A Section 8 notice containing an inaccurate date – is it valid?
If you are a landlord, there is a chance you may have heard of or directly dealt with a Section 8 notice.
Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 is one of the options for serving notice to end an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. The notice has to be in the prescribed form, non-payment of rent is often the trigger for service of such a notice. The notice must state:
- The statutory ground or grounds being relied upon for possession;
- The date on which it is intended proceedings for possession will begin; and
- That those proceedings will not begin earlier than a date specified in the notice – this date must be at least two weeks but not more than twelve months from the date of service of the notice.
In the recent case of Pease v Carter and Anor (2020) EWCA Civ 17 the landlord had served notice on 7 November 2018 under Section 8, relying on grounds 8, 10 and 11 (rent arrears). The notice was in the correct form but stated the date for commencement of court proceedings as 26 November 2017 rather than 2018. The Circuit Judge at the first instance hearing held the notices were invalid, the landlord appealed.
The Court of Appeal reviewed the previous case law at length and concluded that the test laid down by the House of Lords in Mannai Investment Co Ltd v Eagle Star Assurance Co Ltd AC 747 (a commercial matter, relating to break clauses) also applied to statutory notices – the test being that whether, despite an error, a reasonable recipient, with knowledge of the background, would understand the purpose of the notice and that if a reasonable recipient appreciates that the notice contains an error and would appreciate the intended meaning of the notice then that is how the notice should be interpreted.
The Court of Appeal found that the section 8 notices were valid and allowed the appeal applying the test in Mannai: the date for commencement of proceedings was an obvious typographical error, reading the explanatory notes in the notice together with the covering letters (which contained the correct date) it would have been ovious to the recipient what the intended correct date was; that the notice complied with the statutory requirements that proceedings would begin on a date at least two weeks after service of the notice and that the notice also complied with the purpose of these requirements such as giving the tenant time to deal with the threatened proceedings, obtaining representation etc.
So an error in a section 8 notice might not invalidate it, particularly when a covering letter makes the position clear however it remains the case that attention to detail in the preparation of notices remains extremely important.
If you, or anyone else would like advice on Section 8 notices or any aspect of property – whether that be buying, renting or property disputes in Worthing and Sussex then contact us and our experienced team will be able to help.