Mannai Principle applies to Statutory Notices
The recent decision in Pease v Carter and others  EWCA Civ 175 has clarified that the ‘reasonable recipient’ test in Mannai does apply to Section 8 Notices.
In this case, the landlord had served on their tenants Notices seeking Possession pursuant to Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988 (as amended). In order to be valid, such notices must allow tenants a minimum of 14 days to make payment of rent arrears in full, failing which, the landlord can issue proceedings for possession of the property. The Notices were served on 7 November 2018 and, although they were in the correct prescribed form, the Notices contained a typographical error which erroneously stated that the earliest date by which proceedings could be brought was 26 November 2017, rather than 2018.
During the subsequent proceedings, the County Court held that the ‘reasonable recipient’ test, which applies to break notices in commercial leases, did not apply to Section 8 Notices and that the Notices served were invalid. The landlord appealed this decision.
The Court of Appeal has concluded that the test laid down by Mannai Investment Co Ltd v Eagle Star Life Assurance Co Ltd  does apply to statutory notices. The case confirmed:
The Mannai principle is whether the reasonable recipient, with knowledge of the context, would understand the purpose and meaning of the notice, despite its error.
If the reasonable recipient would appreciate that the notice contended an error, and understood what meaning the notice intended to convey, then that is how the notice should be interpreted.
It is still necessary to consider whether the notice, so interpreted, complies with statutory requirements and to consider the purpose of those requirements.
Even if the notice, properly interpreted, does not precisely comply with the statutory requirements, one can still conclude that it is “substantially to the same effect” as a prescribed form, if it fulfils the statutory purpose (this even applies to information, such as dates, which is either inserted into or missing from the prescribed form).
In this case, the Court of Appeal held that the reasonable recipient would conclude that the date “2017” ought to have read “2018”. The date for commencement of proceedings contained an obvious typographical error and, when considered alongside the covering letters which were enclosed with the Notices, it would have been clear what date was intended. Given that the Notices also served the statutory purpose of providing the tenants with a minimum 14 days’ notice of the commencement of proceedings, it was held that the Notices were valid.
This case confirms that the principle in Mannai does apply to Section 8 Notices as well as to break notices in commercial leases. Although this is good news for residential landlords, the take-home message is that landlords should still take great care when preparing serving notices, in order to avoid issues further down the line.
Isobel is a Graduate Litigation Executive with a background in property litigation and dispute resolution, having acted for a variety of clients including private landlords, tenants, letting agents, property specialists and local authorities.
If you require assistance in serving a notice on your tenant then please contact Isobel Sanders of Bate & Albon Solicitors for a free discussion.