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Prescribed information and signing as a company – erratum/update


We looked at Northwood Solihull Ltd v Fearn & Ors (2020) EWHC 3538 (QB) in this post (now with an addition) and I discussed it in this video. But it turns out there is something a bit problematic about this High Court decision.

The High Court had held that on the wording of the Housing (Tenancy Deposits) (Prescribed Information) Order SI 2007/797 before the amendments made made Deregulation Act 2015, that the prescribed information certification had to be signed by the landlord and if the landlord was a corporate body, this must be in accordance with section 44 Companies Act 2006 – by two directors or a director and company secretary, or if a sole director, then the director’s signature must be witnessed by another party. If not, it was not valid and penalty claim (and potential s.21 invalidity ) resulted.

Now, while the court notes in the judgment that the Deregulation Act 2015 did amend the prescribed information order, as of 26 March 2015, the judgment, and it appears the argument from both sides, was on the basis that the unamended order applied.

But, as was pointed out in a comment from David Smith on our last post, that was not how the Deregulation Act amendments worked.

The relevant amendment was adding a new article 2(3) to the 2007 Order

(3)     In a case where the initial requirements of an authorised scheme have been complied with in relation to the deposit by a person (“the initial agent”) acting on the landlord’s behalf in relation to the tenancy—

(a)     references in paragraph (1)(b), (g)(iii) and (vii) to the landlord are to be read as references to either the landlord or the initial agent

(b)     references in paragraphs (1)(d), (e), (g)(iv) and (vi) and (2) to the landlord are to be read as references to either the landlord or a person who acts on the landlord’s behalf in relation to the tenancy.

But it also added a new article 3(1)

Paragraphs (3) to (5) of article 2 are treated as having had effect since 6th April 2007, subject to the following provisions of this article.

(The ‘following provisions’ basically exclude previously decided claims and proceedings existing at the time of the change coming into force, so not relevant here).

So, in the Northwood case, beginning in 2017, the version of the prescribed information order that applied (even though the prescribed information itself predated the Dereg Act) was that as amended by the Deregulation Act – ie the version that could be signed either by the landlord, or the ‘initial agent’ depending on which of them had protected the deposit.

In the case itself, a sole director had signed on behalf of the landlord, so there was not an obvious get out for the landlord in this. But it remains that the case was decided on the wrong version of the Prescribed Information Order.

Does this matter? Yes. While my view, as in the previous post and in the video, is that the amended version of the Order still meets the ‘statutorily specified person’ test as set out in Northwood (as it is only the landlord, or the ‘initial agent’ who can sign, depending specifically on who protected the deposit), that was not the wording argued – by either party – or decided upon by the court.

Given that there are potentially significant ramifications for both corporate landlords and, maybe more so, for corporate agents, this is not at all a satisfactory state of affairs. What is now the leading judgment on the issue (at least supposedly for pre 26 March 2015 signings) was, I am afraid, decided on the wrong version of the Prescribed Information Order.

I’m not sure where this goes from here – perhaps it would need a leapfrog appeal to the Court of Appeal in another case. Until then, things are a bit uncertain.


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.


  1. Tim Mir

    Interesting decision of the High Court in Signature Living Hotel Ltd V Sulyok & Anor EWHC 257 (2020) . Regarding signatures under the companies Act S44 & S43.

  2. Tim Mir

    Is the Deposit PI a Deed guarantee of sorts, consideration being the deposit, if its not a contract, the judgement says
    a deed can take effect as a simple contract if there is a defect in complying with the necessary formalities,(witnessing signature in this, so long as the contract would be valid as a simple contract at law (which requires consideration to be present) and it is not a transaction for which a deed is required (transfer of land , power of attorney).

    • Giles Peaker

      If it is not a contract – and the PI certifcation is a statutory requirement, not a contract – then it is irrelevant whether a deed can take effect as a simple contract in some circumstances.

  3. Tom
    • Giles Peaker

      Try the explanatory notes to the Bill. But seriously, the purpose of section 30 Deregulation Act 2015 is screamingly clear. And the effect of the section is also completely clear. As such there is no question of having to interrogate Hansard for ‘the intention of Parliament’. That is only relevant for ambiguity or uncertainty in legislation.

  4. Tom

    WOW. Those really make it so much easier to comprehend.

    I guess I just figure that there are always richer shades of nuance and understanding to be gained, the more background one can find about something. In any event, the real question I’m seeking the answer to at the moment is, does a corporate letting agent count as an “initial agent” for the purposes of article 2(3) of the 2007 order as amended, which defines it as “a person”?

    I’m guessing the answer is yes and lies in Schedule 1 of the Interpretation Act 1978 which defines a “Person” (capitalised, unlike in the 2007 Order, though not sure if it matters but guessing it probably doesn’t) to include “a body of persons corporate or unincorporate.” Trying to tread the fine line between silly pedantry and legal rigour as I wrap my head around this whole Northwood Solihull case and related issues.


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