On 3 November 2022, The Court of Appeal published its decision in O G Thomas Amaethyddiath v Turner & Ors [2022] EWCA Civ 1446 which concerned a narrowing of the scope of the Mannai Principle, a rule that can be relied upon in certain circumstances to save a defective notice.

The decision highlights the potential pitfalls in relation to the service of notices and emphasises the importance of taking proper legal advice when serving notices to ensure compliance with service requirements.

Mannai Principle

Parties serving notices must adhere to any contractual and/or statutory requirements that govern the service of the notice. However, if a party has failed to comply with these requirements, there are circumstances in which they may be able to rely upon the Mannai principle established in Mannai Investment Co Ltd v Eagle Star Life Assurance Co Ltd [1997] UKHL 19.

The Mannai principle may be relied upon to save a defective notice if the reasonable recipient "would not have been perplexed in any way by the minor error".

This doctrine was tested in Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council v Total Fitness UK Ltd [2002] EWCA Civ 1513 and a two-stage test for the applicability of the Mannai Principle was established as follows:

  1. Consider what the notice says on its true construction.
  2. Compare the notice to the relevant requirements for that notice to establish whether the notice meets the requirements.

O G Thomas Amaethyddiath v Turner & Ors [2022] EWCA Civ 1446

The facts of the case were that:

  • Mr Thomas had a tenancy of an agricultural holding which he had assigned to a company without his landlord knowing.
  • He was the sole director and shareholder of the company and its registered address was the same as his home address.
  • Following the assignment, the landlord of the holding served a notice to quit at Mr Thomas' home address and which was addressed to Mr Thomas rather than the assignee company.

The Court of Appeal held that this was not an instance in which the Mannai principle could save the defective notice. The notice was addressed to a previous tenant of an agricultural holding and so was not given to the current tenant. This is despite the fact that the landlord could not have known about the assignment and the current tenant was a company of which the previous tenant was the sole director and shareholder and both the company and the tenant were registered at the same address.

This case demonstrates how difficult it can be to serve notices correctly, given the strict requirements that apply. Not many cases will involve a concealed assignment but it remains important to ensure proper legal advice is always sought in relation to the service of notices and all available investigations are undertaken to ensure the correct party receives the notice at the correct place.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.