Northwood Solihull Ltd v Fearn & Ors (2022) EWCA Civ 40

A Court of Appeal decision has provided welcome news for landlords and letting agents. In the above case the tenant had an Assured Shorthold Tenancy and fell into rent arrears. The landlord served a section 8 notice on the tenant seeking possession of the property. The notice was served in the correct form and was signed by a property manager employed by the landlord who was a corporate entity.

The tenant made a claim for an award under s214(4) Housing Act 2004 on the basis that as the landlord was a corporate landlord the prescribed information and the section 8 notice were required to be signed in accordance with the Companies Act 2006 (which requires the document to be signed by a company director and the director’s signature witnessed or by two authorised signatories). The circuit judge looked at the case of Hilmi & Associates v 20 Pembridge Villas Freehold Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 314 and statute wording and concluded that where the landlord or the agent could sign the document there was no requirement for execution. It was held that the section 8 notice was valid and an order for possession was made. However, where the landlord and only the landlord was required to sign the document it had to be executed in accordance with the Companies Act 2006 (CA 2006) and it was ruled that the tenancy deposit prescribed information certificate was invalid.

The tenant appealed the decision regarding section 8 and the landlord cross-appealed against the decision made with regard to the tenancy deposit prescribed information certificate. The High Court agreed that the requirement for a corporate landlord to execute a document only applies where the relevant statutory provision requires the landlord and only the landlord to sign (also referring to the case of Hilmi & Associates v 20 Pembridge Villas Freehold Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 314). It was therefore ruled that the section 8 notice was not required to be executed as it could be signed by the landlord or his agent but the tenancy deposit prescribed information certificate ( at the time) was required to be signed by the landlord only and did require execution therefore making it invalid.

Following a recent appeal, the Court of Appeal have overturned the above decision relating to tenancy deposit prescribed information certificates and confirmed that a person signing on behalf of the landlord in relation to a tenancy is not required to sign and execute contracts and documents in accordance with the Companies Act 2006. This clarifies the situation relating to the tenancy deposit prescribed information certificate and section 21 and section 8 possession notices, in that they can be signed by the agent on behalf of the landlord, and there is no requirement to abide by the strict signing procedures set out under the CA 2006 (e.g. for the document to be signed by a company director and the director’s signature witnessed or by two authorised signatories).