[Edited 16/05/2012 to correct the s.47(2) point]
Beitov Properties Ltd v Elliston Martin  UKUT 133 (LC) is, I suspect, going to cause some sleepless nights for managing agents of long leasehold properties (and, possibly, some other agents and landlords).
Section 47, Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 applies to all demands for rent (whether ground rent or “normal” rent), service charges and administration charges. It requires that all written demands for payment of such sums must “contain… the name and address of the landlord and… if that address is not in England and Wales, an address in England and Wales at which notices… may be served on the landlord by the tenant.” If this information is not provided, then
the sums are not due “any part of the amount demanded which consists of a service charge” is not due (S.47(2)).
In the present case, the service charge demands had given the name of the landlord, but not his address. Rather, they gave the address of the managing agents. The LVT held that this was insufficient to comply with s.47 and, hence, the service charges were not due. They rejected an argument that it was good enough to give the details of the agent, holding that the requirement as to give the registered address or trading address (in the case of a company).
The Upper Tribunal dismissed an appeal. The wording of s.47 was clear. The requirement as to provide the name and address of the landlord, not of any other party. If that address was not in England or Wales, then an address in the jurisdiction had to be provided. Either way, the demand had to tell the tenant who the landlord was and where he could be found. In the case of an individual, this would be his place of residence or business. In the case of a company, it would be either the registered office or place of business. None of this had been complied with, so the appeal was dismissed.
The Upper Tribunal did (to my mind, rather unfairly) appear to criticise the LVT for taking such a technical point (“balls aching” as one learned member of the NL team called it). I’m not sure that’s fair. If it’s the law then it’s the law. The LVT can’t chose which laws to enforce and which to ignore. This appears to be a large commerical landlord, with access to professional advice. It’s surely not too much to ask that they get this bit right?
As to the wider consequences. First, I rather suspect this landlord (or, rather the agents) are urgently checking their demands again. But this is a wider issue. I know of many managing agents that take the same approach as in this case. I rather suspect it’ll be a while until this filters into the wider consciousness. Until then, this “balls aching” point is there to be taken.