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A service charge trap for the unwary landlord

  • July 31, 2012
  • By Hunters Law

A recently reported case has confirmed that landlords must ensure that a notice demanding the payment of service charge complies strictly with statutory requirements.

The Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) dismissed the landlord’s appeal in Beitov Properties Limited v Elliston Bentley Martin [2012] UKUT 133 (LC) against an earlier ruling by the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal, which had held that the landlord’s own address (or its registered office) must be disclosed on the demand for payment. The address of the landlord’s managing agent is not enough on its own, unless it is also the landlord’s address.

Section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (‘the LTA’) provides that any demand for service charge arrears must contain an address for the service of notices on a landlord. The given address for service is usually that of the managing agent, which is fine.  However, the same demand must also contain the address of the landlord (s.47 of the LTA). In the Upper Tribunal’s view the purpose here is to enable the tenant to correctly identify its landlord, as it is not perhaps always clear to the occupying (and paying) tenant.

The tenant in Beitov managed to have the landlord’s demands for service charge struck down on the basis that the notice contained the address of the landlord’s managing agent, rather than the home or business address of the landlord itself, as required by section 47.

George Bartlett QC, President of the Tribunal, went so far as to admit that this was a ruling on a purely technical point that “does not go to the merits or justice of the case.” Nevertheless, the principle stands. Landlords (whether of single or multiple properties) may find that, if their own address does not appear on their tenants’ service charge demands, they may be in line for widespread non-payment of service charges. As a minimum, corrective demands will need to be sent.

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