ADR Insight: A cautionary tale for landlords overseas

We’ve seen claims recently from overseas landlords who’ve fallen foul of the provisions of Section 48 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 which requires landlords living overseas to provide an ‘address for service’ to the tenant. This address must be in England or Wales and we often find it’s the address of their estate agent, or possibly a friend or family member who looks after the property when they’re abroad.

Unfortunately some landlords don’t comply with this but they need to beware – the consequences for failing to comply with this provision are severe. The Act states that until the landlord provides a valid ‘address for service’, no rent is lawfully due from the tenant and we have seen claims where landlords find themselves vastly out of pocket, simply because they didn’t add this to the tenancy agreement.

We’ve also seen landlords give the address of the property itself as the ‘address for service’. Whilst this appears to comply with Section 48 requirements, it’s not wholly practical. For example, in the past we’ve dealt with claims for damage where the tenant’s defence was that it occurred as a result of a problem with the property (such as a leak or flood). They’d notified the landlord of the need for repair by sending a letter to the ‘address for service’ – here you see the flaw – which turned out to be their own home!

In these instances, there was no provision in the tenancy agreement that required the tenant to forward the landlord’s mail on to them, so the claims for damage failed – the tenants had done everything they were contractually required to do. 

So, whilst the property address would seem to fit the bill, think about how it would work in practice. If the tenant is going to vacate, as a landlord you need to receive notice of that. If all that the contract requires the tenant to do is equivalent to leaving their vacation notice sat on their own kitchen table for a month, it’s not much use to an overseas landlord who will remain blissfully unaware that their tenants are packing up and moving out!