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Landlords beware – Defects on service charge notices

The recent Upper Tribunal decision in Westlake [2019] UKUT 225 (LC) emphasises the importance in ensuring that service charge notices are correctly drafted and served. Whilst in this case the UT found in favour of the landlord, the UT stressed that where there could be any potential confusion as to the name and address of the landlord on a notice, it would be rendered invalid.

The appellant landlord in Westlake applied to the First Tier Tribunal for a determination concerning unpaid service charges. The Tribunal decided that the service charges were not payable because although they were properly served on the respondent, they did not comply with section 47 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 and did not contain the information prescribed by section 21B of the 1987 Act.

Section 47 of the 1987 Act requires that where a written demand is given to a tenant, the demnd must contain the name and address of the landlord and if the address is not in England and Wales, an address there at which notices can be served on the landlord.  The appellant’s correspondence enclosing the service charge notices contained the name and address of the landlord in the footer of the letter but not on any other part of the notices or the invoices.

Section 21B of the 1985 Act requires that a demand for payment of service charge must be accompanied by a summary of the rights and obligations of tenants in relation to the service charge and gives tenants the right to withhold payment if it this is not complied with. The respondent claimed that the covering letter did not say that the summary of obligations was included and therefore the appellant had not proved that section 21B had been complied with.

The Upper Tribunal allowed the landlord’s appeal stating that where the address information is clear and there is only one name and address, this is sufficient to satisfy the statutory requirement.  Further, the UT found that the summary of rights had in fact been provided to the respondent.  In light of its findings, the UT held that there was no justification for the FTT’s order and found that the respondent was liable to pay all of the service charges claimed by the landlord.

However this case should serve as a reminder to landlords that in order to avoid litigation over notices, they should ensure that they carefully follow the legislative requirements laid out in the 1987 Act, and that such compliance is clear on the fact of the notice.

Realty are expert in advising clients on the best format for service charge notice. 

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