Well that is the message for landlords and managing agents in making service charge demands to long leasehold tenants. Since October 2007 it has been a mandatory requirement to serve certain prescribed information with a demand for service charges. The requirement comes from section 21B of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which states:
(1) A demand for the payment of a service charge must be accompanied by a summary of the rights and obligations of tenants of dwellings in relation to service charges.
A recent Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) decision serves as a warning to make sure every single invoice is accompanied by the prescribed information. Even substantial compliance or late compliance is not enough. The case was Tingdene Holiday Parks Ltd v Cox and others.
In the case the landlord had conceeded at the first instance LVT decision, that the required information was not served with certain service charge demands. The landlord had sent the notice on its own when notified of this non-compliance but did not send a further invoice. The landlord appealed the initial defeat but lost again.
Unfortuantely, the landlord also had issued other legal proceedings based upon the allegation of arrears, which turned out to be flawed. The message is that the courts are not willing to water down the strict compliance requirements for this part of the legislation. An interesting approach, when if you look at the purpose of the legislation, the leaseholders in this case did receive the summary and were aware of their rights (they pointed out that it had not been served) but in spite of that they were able to hide behind the landlord’s technical failing. The unpredictability of the law!