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Missing words invalidated tenant’s break notice

Tenants giving break notices must include any wording required by the lease, and comply completely with any notice requirements in the lease, or risk them being invalid, the High Court has ruled.

A break clause in a lease gave a tenant a right to serve a break notice to end the lease but said the notice “must be expressed to be given under section 24(2) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954”. Notice was given but did not include these words. At the time the lease was drafted these words had a particular legal significance that no longer applied when the notice was later given. The landlord claimed the notice was invalid.

The Court of Appeal said that ‘must’ meant ‘must’ and the notice was therefore invalid, even though the missing ‘magic words’ were no longer legally significant. It relied on wording from a judgment in a 1997 case:

“If the clause had said that the notice had to be on blue paper, it would have been no good serving a notice on pink paper, however clear it might have been that the tenant wanted to terminate the lease.”

The lease therefore continued.

Recommendation

Tenants must comply exactly with any requirement in their leases governing the wording to be used in break notices, even if the original reasons for including that wording no longer apply.

Case ref: Friends Life Limited v Siemens Hearing Instruments Limited [2014] EWCA Civ 382

Jonathan Waters is the founder of Helix Law. Before qualifying as a Solicitor he worked in industry and in investment banking for over a decade. He was also the Partner in charge of Commercial Litigation, Employment Law and Property Litigation at Stephen Rimmer LLP. Jonathan has wide experience of helping and advising businesses to avoid or to deal with commercial disputes and in particular construction disputes.

This article is written to raise awareness of the issues it discusses and it may not be updated after it is first written, even if the law changes. It is not intended to be legal advice and cannot be relied on as such. Helix Law is not responsible or liable for any action taken or not taken as a result of  this article. If you think the matters set out affect you and you wish to apply them to your particular circumstances then we are happy to give you free initial telephone advice. 

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