In Grimes v The Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt  EWCA Civ 361 the Court of Appeal held that a landlord's notice to quit was invalidly served because it had been delivered to the tenant's old address and not his new address as notified to the landlord.
The main issue in this appeal was whether notice to quit an agricultural holding was validly served on the tenant, Mr Terence Grimes, by his landlords, the Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt (the "Landlord").
The facts are straightforward: Mr Grimes had farmed the 121 acre agricultural holding (the "Holding") as tenant of the Hunt under a succession of tenancy agreements. Mr Grimes lived at 24 Glebe Way, Burnham-on-Crouch until October 2005 when he moved to 44 Maple Way. In 2005 his tenancy agreement was renegotiated with two consecutive agreements, each for a three-year term, running until 30 September 2012. Mr Grimes' address in these agreements was recorded as Glebe Way, but when he made the first rental payment in December 2006 Mr Grimes sent a handwritten note to the Landlord advising of his change of address.
On 1 July 2011 the Landlord hand delivered a letter to 24 Glebe Way that gave notice to quit and required Mr Grimes to vacate the Holding by 30 September 2012.
Following unsuccessful negotiations for a new letting to Mr Grimes, the Landlord eventually granted a lease of the Holding to a new tenant with effect from 1 October 2012. Mr Grimes claimed that his tenancy had not been validly terminated on the grounds that the notice had been delivered to his old address and he claimed that he had been wrongfully dispossessed of the Holding and was entitled to damages.
The key issue turned on the true construction of a clause in the tenancy agreement, which provided that: "Either party may serve any notice (including any notice in proceedings) on the other at the address given in the Particulars or such other address as has previously been notified in writing".
The Judge took a literal interpretation of the tenancy agreement and found that the notice was valid on the basis that a notice could validly be served either at the address as stated in the agreement or at the address that has previously been notified in writing. Mr Grimes appealed.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal overturned the Judge's decision. It held that the relevant wording has to be considered in the context of the agreement as a whole. If the judge "had approached the question in this way, he would...have realised that the language can naturally be read as providing for an alternative which is not only exclusionary but also substitutive; and that, viewed objectively, this is what the parties must have intended". The Court of Appeal questioned what the point of enabling the tenant to notify the landlord of his new address would be if the landlord could simply disregard it and remained free to serve notice on the tenant at the address given in the Particulars. As a matter of commercial common sense, the parties must have intended that the new address, once duly notified, would supersede the original one shown in the Particulars. The Landlord's notice to quit was therefore invalid and Mr Grimes was awarded damages of £31,500 together with interests and costs.
This decision serves as a useful reminder of the importance of ensuring that notices are served in accordance with the terms of the lease and that the receiving party's address is checked to ensure that, if appropriate, the notice is served on the most up-to-date address available. As a matter of caution, it is always advisable to serve notices on all available addresses to avoid any potential dispute.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.