2 different opinions on what regulation 3 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004 means
This is going to be a rather long and detailed piece about whether Wirral Council’s eviction notice for Fernbank Farm was valid (or in other words lawful). It is something that Wirral Council and I have a difference of opinion on. I have numbered these paragraphs for ease of reference in any comments people might wish to make.
1. On the 8th August 2012, Wirral Council started a case in the Birkenhead County Court requested a possession order for the land known as Fernbank Farm at Sandbrook Lane, Moreton. The defendants were two trustees of the Upton Park Pony Owners Association and are called Mrs Kane and a Mrs Woodley.
2. The statement of truth to Wirral Council’s claim and particulars of claim was signed on the 5th August 2013 by Surjit Tour.
3. Attached to Wirral Council’s claim form were particulars of claim and a map detailing the land the matter was in relation to, which was 10.12 acres. The particulars of claim outlined the history between Wirral Council and the defendants. The history was that Wirral Council had entered into a lease of the land with the two defendants on the 29th July 2008. This fixed term lease expired on July 2011 and became a monthly periodic tenancy. Rent was paid by the defendants of £4,200 a year payable by equal monthly instalments.
4. On the 13th July 2012, Wirral Council served a notice on the two tenants. The notice served on each tenant were identical and were both of the form which is form one in Schedule 2 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004. This form is headed “LANDLORD’S NOTICE ENDING A BUSINESS TENANCY WITH PROPOSALS FOR A NEW ONE”.
5. Regulation 3 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004 state “The form with the number shown in column (1) of Schedule 1 to these Regulations is prescribed for use for the purpose shown in the corresponding entry in column (2) of that Schedule.” The prescribed purpose for the form that Wirral Council used is stated as “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where the landlord is not opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act).” “Act” refers to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
6. According to the notice, if a new tenancy was not agreed between Wirral Council and the defendants before 31st May 2013, then the defendants had the right to apply to the court to order the grant of a new tenancy. If no agreement was reached and no application made then the tenancy would end on the 31st May 2013 (unless Wirral Council agreed to extend the deadline).
7. The form itself which contains the words (attach or insert proposed terms of the new tenancy) was accompanied with Wirral Council’s proposals for a new tenancy. Wirral Council’s offer was to increase the rent to £4,500 and charge £500 for legal fees.
8. Before the deadline of 31st May 2013, Mrs Kane wrote to Wirral Council agreeing different terms to that which were proposed. She agreed to no increase in the rent (£4,200 instead of £4,500) and for a waiver of legal fees for reasons outlined in her letter. Wirral Council did not agree her proposed terms.
9. On the 27th September 2012, Wirral Council’s Cabinet (comprising of ten Labour councillors) discussed an item called “Local Development Framework – Core Strategy – Publication of Proposed Submission Draft”. The minutes reflect the following concern about one of the recommendations expressed by a Councillor Pat Hackett “Councillor Pat Hackett raised concerns that planning policy was being revoked which could have implications on greenbelt land. He asked Officers to take all necessary steps to try to ensure that the greenbelt was not eroded.”
Despite Councillor Pat Hackett’s concerns, the Cabinet agreed the following recommendation (which was recommendation four out of nine agreed): “recommends to the Council that the Interim Planning Policy be revoked, to allow decisions to be determined in accordance with the Unitary Development Plan, the Regional Spatial Strategy (until it is revoked) and the National Planning Policy Framework and to allow sites within the previously restricted areas to contribute towards the ongoing housing land supply;”.
10. A meeting of all of Wirral Council councillors (except three who had sent their apologies) met on the 15th October 2012 to consider the Cabinet’s recommendation. An objection to the Cabinet minute (Local Development Framework for Wirral – Core Strategy – Publication of Proposed Submission Draft) had been received. This objection was proposed by Councillor Stuart Kelly and seconded by Councillor Dave Mitchell. This objection (if passed) would’ve deleted recommendation 4 and replaced it with a new recommendation 4: “(4) Council, therefore, requires that the LDF policies retain the principles and policies currently outlined within the current interim planning policy for new housing development for the purposes of development control and regeneration.”. The matter was not debated and there was a vote on the objection. Twenty-six councillors voted in favour of the objection and thirty-six councillors against (with the Mayor abstaining). The voting was split along party political lines. The twenty-six councillors who voted in favour of the objection were the Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors (apart from the Mayor who abstained). The thirty-six councillors who voted against the objection were Labour councillors. The objection was therefore lost and in mid-October 2012 Wirral Council’s planning policy changed.
11. Wirral Council’s position, which in July 2012 had been stated in the eviction notice unequivocally as “I am not opposed to granting you a new tenancy” to “I am opposed to granting you a new tenancy”. Mr Dickenson told those at the fast track trial that answered that he had been told not to engage in discussions with the tenants between November 2012 and May 2013.
12. Wirral Council’s change of position was not communicated to the tenants. If the landlord is opposed to the granting of a new tenancy then the regulations require that a different form (form 2) should be used which has very different wording to form 1. Wirral Council could have (in either October or November 2012) sent the tenants a new eviction notice and explained to the tenants that their position had changed. However they did not, leading the tenants to believe that Wirral Council still wanted to renew the tenancy. When questioned Wirral Council maintain that there is no legal mechanism to withdraw their earlier eviction notice.
13. Wirral Council asserted in their particulars of claim that as a result of the eviction notice that the “tenancy had been terminated in accordance with the law and the Claimant is therefore entitled to possession”.
14. There are a number of questions that arise however. If Wirral Council genuinely were not opposed to granting a new tenancy, why was a new tenancy not agreed between Wirral Council and the defendants between July and October of 2012? Does Wirral Council’s later change of heart in October 2012 render the earlier eviction notice of July 2012 invalid as they did not send out another?
15. Various court cases have determined the questions that need to be asked to determine whether eviction notices are valid or invalid. In a decision of the United Kingdom Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber)  UKUT 20 (LC) paragraph 42 of the judgement of George Bartlett QC, President stated:
Mr Barnes submitted that, save in a few exceptional circumstances, a failure to comply with a procedural requirement in relation to something such as the content of a notice will not invalidate the notice if either (a) the non-compliance is insubstantial so that there has been substantial compliance with the requirement or (b) the non-compliance has been waived or (c) the non-compliance does not result in any significant detriment to the other party. He relied for this submission on R v. Home Secretary, ex p Jeyeanthan  1 WLR 354. Mr Baatz said that Jeyeanthan did not provide the right test, because it was concerned with a failure to comply with a statutory procedural requirement and not, as here, a failure going to jurisdiction. The correct approach in relation to statutory notices in respect of property was that set out by the Court of Appeal in the later decision of Burman v Mount Cook Land Ltd  1 EGLR 61. This simply required asking two questions: what does the statute require? and does the notice fulfil those requirements?
16. Regulation 3 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004 states “The form with the number shown in column (1) of Schedule 1 to these Regulations is prescribed for use for the purpose shown in the corresponding entry in column (2) of that Schedule.”
Schedule 1 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004 states in relation to form one that Wirral Council used that the purpose for which it is to be used is “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where the landlord is not opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act).”
17. The date the eviction notice was sent was 13th July 2012. The date the eviction notice stated that the tenancy would end was 31st May 2013. If the serving of the eviction notice ended the tenancy on the 31st May 2013 and its purpose is defined in statute as “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where the landlord is not opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act).” surely on the date the eviction notice ends the tenancy (31st May 2013) then the landlord has to not be opposed to the grant of a new tenancy on the date the tenancy ends?
18. If the regulations stated that the purpose of the eviction notice was “Ending a tenancy to which Part 2 of the Act applies, where the landlord was not opposed to the grant of a new tenancy (notice under section 25 of the Act).” then I would agree with Wirral Council’s position that the eviction notice brought the tenancy to an end. However Wirral Council’s position on the 31st May 2012 was that it was opposed to the grant of a new tenancy.
19. Therefore does this render the eviction notice invalid and therefore it did not end the tenancy on the 31st May 2013? If so then the monthly periodic tenancy is still in effect and the tenants are also in lawful occupation of the land.
20. The result of the fast track trial was that Wirral Council has a possession order awarded in February 2014 which will come into effect in February 2015. Therefore this needs to be cleared up before then.
I’d be interested to hear other people’s opinion on this matter. Please point out if I’ve made some error or mistake. The above is just my opinion. As detailed here I did ask Surjit Tour to produce a report on this matter. His position is that when the eviction notice was served, Wirral Council weren’t opposed to granting the tenancy. However Wirral Council’s position later changed (before the date for ending the tenancy stated in the eviction notice). Therefore he views the eviction notice as lawfully ending the tenancy and valid. He therefore does not see this as a matter, that he as Monitoring Officer has a legal duty to write a report on for councillors.
Personally, I think it’s a matter that reasonable people can take a completely opposite viewpoint on. Sadly the wording, meaning and interpretation of the regulations of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, Part 2 (Notices) Regulations 2004 weren’t brought up (apart from the Judge asking Wirral Council to provide a copy of the prescribed form) during the fast track trial.
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