When entering into contracts, deeds and leases, or when registering property at the Land Registry, many fail to consider properly what address should be used for service of notices. This little tale may assist in illustrating what could happen if you do not give this point sufficient attention:
Once upon a time there was a Landlord called The Big Bad Wolf. He rented a shop made of straw to The Little Pig.
One sunny day The Little Pig went to market. Then he went home. Then he had some roast beef. After lunch he decided to check on his shop to see how many balls of wool his sheep assistants had sold that month. He had not visited his shop in many weeks.
But alas, when The Little Pig got to the site of the shop all he saw was a pile of straw and the sheep in tears. They told him that The Big Bad Wolf had huffed and puffed and blown the shop down. The Little Pig saw The Big Bad Wolf standing under a tree next to the shop and confronted him.
||Have you gone mad? Why have you blown my shop down?
||I sent you written notice last month to tell you that I was going to blow it down and build a pork pie shop for myself and that if you didn’t object then I would be coming round today to blow your shop down. You never replied, so I huffed and I puffed and I blew the shop down!
||What notice? I didn’t receive anything.
||I left it in your shop last month. The lease clearly states that I can serve notice on you by delivering it by hand at the premises. So that’s what I did.
The Little Pig looked at the sheep who were looking sheepish
||Did the Big Bad Wolf drop off a letter? Why didn’t you tell me or forward it on to me at my house?
||The Big Bad Wolf did drop off a letter last month but we didn’t know what to do with it and we forgot to post it to you at your house. We left it on the side of the counter and the dog ate it when it was hungry the other week
||Bad luck! You were given notice.
The little pig cried ‘wee, wee,wee,’ all the way home.
The moral? Please consider whether the address for service you choose to use in your contracts, leases, deeds, or even at the Land Registry, is an address at which you will actually be reached in practice. There is no reason why you cannot specify more than one address for service, but bear in mind that property notices cannot generally be served by email so make sure the primary address is a postal address where you will receive correspondence promptly.
This is particularly important in, say, leases of branch retail shops or offices, where staff may fail to pass correspondence posted or delivered to the premises on to the correct department or relevant member of staff at the organisation’s head office who deals with the organisation’s property and other important affairs. Take for example a charity shop which is staffed by different volunteers on different days of the week who may be ill-equipped to deal with incoming post or correspondence delivered by hand and who may not have all been given the necessary training.
Indeed, as far as the real property is concerned, HM Land Registry has recently issued an important reminder to registered owners to ensure that not only is the correct address for service noted against a property owner’s title in first place but that the property owner must ensure the address is kept up to date.
The recent case of Oldham MBC v Tanna  EWCA Civ 50, Court of Appeal, 10 February 2017reinforced the importance of the registered owner of a property keeping their address for service up to date or notifying others of any change of address. In the Oldham MBC case, a local authority appealed against a decision that it had not validly served notice on the respondent’s ‘last known address’ when it served the notice at the address stated on the respondent’s Land Registry title. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. The Court said that, as a general rule, when title to a property is registered at Land Registry, a person’s obligation to make ‘reasonable inquiries’ in order to ascertain the owner’s address for the purpose of serving a notice relating to that property went no further than to search the proprietorship register at HM Land Registry. It was the registered proprietor’s duty to update the address. If the person serving the notice was aware of a more recent address than that shown in the proprietorship register, then notice should be served on that address also.
So, don’t risk important notices or correspondence falling into a black hole and crying ‘wee, wee, wee,’ all the way home.