Effective service of a notice to quit

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Grimes v the Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt [2017] EWCA Civ 361, 19 May 2017

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Grimes v the Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt [2017] EWCA Civ 361, 19 May 2017

Mr Grimes was the tenant of an agricultural holding. His landlords were the Trustees of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt. His tenancy agreement provided that:

  • Either party may serve any notice (including any notice in proceedings) on the other at the address given in the Particulars [at the beginning of the tenancy agreement] or such other address as has previously been notified in writing.

In July 2011, the Trustees served a notice to quit at Mr Grimes’ former address. This was the address contained in the page of particulars which prefaced the tenancy agreement. But it was an address which Mr Grimes had moved away nearly six years previously, something which he had notified the Trustees of, in writing, in 2006. The question for the court was whether the notice had been validly served.

This was a question of the proper interpretation of the tenancy agreement. A question which fell to be answered by applying the guidance given by Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury PSC in Arnold v Britton [2015] UKSC 36, [2015] AC 1619, at [15]:

"When interpreting a written contract, the court is concerned to identify the intention of the parties by reference to "what a reasonable person having all the background knowledge which would have been available to the parties, would have understood them to be using the language in the contract to mean", to quote Lord Hoffmann in Chartbrook Ltd v Persimmon Homes Ltd [2009] AC 1101, para 14. And it does so by focusing on the meaning of the relevant words … in their documentary, factual and commercial context. That meaning has to be assessed in the light of (i) the natural and ordinary meaning of the clause, (ii) any other relevant provisions of the lease, (iii) the overall purpose of the clause and the lease, (iv) the facts and circumstances known or assumed by the parties at the time that the document was executed, and (v) commercial common sense, but (vi) disregarding subjective evidence of any party's intentions."

The Court of Appeal held that on a true construction of the tenancy agreement, the notice to quit had not been properly served. The agreement was intended to last for up to six years and allowed for the parties to notify each other of any change in address.It would have been surprising if the parties had intended that an out of date address should continue to be used by the Trustees in circumstance where they had been notified of the new address in accordance with the agreement. Accordingly, once the new address had been notified this superseded the original address contained in the particulars. This interpretation was consistent with the wording of the relevant clause.

Click here for the judgement.


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