The Court of Appeal considers the validity of a notice to quit following the death of a tenant
Sian Evans looks at a recent Court of Appeal case regarding validity of a notice following the death of a tenant.
In Gateway Housing Association v Personal Representatives of Ali & Anor  EWCA Civ 1339 the Court of Appeal considered the meaning of s.18 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1994 (the “1994 Act”).
The 1994 Act
S.18 of the 1994 Act provides that a notice, authorised or required to be served on a person but for their death, will be validly served if addressed to the Personal Representatives of the deceased and left/posted to their last known address and a copy must be served on the Public Trustee.
Gateway granted Mr Ali and his wife Mrs Nessa a joint assured tenancy of the Property to which the Housing Act 1988 applies. The tenancy agreement provided that any legal notice shall be validly served on the tenant if posted or delivered to the property.
Mr Ali became the sole tenant by survivorship following Mrs Nessa’s death in 2014. Following Mr Ali’s death in 2018, Gateway served a notice to quit by first class post on 15 October 2018 (deemed served 17 October 2018) addressed to “The Personal Representatives of Mr Nuruj Ali”.
On 18 October 2018 a copy of this notice was sent to the Public Trustee and it was deemed served on 22 October 2018. The Public Trustee said it received it on 30 October 2018. The notice purported to expire at the end of a period of the tenancy, four weeks from service of the notice.
As the notices were deemed served on different dates they effectively expired on different dates also. Mrs Begum, who remained in occupation of the Property following Mr Ali’s death, asserted that as a result of this, the notices were defective.
The County Court
Referencing an unreported case called Pavey v London Borough of Hackney (2017), the Deputy District Judge accepted Mrs Begum’s argument and dismissed the claim for possession as it was not clear, from the notices, when the tenancy would be determined and they were therefore held to be invalid.
The Court of Appeal
The appeal brought by Gateway was successful on its third ground which considered the interpretation of s.18 of the 1994 Act.
It was held that the ‘two’ notices served were not of equal importance and that the operative document, the notice as served on the Personal Representatives, is the one which will determine the tenancy. Only a copy of this notice is to be served on the Public Trustee.
Therefore, so long as the notice served on the Public Trustee is served before the expiry of the notice served on the Personal Representatives (the operative notice), it will be compliant with s.18 of the 1994 Act.
It was noted that ‘where a statutory provision is capable of more than one interpretation, the Court will favour that which consistently with the objects of the legislation and consistent with its other provisions, will have the most reasonable consequences’.
Find out more about the services offered by our landlord and tenant solicitors.