Signatures – the common pitfalls of signing notices as an Agent or Company
When serving a section 21 or section 8 notice in accordance with the Housing Act 1988, or signing documents on behalf of a limited company there are various important issues to consider. If these documents are not signed correctly or signed by the wrong person, you may find yourself in a position of relying on an invalid notice or document in the future and your claim for possession failing for that reason alone.
Section 44 Companies Act 2006
In accordance with Section 44 of the Companies Act 2006, a document to be signed by a company needs to be signed by two ‘authorised signatories’ or by a director of the company in the presence of a witness.
It should be noted that an ‘authorised signatory’ under the Act is defined as every director of the Company and/or the Company’s secretary.
Section 8 and 21 Notices
A landlord does not need to sign a Section 8 or Section 21 notice for it to be valid. Both notices confirm that it can be signed and dated by the landlord or their agent or someone acting for the landlord (i.e. a solicitor).
However, it is important that the party signing the notices confirm their position underneath the signature to indicate who and in what capacity is signing the notice.
So taking Section 44 of the Companies Act 2006 into account, what is the position of company landlords and agents wishing to sign and serve a Section 21 or Section 8 notice where the notices only give place for one signature. The prescribed forms should always be used when serving a Section 8 and 21 notice and therefore the placement of only one signature may be permitted by a judge taking a common-sense approach. However, to reduce any risk of a Section 21 or Section 8 notice being deemed invalid as a result of a company landlord or agent not signing the notice in accordance with Section 44 of the Companies Act, company landlords and/or agents may wish to consider whether to ensure that 2 signatures are used simply to avoid any argument being raised in the first place.
The same applies to deposit protection Prescribed Information (a requirement for the proper service of a valid section 21 notice). In a recent unreported case a tenant successfully defeated his landlord’s claim for possession on a technicality; because of a failure to execute the Prescribed Information in accordance with Section 44 of the Companies Act 2006. The Judge, in this case, held that because the company landlord had not validly executed the Prescribed Information, it had not been given pursuant to paragraph 2(1)(g)(vii) of the Housing (Tenancy Deposits) (Prescribed Information) Order 2007 and the Section 21 notice was held to be invalid.
Going all the way to trial in a possession claim and losing on a technicality is not only costly but incredibly time-consuming given the current COVID requirements of 6 months’ notice. It has therefore become even more important to get things right the first time around to save money in the long term.