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Case law: missing words invalidated tenant's break notice

A tenant giving a break notice must include any wording required by the lease, and fully comply with the lease's notice requirements, or risk it being invalid, the High Court has ruled. This applies even if the original reasons for including the required wording no longer apply.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - May 2014

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A break clause gave a tenant a right to serve a break notice to end the lease but the notice "must be expressed to be given under section 24(2) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954". Notice was given, but did not include these words. At the time the lease was drafted these words had a particular legal significance that no longer applied when the notice was later given. The landlord claimed the notice was invalid.

The Court of Appeal said 'must' meant 'must' and the notice was therefore invalid, even though the missing 'magic words' were no longer legally significant. It relied on wording from a judgment in a 1997 case:

"If the clause had said that the notice had to be on blue paper, it would have been no good serving a notice on pink paper, however clear it might have been that the tenant wanted to terminate the lease."

The lease therefore continued.

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