Wrong Address a Reasonable Excuse for Landlord

Landlords would be well advised to ensure all records regarding their properties are kept up to date. Recently, however, the Upper Tribunal (UT) agreed with a residential landlord that she had a reasonable excuse for failing to comply with an Improvement Notice that had been sent to her old address.

When the tenant of a property complained to the council about disrepair, the council sent a letter notifying the landlord of the complaints. This was sent to the property itself, as the address held by HM Land Registry for service, and to the address on the property's council tax records, which was the landlord's former address. Other items of correspondence, including an Improvement Notice and later a financial penalty of £22,500 for failing to comply with it, were subsequently sent to both addresses. The landlord only received these communications after she contacted the council upon receiving a final reminder for payment, sent to her current address. She appealed the penalty to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT).

The FTT found that the Improvement Notice had been validly served and she had committed an offence under Section 30 of the Housing Act 2004 by failing to comply with it. Her not knowing about it because she had failed to update her address for service and her council tax address for the property could not amount to a reasonable excuse under Section 30(4) of the Act. However, the FTT reduced the penalty to £15,000.

Ruling on her appeal against that decision, the UT observed that her failure to update the address for service was a 'very technical' error that most people 'would have no idea they could commit'. Although the Improvement Notice had been correctly served, in that the council had done all it was required to do, she had not deliberately avoided receiving it. She was registered for council tax at her current address and the council had easily found her for the purposes of enforcement. The UT concluded that she did have a reasonable excuse and no penalty was payable.