Notices are often not taken that seriously, either by landlords or tenants. However, the reality is that these documents can have a huge impact on the outcome of a situation, particularly when it comes to a claim for possession. For example, if a landlord served notice improperly on a tenant then notice must be re-served and the notice period starts all over again – giving the tenant another two months before they need to leave. So, in terms of cost and convenience in particular, there’s a very good case for making sure that notice is properly served.
What does the tenancy say?
Most tenancies will define what is an acceptable way to service notice. Often, this is stated to be by first class post, in person by leaving it at the property or by recorded delivery. Some recent case law has identified issues with notice service by a couple of these methods, particularly if you’re dealing with a property that is an apartment, rather than a whole house. In one particularly important case, notice that had been sent by first class post – and a certificate of posting acquired – wasn’t deemed as properly given. The argument in this case was that the notice was posted through the front door of the building, which housed numerous flats, not the tenant’s front door. So the tenant could not be deemed to have received it.
Do you have to prove the tenant received the notice?
No. Valid notice can be given by a landlord even if the tenant doesn’t have awareness of it. But the method of service needs to be one “which a reasonable person minded to bring the document to the attention of the person to be served would adopt.” In one case, notice that was slipped under the door but managed to slide under the lino and so was not seen by the tenant was still considered served. In another, notice that was nailed to the building and also sent by recorded delivery but which the tenant did not see was also deemed to be served.
So, what’s the best way to serve notice?
As notice that is deemed not to be properly served can have serious financial implications for landlords, it’s best to take precautions when it comes to notice service.
- Serving notice personally is the best approach – make sure you have an independent witness and, if possible, get the tenant to sign and date to say the notice is received.
- You can also leave the notice at the property – again, make sure you have an independent witness and ensure the notice goes into the actual property, not a communal front door.
- Use recorded delivery – this is a great method, as you’ll have a signature, date and time of service. However, if the item isn’t delivered and is returned to you then you will need to re-serve.
- Pay a process server – a little more expensive but should guarantee the service of notice can’t then be disputed at a later date.