years under a succession of tenancy agreements. Mr Grimes had, until October 2005, lived at 24 Glebe Way, Burnham-on-Crouch and then he moved to 44 Maple Way in the same town.

The Court of Appeal had to consider whether a notice to quit an agricultural holding was validly served on the tenant, Mr Terence Grimes, by his landlords, the Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt (“the Trustees” and “the Hunt”). This issue surrounded the true meaning of a clause in the tenancy agreement, which provided that:

“Either party may serve any notice (including any notice in proceedings) on the other at the address given in the Particulars [at the beginning of the tenancy agreement] or such other address as has previously been notified in writing.”

The Trustees had served notice to quit in July 2011 at the tenant’s address shown in the Particulars, 24 Glebe Way, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, even though he had moved from that address nearly six years before, and he had given notice of his change of address to the Trustees by a written note dated December 2006.

The Judge at the first hearing in the County Court decided that the notice was valid.

The Court of Appeal however said that a notice to quit could have been validly served on the tenant at his old address at any time before he notified the landlords of his new address, even though he no longer lived there. The purpose of specifying an address in the Particulars was to provide an address for service and if the tenant then moved without telling the landlords of his new address, he had to accept the risk that notices served at the specified address would not come to his attention. However, the court said that it would be surprising if it was open to the landlords to serve a notice on the tenant at his old address, as shown in the Particulars, even though they had been duly notified of his new address and as a matter of commercial common sense, the parties must have intended that the new address, once notified, should supersede the original one shown in the Particulars. Otherwise, an unscrupulous landlord, in full knowledge of the tenant’s actual current address, could continue to send notices to the tenant’s original address years after he had moved.

The Court was satisfied that after receipt of the December 2006 note, Mr Grimes’ address for service under the tenancy agreement was 44 Maple Way, not 24 Glebe Way so that the notice to quit was not validly served on him at the latter address, and his tenancy was not validly terminated.

Comment

This was an expensive mistake for the landlords; not only was the tenancy not validly terminated but they also had to pay the tenant substantial damages and his legal costs. If in doubt about which address to use for service then it is better to err on the side of caution and serve at more than one address rather than risk getting it wrong with the expensive consequences that follow.

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.

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