An important court case has delivered a warning that any legal notice served on a tenant must have the landlord’s own address on it and not that of the agent.
The case of Beitov Properties v Elliston Bentley Martin  UKUT 133 (LC) ruled that a landlord seeking to recover a service charge from a tenant had not complied with the statutory requirements of section 47 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 because the landlord used an indirect address ‘care of’ its managing agents in its demand notice.
The landlord was deemed not to have served a valid demand and so nothing was due from the tenant.
It is common practice for a landlord seeking payment for sums due from a tenant – whether rent, service charge or insurance – to delegate the collection task to managing agents and for the managing agent to be named as the correspondent and recipient of the sum due in payment notices.
This case therefore serves as an important reminder to both landlords and managing agents to get the technical details right.
Section 47 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1987 requires a landlord to give his or her name and address in any written demand to his residential tenants.
The Act applies to landlords of all types. An individual has to provide his/her residential address, and a company has to provide its registered office. Using a managing agent’s address does not suffice, as it is not the landlord’s address.
The implications of the Beitov decision may be more far-reaching than is first apparent. For example, it may not be possible simply to re-serve the demand with a correct address, as the demand could be out of time: service charge demands must be made within 18 months of the liability being incurred.
And of course, many landlords do not like to disclose their addresses to their tenants.
Finally, if a tenant has already paid as a result of a demand that proves defective, he or she may be able to claw back the last six years’ payments on the basis that they were paid under an invalid demand.
Caroline DeLaney, real estate disputes partner at London law firm Kingsley Napley, said: “Landlords and managing agents need to take urgent note of this case or suffer the consequences if their demand notices to tenants are found to be technically defective.
“An astute tenant can defer payment successfully, or at worst may be able to refuse to pay monies at all, if demand notices are not fully compliant with the Landlord & Tenant Act in terms of correct address details.
“As always, landlords are urged to obtain professional advice where they are unsure of any situation regarding the law.