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Preparing a notice to quit an agricultural holding tenancy: The importance in checking recipient details are correct


The Court of Appeal recently handed down a judgment on the validity of notices to quit an agricultural holding tenancy. Joseph Mitchell, an associate solicitor in Harrison Drury’s property litigation department, and specialist in agricultural property disputes, outlines the case to stress the importance in checking the correct up-to-date details are included in any such prepared notice.

The Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies were created under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986. They allow agricultural holdings to be let to tenants. In the case of O G Thomas Amaethyddiaeth Cyf and Mr Owen Gwilym Thomas v Turner and Ors raises an interesting point about the validity of notices to quit such tenancies.

About the case

As per the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, Mr Thomas was the tenant of an agricultural holding, agreed through a verbal tenancy agreement.

Without notifying the landlord, Mr Thomas assigned the tenancy to his newly incorporated business, ‘OG Thomas Agriculture Ltd’. Mr Thomas was the sole shareholder of the company, as well as its only officer and secretary. Its registered office was the same address as Mr Thomas’ home address.

As the tenancy was verbal, there was no restriction regarding the assignment by Mr Thomas.

Soon after, the landlord served a notice to quit, notifying the tenant that they need to vacate the farm. The notice was addressed to Mr Thomas, and not OG Thomas Agriculture Ltd.

The question for the court was whether the notice to quit was valid. OG Thomas Agriculture Ltd was now the tenant, and not Mr Thomas personally.

Would the notice, addressed to Mr Thomas, be recognised as valid?

The judgment on the case

To begin, the notice was held to be valid. It was deemed that the notice was obvious in its intention: it was delivered to the person who the landlord believed to be the tenant, and to the correct address.

However, The Court of Appeal held that as the landlord had addressed the notice to Mr Thomas and not the tenant, who was OG Thomas Agriculture Ltd, the notice to quit was invalid. Addressing a notice to quit to the wrong addressee amounts to a failure to satisfy a formal condition of the notice’s validity.

In their deliberations, the court considered the case of Mannai Investment Co Ltd v Eagle Star Assurance Co Ltd [1997] AC 749. In Mannai, it was held that minor errors should not override the clear intention of a notice to quit. Further, in Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions (UK) Limited v Regent Quay Development Company Limited [2016] CSOH 97, Lord Tyre noted that “absolute freedom from ambiguity [in a notice] is not necessary”.

However, in O G Thomas, the Court of Appeal it was held that the notice to quit was invalid as it was deemed not to have been given to the tenant. Clearly, this error was too significant to overlook.

This case serves as a reminder to make relevant checks as to who is the appropriate recipient of a notice to quit.

Harrison Drury’s property litigation department provides a wide range of specialist services across many sectors including farming and agriculture. If you require assistance in drafting a notice to quit an agricultural tenancy, please contact our team on 01772 258321.

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