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Heartpride Ltd v Sawhney (2011) Ch D 12/5/2011 [Note on Lawtel, not elsewhere]

A case on notices of rent increase for a Rent Act tenancy given under Rent Act 1977 s.45(3). H, the landlord, had served a notice of rent increase on S, the tenant, on 27 March 2001. The Notice had been registered on 20 March 2001 and took effect from that date.

In subsequent 2007 possession proceedings for rent arrears, brought in reliance on that notice, S argued (amongst other denials) that the notice was invalid as it took effect on a date prior to it having been served upon him. The possession claim was struck out by the Recorder on that basis. H appealed.

S.45 provides (in the relevant sections):

(2) Where a rent for the dwelling-house is registered under Part IV of this Act, the following provisions shall apply with respect to the rent for any statutory period of a regulated tenancy of the dwelling-house:—

(a) if the rent payable for any statutory period would exceed the rent so registered, the amount of the excess shall, notwithstanding anything in any agreement, be irrecoverable from the tenant; and

(b) if the rent payable for any statutory period would be less than the rent so registered, it may be increased up to the amount of that rent by a notice of increase served by the landlord on the tenant and specifying the date from which the increase is to take effect.
(3)The date specified in a notice of increase under subsection (2)(b) above shall not be earlier than the date from which the registration of the rent took effect nor earlier than 4 weeks before the service of the notice.

On appeal, the High Court held that the proper construction of s.45(3) Rent Act 1977 was that the date specified in a notice of increase under s.45(2)(b) might not be earlier than the date from which the registration of the rent took effect, nor earlier than four weeks before service of the notice itself. The clear wording in s.45(3) meant that s.45(3) and the notice of increase, which was in a prescribed form based on s.45, could only be construed as if “earlier than” applied to the second limb of the provision.

The notice of increase was served within 4 weeks of registration and the (same) date from which the increase ran, or rather the 4 week period ran retrospectively from the date of service of the notice, and the date of increase was within that period. The notice was valid.

Appeal allowed and case remitted for directions.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


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