Landlord requirements don’t always have to be by written notification to a tenant

In the recent case of Batley Pet Products (Batley) against North Lanarkshire Council (the Council) a Court looked closely at the terms of a sub-lease between Batley (who were the head-tenants) and the Council (who were the sub-tenants) of premises in Cumbernauld. The Council had carried out some alterations to the property that they sub-leased in terms of a Minute of Agreement. The Minute of Agreement provided (not unusually) that the Council, if required by Batley, had to remove the alterations, and reinstate the premises, at the end of the sub-lease.

Prior to the expiry of the sub-lease Batley’s surveyor had verbally informed an employee of the Council that reinstatement of the alterations must be carried out by the expiry of the sub-lease; so that the premises were returned to the Council in their original condition. After the sub-lease had expired, the Council had still not reinstated the alterations, Batley issued a further notice, in writing, advising that reinstatement was required.

The Court looked at whether Batley was required to confirm its reinstatement requirement in writing before the end of the sub-lease – or whether verbal confirmation, given prior to the end date of the sub-lease, was sufficient. The relevant provisions in the Minute of Agreement were “if so required by the mid-landlord and at the cost of the sub-tenant to dismantle and remove the works and to reinstate and make good the premises”.

It was noted by the Court that the words “if so required by the mid-landlord” were in contrast to other provisions in the Minute of Agreement which made express provision for written communication.

However the head lease contained provision (and by extension the sub-lease) that “any notice, request, demand or consent shall be in writing”.

In this case the Court decided that the requirement did not have to be made in writing. It was noted that other provisions in the Minute of Agreement did expressly require notice to be in writing but that this was markedly absent from the requirement to remove alterations and reinstate.

It is always good practice to look very clearly at the requirements of giving notice in any lease or sub-lease. In some instances failure to comply with precise wording can mean that notices can be ineffective and this, in turn, can have significant (and unwanted) financial obligations for a tenant or landlord.
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July 15, 2014