Landlords Beware when evicting Tenants

Feb 1, 2023

1st February, 2023

The Court of Appeal in England and Wales recently considered the validity of a notice to quit and decided that a notice addressed to the wrong recipient was invalid.

Background

The case of O G Thomas Amaethyddiath v Turner & Ors [2022] EWCA Civ 1446, the original tenant of an agricultural holding, Mr Thomas, assigned a lease to his company without the landlord’s knowledge. As this was an oral tenancy, there were no restrictions on assignment. Mr Thomas was the sole shareholder and director of the company and the company’s registered address was the same as Mr Thomas’ residential address.

The landlord served a notice to quit on Mr Thomas in his personal capacity and the notice was sent to his home address. A counter-notice was not served in response. The question for the court to determine was whether the notice to quit was valid, despite having been addressed to Mr Thomas, the former tenant, as opposed to the company, the current tenant.

Courts’ Decisions

At first instance in the Land Court and on first appeal to the High Court, and again on appeal to the House of Lords, it was held that the notice to quit was valid.

However, the Court of Appeal ( equivalent to the Irish Supreme Court) overturned the decisions of the lower courts and held that the notice to quit was invalid. The court held that the notice could not be said to have been given to the current tenant. The fact that Mr Thomas was the sole shareholder and director of the company, and that the company’s registered address was identical to Mr Thomas’ address, did not offer sufficient grounds to validate the notice.

The Court of Appeal hesitantly reached its decision, noting that the landlord fell into “a trap” which the tenant arranged, but held that the landlord could not be rescued from it! The Court did suggest, however, that had the landlord simply addressed the notice to “the Tenant”, the notice might have been saved.

Lessons

Although under Irish law, no particular form of notice is required, there are some exceptions. The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 sets out a number of requirements for notices of termination. Other exceptions include the requirement that notices to quit relating to agricultural or pastoral holdings be in writing and signed by the landlord or their agent.

Further, where there is an express requirement in the lease or tenancy agreement of writing or some other formality, there must be adherence to any such requirement. While no particular form of words is required unless called out in the lease, a notice to quit must demonstrate an intention to terminate the tenancy and demand possession, indicate the expiry date and contain an accurate description of the property.

One wonders whether the Irish courts will follow this decision . At the very least, this case is a reminder to Landlords to ascertain details of the party in occupation as tenant prior to serving a notice to quit and, generally, to ensure that all formal conditions are satisfied.

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