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Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.
May I ask if you notified the landlord in writing of your home address advising them that was the contact address they should use for service of documents? Alternatively your solicitor may have done this as part of your purchase. If you or your solicitor did, do you have a copy of the correspondence?
My home address is stated on the lease agreement which the property company has on their records (in fact they quoted it to me when I rang them). When the matter was first raised in January and they asked for my home address in writing I did that but they are now claiming they never received it. As I heard no more from them (until the solicitor's letter) or my estate agent I assumed the matter had been resolved. As the Act they refer to says the tenant should give permission to send letters to an alternative address does this apply to me as I am not the tenant of the property?
Thanks. Do you still have a copy of that letter you sent to them?
I have an electronic copy as I did it in MS Word.
Perfect. That is fine. The CLRA places a number of obligations on a landlord in order to be able to validly collect rent from a tenant. If I may I will first answer your specific question but then go on to outline all the requirements the landlord has to fulfil in order to validly demand rent which based upon what you say, you should be able to leverage to your advantage
first of all, s166 CLRA defines you as tenant if you are the owner of the flat because it provides that a tenant is a tenant under a long lease. Your tenant who rents from you cannot be this tenant because he is not the tenant of the long lease - he is a shorthold tenant under the Housing Act. This makes you liable for the rent demand subject very much to what follows
The Act however places a number of obligation on the landlord and the first step is to ensure that he has complied with all of these obligations, because if he has not, the demand is invalid and all other considerations become irrelevant.
If the ground rent must be demanded in prescribed form, and completed in accordance with section 166. There is a link below to the prescribed form the demand must take which you can check against the demand received. Next the date for payment of the ground rent given in the notice cannot be earlier than 30 days from the date notice is given, nor more than 60 days after that date. In addition the date for payment cannot be earlier than the date set out in the lease itself. Again if the landlord fails any of these tests the demand is invalid.
s166 provides that the notice "may" be sent by post. If the notice is sent by post, it must be addressed to you as the long leasehold tenant at the dwelling on which the ground rent is payable, unless the you the tenant has notified the landlord in writing of a different address in England & Wales at which he wishes to be given notices under this section. (In which case it must be addressed to him there)
Accordingly if the landlord passes all the above tests then your defence will be that you notified the landlord in writing in accordance with section 166(6) CLRA 2002 of your address for service and accordingly the ground rent notices are invalid as they have been served at the wrong address.
if the matter were to proceed to court, ultimately the matter would turn upon whether the court accepts that you did notify the landlord in writing as you say. Obviously the more evidence you have in this respect the better though the reality is you are likely to have no better than the copy of the letter and evidence of the creation of the letter on your computer. The test is only one a balance of probability and sometimes it can simply be a question of who the judge believes. However, the act does provide a series of potential defences available to you.
Would you like a link to the format the demand must take to be valid?
Certainly. one moment...
Great. Many thanks.
A pleasure. Have I been able to help you with all your questions on the above?
Yes thank you.
Thanks. Good luck with your defence
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