Devil Is In The Detail For Landlords Issuing Service Charge Demands

Judgment ‘A Clear Warning’ On Getting Technical Aspects Right First Time

09.07.2012

Landlords of residential properties have been urged by a property disputes expert at Irwin Mitchell to ensure they are fully aware of what is legally expected of them in all situations, after a court battle highlighted the importance of even the most technical details when serving demands of payment of sums due such as service charge, insurance and rent on tenants.

In the case of Beitov Properties v Elliston Bentley Martin, it was deemed that a landlord was not able to recover a service charge from a tenant after it was ruled that the demand for payment was invalid.

The problem arose as the landlord did not include their own address on the notice, instead using a ‘care of’ address related to the managing agents. The inclusion of the landlord’s address is a requisite on any written demand to a residential tenant under the terms of Landlord and Tenant Act 1987.

According to Danny Revitt, a property litigation specialist at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office, a case of this kind demonstrates just how important it is for landlords to have comprehensive knowledge of their responsibilities and the legal aspects of their role.

He outlined: “This outcome demonstrates how even the smallest legal technicalities can have a huge impact on landlord and tenant issues, as well as the very real need for landlords to make sure they literally follow the letter of the law on serving demands.

“Individual landlords may not want to tell a tenant their home address but in this scenario they have little option – it must be included on written demands.  It is also worth bearing in mind that failing to do it may allow a tenant to avoid making the payment altogether.

“For example, service charge demands need to be made within the 18-month period in which liability for the costs was incurred. In that case, if 18 months had elapsed by the time a second, fully compliant demand was served, a tenant would no longer have to pay the sum demanded.

“There are clear lessons to be learned from this scenario and we would urge any landlords with questions or doubts about their duties to seek legal advice to ensure they are never caught out on technical issues.”