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s21 Notices: Two is not better than one

Where a landlord served two separate s21 notices addressed individually to each of two named joint tenants, he had not served a valid notice for the purposes of the Housing Act 1988 and was not entitled to possession, so held HHJ Ellis in the Croydon County Court in Hacking v Jones; Hacking v Jones (2012).

The house had been owned by the Defendants’ mother, who had sold it at an undervalue to the Claimant on condition that she could live there rent free for the remainder of her life. The brothers’ tenancy agreements had been granted at different times whilst their mother was still alive.

The landlord brought two separate claims for possession against two brothers living in the same house. Though their respective tenancy agreements each purported to grant exclusive possession of the whole house, the landlord’s case was that they each had a tenancy of a bedroom only and that their mother had only had a tenancy for life of an unspecified bedroom.

HHJ Ellis found that Mrs Jones had enjoyed a tenancy for life of the entire property, that the Defendants had both been her licensees and that a joint periodic tenancy arose by reference to the payment of rent after her death.

The landlord argued that the two separate notices that had been served were still valid for the purposes of s21 of the Housing Act 1988. Unsurprisingly, there was no reported decision on this point (as most landlords will simply serve a further notice rather than take on the litigation risk). The judge accepted the Defendants’ submissions that:

  • In the case of a joint tenancy, the tenant is both (or all of the) persons who share the joint and several liability in respect of the demise, and the tenant is correctly named by inclusion of both (or all of) those names.

  • The Act makes specific provision for one of two landlords to serve "a notice": it does not provide that a notice may be served on one of two joint tenants; or that separate notices can be served on each joint tenant.

Accordingly, the landlord’s claim to possession failed and he was ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings.