The Court of Appeal recently held in the case of Birmingham CC v Bravington  EWCA Civ 308 that a notice seeking possession handed to a tenant’s girlfriend at the tenant’s address amounted to good service.
Section 233 of Local Government Act 1972 (‘the Act’) states that where an enactment requires or authorises service of a document by or on behalf of a local authority, ‘it may be given to or served on the person in question either by delivering it to him, or by leaving it at his proper address, or by sending it by post to him at that address’.
In this case, the local authority tenant, Bravington, was convicted for multiple criminal offences and Birmingham City Council sought possession of his property. The relevant notice seeking possession was hand delivered to his property where it was handed to a person who identified herself as the tenant’s girlfriend.
After proceedings were issued, the tenant asserted that good service had not taken place as the notice was handed to his girlfriend and he denied seeing it. He applied for summary judgment dismissing the claim on the basis that the council had no real prospect of proving that the Notice had been served on him. His argument was successful at first instance before a Circuit Judge but Birmingham City Council appealed. The Court of Appeal subsequently held that service was indeed effective. Section 233 of the Local Government Act 1972 was drafted widely and a Notice of Seeking Possession under s83ZA of the Housing Act 1985 fell within its scope. The action of handing the notice to a person at the proper address who identifies themselves as the partner of the tenant was a reasonable action to take. Whether or not the Notice was later brought to the attention of the tenant was irrelevant.
Best practice for service of Notices of Seeking Possession is always to put a copy through the letterbox of the property, this case may prove useful with similar arguments in the future if the Notice is handed to an occupier of the address.
For more information, please contact Anna Bennett.