The recent case of Sunset Ltd and Another v Al-Hindi  EWHC 2443 (Ch) serves as a cautionary reminder to landlords (and their agents) that they must comply with s.48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (“the Act”) or run the risk of being unable to claim unpaid rent or other overdue payments from a tenant.
Section 48 of the Act provides that a landlord of premises to which the Act applies (essentially lettings which include a dwelling but excluding 1954 Act lettings) must provide a tenant with an address for service in England and Wales. Failure to do so means any rent, service charge or administration charge due from the tenant to the landlord will not be deemed to be due until the landlord has provided the necessary address for service to the tenant.
Sunset Limited and Morville Limited (“Petitioners”) filed a bankruptcy petition in respect of Mr Abdulla Al-Hindi on 23 June 2022. The petition was based on a failure by Mr Al-Hindi to comply with statutory demands dated 29 March 2022 relating to a debt of £248,750.00 for unpaid rent due under leases of four London properties.
The matter went back and forth in late 2022 and early 2023, with various procedural issues encountered. By the time of the final hearing on 5 October 2023, only one point remained in dispute: had the Petitioners acted in compliance with s.48 of the Act? Mr Al-Hindi argued that the Petitioners had not complied as the address for service contained in his tenancy agreements was an address in Jersey. He was only given an address for service in England and Wales (as required by the Act) on 6 February 2023, and so no rent due before that date could be claimed.
The Petitioners attempted to show compliance with s.48 on the basis an address for service in England and Wales was given in the statutory demands served on Mr Al-Hindi in April 2022. The court did not accept this as the statutory demands served always gave the Jersey address for the Petitioners. The English address given in the statutory demands was for the Petitioners’ firm of solicitors and was expressly stated to be used for communications about the demand.
A “general address” in England and Wales for the service of notices on the landlord (in compliance with s.48 of the Act) was not given until 6 February 2023, and as such, the judge concluded that their petition for recovery of rent arrears prior to that date must be dismissed.
It is of fundamental importance that landlords and their agents comply with s.48 of the Act and not only provide their tenants with an address for service of notices in England and Wales as soon as a tenancy agreement is entered into, but also serve new notices following any change of landlord. The consequences of not doing so could be extremely costly, as exemplified in this case.